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Loneliness at Christmas

Added 13 Dec 2019
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Or is it? Christmas is portrayed in movies and media as this wonderful celebration of family and friends coming together to enjoy each other’s company. This commercialism often instils anxiety in people as they think they can never live up to that perfect expectation. The reality is that most people and families cannot experience the “perfect Christmas” (if there is one). The case for some people is that it can be a very difficult time. People cannot always spend Christmas with the ones they love due to personal loss, conflict with loved ones, work commitments, distance, time or financial constraints that prevent them from visiting their families. 
During the holiday period it can be extremely hard for people with anxiety as it can be hard to form close interpersonal relationships, which can make people feel even more isolated. What people forget is that not everyone is spending Christmas with loved ones, it can be easy to be swept into the fun and joy of the holiday time.   The busyness in other people’s lives during this period can reduce the time in people’s minds to be able to check on family, friends or even ask how you are going during this time. If you find yourself feeling like you are the only person experiencing loneliness you are not alone, there are many others out there who are in a similar situation to yourself. 
There are some suggested ways below to aid with loneliness at Christmas. 
Recognise those around you
Traditionally it was thought that you have to spend Christmas around your family. It isn’t until recently that people are tending to choose friends or volunteering over spending time with family during the Christmas period. Spending it with family does not always bring joy, as it can bring back unpleasant memories from the past. Family can have a positive impact however, it is important to set realistic expectations so you can set up strategies of how to manage stressful situations. 
If you feel you are isolated from family try reaching out to friends who you could spend the Christmas period with, often it can be less stressful. Spending it with friends is also good as you know they choose to spend time with you, unlike the belief that family are forced to spend time with other family members. Friends can be an extremely supportive network to hang out with as they are positive, supportive and genuinely want to spend time with you. Try saying ‘yes’ to new things that may be out of your comfort zone that your friends suggest. Even if it is not your cup of tea you might find you enjoy it due to the company. 
You should never feel like you are a burden or unwanted during the holiday period. If you feel like it might be too hard to ask if you can come to other people’s events, try organising a Christmas event at your house and invite your friends around. Some people may be in the same situation as yourself and might be too scared to ask to spend it with friends. Hosting an “orphan” Christmas with people who do not have anywhere else to go can make people feel connected and overjoyed that they can spend it with people who are in a similar situation to themselves, reminding them that they are never alone. This may also mean less clean up as there are more hands to help with the dishes and cooking! Or if you cannot be bothered cooking, ask each person to ‘bring a plate of food’ or all collectively get some take away - treat yourself! 

Sometimes when friends and family are not available, or visiting is not an option, people can feel helpless and lonely. It is important to know there are other ways you could spend it. Try joining a local charity during the holiday time, you will be helping others who may be in a similar situation, making bonds with the people around you at this time will help create common interests allowing for a longer friendship. Often at Christmas time hospitals look for volunteers to spend time with the patients. Christmas day is one busiest day’s for charities, working in a soup kitchen could be a good idea. It helps you appreciate the perspective in life that there are people out there who care and only want to help others. This would be a great way to make meaningful connections with others, what might be a regular bowl of soup to you, could mean the world to someone in need. Or even consider going to charity events if you are unable to volunteer. Contacting them now will help you with planning for this time. 
Reconnect with Yourself 
Spending time by yourself can seem lonely, but it does not mean that you are alone, sometimes you are the best company! Plan an ideal day for yourself, have a decadent breakfast in bed, go for a lovely walk, sit outside and have a picnic. Go to the movies during the holiday time and feel connected with others as you are drawn into a strange and wonderful different world. Do things you normally would not, such as buying something you have wanted for a really long time but never purchased. Look after yourself and try and set health goals such as trying to get some exercise if you can. 
Creating a journal and writing how you are feeling everyday can be a very powerful thing during the holidays.   Try writing at least 3 things that made your day, even if it was “I made the perfect cup of tea, the right amount of sugar and milk”. It is not until we reflect on the little things that we realise how much of an impact they have on us. Reflection is such a powerful thing, it can make us think of bad times from the past that we cannot change, but it can also show us how resilient we are. It is important to be kind to yourself and reflect on how fantastic you are as a person. People often perceive that unless you have achieved something big like buying a new car or getting a promotion you have not succeeded. Yet, that is not the case, the little things are what you should be celebrating when you feel overwhelmed. People take the little things for granted 
Where to Get Help
While feeling isolated during the Christmas period it is good to check in with yourself with others during the Christmas season. Although it may seem that everything closes during the holidays, check with your local trusted GP whether they are going away during that time. Look for other options if your normal doctor will be away.    Always know that the helplines are still available such as Lifeline: 13 11 14, or if you feel like you might need extra support you could ask a friend to check up on you. Support groups would be a good option, if you need help looking for support groups do not hesitate to reach out to us. Wishing everyone a restful holiday period.  
By Sarah— ADAVIC Facebook Support Volunteer
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