For many, Christmas is a joyous time, full of gift-giving and parties with friends and family. Unfortunately, for people who rely on work for social connection, the season can be far from merry.

More than 2 million Australians feel socially isolated during the festive period[1]. While loneliness isn’t a mental health problem, it can contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, which can be a significant risk factor to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. This issue can be exacerbated by a lack of workplace relationships and the sense of purpose our jobs give us. Supportive social relationships and a sense of control which one feels at work can help make people more resilient.

The holidays can be an isolating time that some may even dread for fear of being alone. AccessEAP can provide out of hours support for employees, so it’s important for employers and managers to remind teams of this resource over the holidays.

The potential combination of stressful Christmas activities and isolation can be reduced by pausing, making plans, being mindful, and taking time to relax. The past few months have been particularly challenging for many Australian families with losses of life, animals and property due to devastating bushfires. More recently the tragic New Zealand volcano incident will leave many families grieving instead of sharing the holidays together. For these people, grief, loss and feelings of isolation will be intense and may require long term support.

Below is advice on how to take care of yourself over the festive season.

Be mindful and take stock of what you have

It’s easy for our minds to get caught up in what we want and forget all we have. It can be helpful to consider what you have to be grateful for and there is something to be said for focusing on the positive. By practising mindfulness, which is paying attention to the present moment, we can learn to shift into more positive ways of thinking, and appreciate this time for what it is – a chance to take a deep breath and relax. Thinking of what is truly important to you can help you to recognise opportunities to participate in your community, often free festive events are run by local Councils.

Give the gift of giving

Whether it is helping someone in need, or checking in on a friend or neighbour who is spending Christmas alone, giving back by donating your time to someone else is rewarding. Not only will it make another person feel good, but it will also trigger your nucleus accumbens, the part of your brain, responsible for feelings of reward, releasing feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and dopamine[2] into your system and can have lasting benefits.

Talk to someone

If the festive season feels overwhelming or isolating, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. If it is not a loved one or trusted friend, there are services available, such as AccessEAP or Lifeline. Ultimately, there are times in life when we all need a bit of support and speaking to someone, as opposed to keeping it to yourself, is the best way to cope.

For more information or to arrange an appointment, please call us on 1800 818 728.


[1] The Salvation Army 2018

[2] Neural Underpinnings of the Identifiable Victim Effect: Affect Shifts Preferences for Giving, October 2013