The magic of Christmas.
Tis’ the season to be jolly, festive, giving and kind.
To spend time with your loved ones, overindulge in rich foods and to spend a little bit too much on the latest gadgets to gift to your family and friends. We are bombarded by adverts on the television, on the radio, in the newspaper and even on bus stops that Christmas is upon us from early November and I get a little twinge of excitement just thinking about the chocolates, bucks’ fizz and board games on Christmas day. I am very lucky and have a fantastic partner, small but crazy & amazing family, and a wonderful group of friends to spend my time with over the Christmas period unfortunately not everyone is as lucky as I am.
For some people the mention of Christmas fills them with dread. It can be very difficult to think about as it can intensify feelings of loneliness, bring up trauma or feelings of sadness and grief.
Loneliness is not the same as being socially isolated. Loneliness is a state of mind. You can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely.
Feeling lonely is not a mental health problem but having a mental health problem or negative wellbeing can increase your chances of feeling lonely and feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health causing problems such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
So, although the two are not directly linked they can go hand in hand.
Some of the most common reasons a person may feel lonelier at Christmas time are:
Previous bad experiences at Christmas time raising feelings of PTSD or trauma – These can range from turbulent childhood memories all the way to abusive relationships.
Feelings of grief – For many Christmas is a reminder of good times with relatives or friends who are no longer with us.
Lack of family and friends – When everyone is talking about their Christmas plans it can be hard for people who do not have people around them to make plans with.
Mental Health struggles – Some people have mental health problems which make social situations overwhelming.
Statistically speaking in previous years, it has been shown that the older generation (65+) get the loneliest at Christmas time with more than half a million in the UK and ROI reporting that they are lonely on Christmas. The number of over 50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/6.
A recent survey found that two fifths of older people said their television was their main companion.
Although there is a lot of data about, the older generation being lonelier at Christmas it is possible for anyone in any age group to feel this way.
Here are some tips to help anyone feeling this way this Christmas:
Plan your own Christmas:
In reality everyone is different so the “Perfect Christmas” that we are so desperate to achieve can mean very different things to different people. What would your perfect Christmas look like? Don’t get wrapped up in the negatives for example not having 26 family members in a room together. Focus on the positives and do the best you can with what you have. Perhaps a special dinner just for you and then a lovely walk in the park followed by a Christmas movie and a hot chocolate or Mulled wine!
Why not volunteer:
Christmas is the perfect time to volunteer for a local homeless shelter by giving up your time you can really boost someone’s spirits and help make the world a little brighter!
Make a plan for the coming year:
I don’t mean a cheesy list of New Years Resolutions that you make but then most likely break a few weeks later I mean a proper plan. What do you want to spend your time doing? Set yourself a list of small achievable goals maybe even something as simple as “make a new friend” or “sign up to that book club you have been putting off”.
Aim to talk to one person a day:
It doesn’t have to be a long talk. Even just a “hello, how are you?” to the cashier when you nip to the shop. A small conversation and smile can brighten your day and the other persons!
Think about you:
What do you really enjoy doing? Whatever it is INDULDGE YOURSELF! Love a boxset? Sit on the sofa with some popcorn and watch 4 episodes in a row until Netflix asks you (in the condescending way it does haha) if you’re still watching! If you love baking … bake 10 cupcakes and shamelessly eat them all over the holidays! Christmas is a time for YOU.
The most important thing is that if the feeling of loneliness is becoming overwhelming or is beginning to consume you regularly reach out. It doesn’t have to be to a friend or family member if you feel they may not understand there are plenty of helplines and charities that can help:
OrangeLine – 01708 758649
My Black Dog – Online chat - www.myblackdog.co/
Supportline – 01708 765200
The Samaritans – 116 123
British Red Cross Support Line – 0808 196 3651
Age UK – 0800 678 1602
Mind – 0300 123 3393 or text 86464