Loneliness through the festive season
Humans are naturally social creatures, and contact is necessary for wellbeing. While the holiday season is painted as a joyous, busy time with gift-giving, parties and holidays, for some people the festive season can be a time of sadness and loneliness.
There is pressure to have fun, spend time with family and loved ones but for many people, this time of the year reminds them of those they may have lost or who are ill and struggling. Often the message we receive is that everyone is happy but it’s the time of the year where sad feelings become magnified.
December is usually a month for an increase in the number of people seeking professional counselling services for depression and suicidal ideation. Lifeline is expecting more than 28,000 Australians to reach out to Lifeline’s helpline over the Christmas period.
If you are heading into the holiday season feeling lonely, recognise that many of us suffer from loneliness, especially if we have been through a bereavement, a relationship breakdown, are estranged from family or suffer from physical or mental health challenges. It’s easy for our minds to get caught up in what we do not have as opposed to what we do.
Try to avoid the hype, acknowledge that it’s a hard time of the year. Think about activities and things you can do to help you get through this time.
- You can volunteer, giving back by donating your time to others can be rewarding. Not only will it make another person feel good, but it will also trigger the part of your brain responsible for feelings of reward, stimulating feel-good chemicals.
- Maybe gather with friends who don’t have families in the same city, host a lunch where everyone contributes. Or accept invitations to other people’s events.
- Have a look for activities in your community. Go to movies or free concerts. Play music that cheers you or go to the gym where people are focused on exercise and not on socialising.
- If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, acknowledge the loss, it is normal and give yourself permission to feel sad and think of a ritual to honour the person.
While it can be difficult to experience holiday periods alone, especially if previous years have been different, being mindful of the present and focusing on what we have and practising gratitude can help focus on the positives in our lives. It won’t change the situation but may help us to think differently even if it is for a short while. Mindfulness can be learned. Get started by downloading our EAP In Focus App to access “Five Minutes of Mindfulness”.
If the festive season feels overwhelming or isolating, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Often people don’t want to talk to their friends because they don’t want to burden them. If it is not a loved one or trusted friend, there are services available, such as AccessEAP or Lifeline.
For more tips see our article, Managing Loneliness.
Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP