Are you lonely this Christmas?
For one reason or another, a good number of us will be spending Christmas by ourselves this year. For some, it will be the first time following the death of a partner, a relocation, or relationship breakdown. For others it will be a repeat of last year, and the year before that.
Being alone is not the same as being lonely. You may be looking forward to having some ‘me’ time in which you can binge on chocolates and a box set. Solitude is being alone by choice and being comfortable with it. But for those who don’t enjoy being alone, Christmas can intensify and bring to the surface, the negative emotions associated with being by oneself.
I suppose it’s the notion (unashamedly promoted by the media and retailers), that everyone else is having a great time eating, drinking and partying with their family and friends, that intensifies the feeling of isolation. Frankly, in my experience the reality of the office Christmas party, or Christmas lunch with the family, rarely lives up to the hype, but being included in the celebrations (however embarrassing or unsatisfactory) fulfils our need to feel socially connected.
Your Christmas List
So if you’re feeling down about being alone this Christmas, here are three suggestions that may help you to feel better:
Address your mental health and how it’s contributing to your loneliness:
Take the opportunity to make a list of the positive and negatives in your life. Be honest with yourself. Being grateful for the good things such as a nice place to live and having food on the table, will help you to live in the present and be mindful of your surroundings. Listing the negatives will help you to identify those aspects of your life that need to change.
If you’re feeling really down about being alone at Christmas and can't pull yourself out of it, reach out and call a helpline. There are trained volunteers waiting to counsel you. There are numerous reasons for loneliness, many of which can be traced back to childhood, such as a lack of parental love, or bullying at school; and loneliness can lead to depression. So if you’ve not already consulted your doctor about your feelings, be sure to make an appointment with them in the New Year.
Find things to do, so that you feel less alone:
One way to cope with being alone at Christmas is to actually go out and do something productive. Volunteering is a great means to connect with others, boost your self-esteem, and bring joy to people who are less fortunate. Consider offering to help serve lunch at a homeless shelter, or visit lonely residents at a nursing home. The chances are that you’ll meet other people in the same position as yourself, and you’ll really have fun!
Take better care of yourself:
Feeling lonely can be very stressful and can have a big impact on our general wellbeing, which can make it harder to take the positive steps necessary to feel better. So start by thinking about how some of the following might be affecting you:
Sleeping: Getting too little or too much sleep can have a big impact on how you feel.
Exercise: Our mental and physical health are closely linked. Taking up sport or exercise can help you feel better in lots of different ways.
Eating: Exploring how the food that you eat affects your mood, might help you to feel better.
Plan ahead so that you’re not lonely again at this time next year
People usually describe feeling lonely for one of two reasons; either they just don't see or talk to anyone very often, or they don't feel understood or cared for by the people around them. So, depending on your situation, here’s what you can do;
Tell people how you feel: You may know plenty of people, but you don’t feel connected to them, it might help to open up and tell them how lonely you are. However, if it doesn’t make any difference, look at making new connections.
Make new connections: The simplest way to ease feelings of loneliness is to try to meet more, or different, people. Joining a class or group that interests you, volunteering on a regular basis, or joining an on-line community, are all ways to get started. See if someone you know will go with you the first time, or ask whoever runs the class or group if you can just go along and watch initially. Tell them you’re anxious, and they’ll be keen to help. Be brave. The first step can be daunting – but the smallest change may change your life forever!
Almost everyone feels lonely at some time in his or her life, but for some of us it can develop into a deep, disruptive hurt that can be overwhelming. Whereas physical pain makes us aware of, and protects us from, physical danger, the pain of loneliness alerts us to the danger to our mental health caused by isolation. By acknowledging this, examining our behaviour, and seeking professional help, we can ensure that Christmas 2019 will be something to look forward to.