But is it Really the Season to be Jolly?
Christmas is meant to be a happy time, with parties to attend, family and friends to socialise with and gifts to give and receive. It’s a time when families and friends gather together to wish each other well and spend time celebrating the passing of another year.
But it’s not like that in real life for everyone, especially since Covid landed on our shores and restrictions on gatherings have been in place. Issues such as financial strain, family conflict … where there are uncomfortable feelings present, and the lonely feelings associated with a sense of isolation, are common for many Australians at this time of year. For many, there is little to celebrate during the festive season, especially for those who have lost a loved one and this can lead to what’s known as seasonal loneliness or the holiday blues.
A record number of calls to support services is forecast this year, with Lifeline Australia anticipating an increase in calls of 40 per cent. This reflects the kind of stressors, and the sense of loneliness during the holidays, that is so pervasive at this time of years.
Tips to keep you merry and Bright if you’re doing a Christmas solo
If you’re spending Christmas alone this year, there are things you can do to stave off those lonesome feelings and get through this festive time.
- Keep in mind that most of us have coped, rather than thrived, these past two years. More than ever there are people who are living with emotional overload, so you are not alone in that sense.
- Managing your expectations is step one in the guide to spending Christmas alone. Even for those joining family and friends to celebrate, unrealistic expectations can get in the way of enjoying the festive season. There’s a big build-up before Christmas Day and the pressure can feel immense, especially if you are already feeling overwhelmed. For most of us it’s just one day in the year to get through, for many it’s difficult spending time with family members, especially when there’s conflict present. Some people prefer not to spend Christmas with family for this very reason. Whatever your situation is remember, it’s just one day. It will come and go and not much else will change.
- Avoid social media if you are spending the Christmas period on your own, unless it’s to chat to other people. But if you notice all the posts you’re viewing are other people’s happy Christmas snapshots, STOP and find something else to occupy yourself with.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can make it hard for you to keep things in perspective and can lead you down the path to irrational thinking. If you want to crack open a bottle of something to have with lunch or dinner, make it a small sized one.
- Be kind to yourself over the holiday season. Find something special to do for yourself. Plan ahead so you have things to look forward to. You might like to consider the following strategies for making your day relaxing and fun.
Make your own Festive Season
First of all, ask yourself this question: do I really need to spend Christmas alone? Chances are you know of others who are spending Christmas alone, so why not invite them to hang out with you for a bit, even if it’s just for a drink and some nibbles. They might be work colleagues, neighbours or someone in your community or friendship group. Get together and have your own special Christmas party. Check out some tips for organising your own “Friendmas” on the ReachOut website. Another way to have a festive party, if distance is an issue, is to organise a Zoom get together. I once participated in a Zoom Trivia Night that involved 20 guests and it was so much fun.
First things first … sink into a relaxing bath
Give yourself a present on Christmas Day. Choose something you really love or want, wrap it up and put it under the Christmas tree (or somewhere you can look at it with anticipation and excitement). If money is tight, buy yourself something small but meaningful or go to the $2 shop and buy a bunch of small, useful items you can open on Christmas morning. Giving to yourself in this way will really cheer you up and keep your spirits high before, during and after the big day.
One of the upsides of spending time alone is that you can do exactly what you want without having to consider others’ likes and dislikes. How can that not be a good thing? Organise some fun activities just for you. Choose a couple of new movies, or a series to watch, or rewatch old favourites. There’s no end to the amount of times I can watch The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Plan a delicious menu for lunch and dinner. You can make a single portion lunch or dinner but if you cook for more than one, there’s the added benefit of having leftovers to live on over the next couple of days. Cook yourself a sumptuous lunch and set the table with candles and Christmas decor. Just because you’re spending Christmas alone does not mean you have to go without the feasting. Mind you, don’t over do it and leave yourself feeling like a slug for the rest of the day. Better still, factor in some exercise in the afternoon. A brisk walk will get your blood pumping and make you feel great.
This is a great time of year to indulge yourself in a new hobby, such as an art or craft you love. Or maybe you’ve been wanting to paint the laundry for years … now you have time to do that small but worthwhile project. You can use up many hours doing a puzzle or craft activity or reading that new book you just gifted to yourself. The great thing about hobbies is you can induce a meditative state while creating something and see an end result for all your efforts at the end.
Helping others in need is a great way to take the focus off yourself and there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer at this time of year. If you can’t find anything that suits you, you can always buy The Big Issue from a Big Issue sales rep on the street and give them a tip while you’re at it. Or you can deliver pet food to a person with a dog who lives on the street in your city or town. Small acts of kindness and giving help us feel good about ourselves and make us grateful for what we have.
Express gratitude for the Festive Season
This leads to the most important aspect we should focus on when we’re feeling a sense of holiday loneliness … and that is to practice gratitude. Mental health professionals with tell you that a person cannot experience depression when they feel gratitude. And there are many studies that prove this. So make a beautiful list of all the things you have in your life and all the aspects you’re so grateful for. Put your pretty list on the fridge so you’re reminded everyday of all the wonderful things you have in your life and make this a time to celebrate them.
There are high expectations at Christmas but that doesn’t mean you should get caught up in them because all they will do is make you feel more lonely during the holidays. Instead, this can be a time to focus on your own mental wellbeing. The key to getting through this time without feeling isolated is to take special care of yourself by tailoring the day to suit your needs and likes and making it as enjoyable as possible. This will take little bit of planning to ensure your mood stays buoyant. They say that Christmas is a time of giving. What better way to practice this sentiment than to give to yourself, especially if you’re on your own. Yes, it’s a time to feel connected, but feeling connected to yourself is a worthwhile pursuit and one we don’t often get to practice. Now is your chance to enjoy spending time with yourself without experiencing feelings of loneliness. Merry Christmas to you!
Further support should you need it
If you’ve given it your best shot but you still can’t shake those holiday blues, there is extra support you can draw on over the festive season. If this is the case, there is no shame in reaching out to to talk to another human being who will help you combat loneliness and isolation at this time. You might like to try one of the following services:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
- Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
- Headspace 1800 650 890
- 1800 Respect 1800 737 732
- MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
- Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467
- Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) 1800 008 774
- ReachOut at au.reachout.com
- If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call Emergency Services on 000.
- Create Balance can also help. So if you are not feeling yourself after New Year’s Day, book an appointment with one of our experienced and empathetic counsellors.