‘Tis the season to be jolly – but for many people, Christmas can be difficult and stir up painful emotions. And in the year of COVID-19, some of us will be facing a particularly lonely festive period with travel restrictions keeping us from our loved ones in other countries.
If you’re worried about feeling isolated this Christmas, there are some steps you can take to make this time of year feel a little less lonely.
Throughout this pandemic, we’ve discovered the tremendous power of technology in keeping us connected to the world – whether that be to our friends, our workplaces, or to our healthcare providers. So, why not use what technology has to offer this Christmas?
It’s a fantastic idea to plan virtual catchups with friends and relatives that you cannot see in person. You can cook a favourite family recipe together, play some virtual games, share Christmas memories, or host a virtual Secret Santa together. Start planning a schedule of these catchups now so you can stay connected to your loved ones across the entire festive break.
Technology is also an important way you can take professional mental health support with you, wherever you go. If you’re travelling interstate, you can continue to stay in contact with your psychologist at Wise Institute – so you know you’re never without help when you need it.
Connect with local friends
This Christmas, many people who are unable to see their families will be organising “Friendmas” lunches. You can even host the day yourself! Invite some friends around to your place and create a new Christmas tradition. Planning for a Friendmas event is also a great way to keep your mind occupied and distracted from feelings of loneliness in the lead up to the festive break.
Give to others
Giving back to the community is a meaningful and rewarding way to feel less lonely this Christmas. Offering your free time to a cause you truly believe in and helping people can fill you with positive feelings of pride and gratitude. It’s also a great way to connect with likeminded people and make new friends to spend time with long after the Christmas period is over. If you’re interested in volunteering but not sure where, start brainstorming the issues you are most passionate about and look up organisations that align with those causes.
Express your feelings
You should never feel ashamed or that you’re burdening anybody by talking about your emotions. In fact, expressing your feelings has been shown to make emotions of sadness, stress or pain feel less intense. As we approach Christmas, reach out to a trusted friend and talk about what’s getting you down. Apart from getting these feelings off your chest, you might find that the person you are speaking to can relate to what you’re going through or offer some solutions to help you through this period.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone about your feelings of loneliness, it can be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal. Not only can this be an outlet to express your thoughts freely, but it can help you understand and process your own feelings more clearly.
When you’re going through times of feeling isolated and sad, it’s crucial to take steps to care for your physical health and nourish your emotional wellbeing. A key part of this is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep every night, and not overindulging in unhealthy eating or drinking habits. Stay in a routine of keeping active, and try and get outside in the sunshine every day. Christmas can also be the perfect time to treat yourself to something that truly makes you happy. Whether this is an activity you love doing, a movie you love watching, or dressing up your dog in Santa outfits – do more of that this Christmas to lift your mood.
Keep your mind active
An engaged, occupied mind has less time to focus on feelings of loneliness. And with the extra free time you may have over Christmas, it can be the perfect opportunity to take on a new pursuit. Is there a podcast series you wanted to listen to? Have you fallen behind on your reading? Or have you always wanted to learn French? Take advantage of those leave days and let your brain absorb new and exciting information.
Know when to get help
It is totally normal to feel lonely and sad sometimes. But it’s crucial to know when you’re going through more than just a bad day. If you feel constantly overwhelmed by sadness and struggle to engage in any of your daily activities as a result, it’s important that you seek out some expert help from a healthcare professional.