Loneliness at Christmas

It is thought amongst the general public that suicide rates rise around Christmas time, however, statistics show this is not necessarily the case. Having lost a friend this way some years ago, it was hard not to think that the time of year played a part, but actually, his decision just happened to coincide with Christmas, as we later found out. His issues were complex and deeply embedded and whilst he could possibly have been helped, it seemed he had reached a point where he didn’t want to be. However, it is known that people do get depressed and lonely at Christmas, and whilst it may not lead them down the route our friend took, it can make for a miserable time. 

It may not be the obvious person who is struggling with Christmas. We often think of older people who are left on their own, but it could be a newly separated younger person, someone who has been on their own for a number of years and has reached a point where they find their resilience waning, or even a teenager who feels their family no longer understands them. Of course, that single person may not be lonely and be quite enjoying the time alone, but in contrast, the person with the big happy family may be the one who actually might need support – how do we really know? An elderly, seemingly happily-married couple may have age-related issues, leaving one half as the carer, so what you see on the surface may not be the whole story. Loneliness can strike anyone at anytime. This year it is likely that a number of people who would normally visit their families might not be able to do so, either because of the government rules, or because they chose not to take the risk. 

What can we do to help? 

Well, it is difficult if visits are not allowed, but if you do know of someone who is on their own, make sure you keep an eye out for them. Send them a Christmas card and perhaps write a special message in it – telling them that they can call you if they want a chat. Let it be known by whatever means, you are available to talk at any time. Or, you could just ring them at random. 

If it is allowable, try and tempt them out for a walk, or invite them for a cup of tea – something simple to break up the long hours over the festive period may be just the boost they need. 

If your friend or relative lives locally to you, you could take them some mince pies or home-made goodies – leave them on the doorstep if you aren’t able to mix with them – or, share them on the yard outside; better still, take some mulled wine to share that way – if you are outside, it will help to keep you warm! 

Some of these things may feel awkward as we are used to being in our own whirl at Christmas and it is not always easy to make that first step, but take a moment to think how it would feel to have that visit, phone call or message if you were in the same boat as someone whom you suspect is finding it tough at the moment. It is not a long-term solution, but could help to lift a lonely person’s spirit. 

What if you dread Christmas? 

If you are one of those people who really don’t like Christmas because it seems like everyone else is having a good time and you are not, it can be so hard to get through this time of year. 

The most important thing is not to dwell on it. A boat can be surrounded by water, but it will not sink unless water gets in…be that watertight boat and surround yourself with things that are important to you. It may seem hard, but it will help these days be less difficult. Give some structure to your day and set yourself 5 things to achieve on a daily basis. 

If you have a particular hobby and are still able to partake in it, don’t stop just because it is Christmas. Immerse yourself in what you normally find interesting. 

Put your favourite music on, watch your favourite film or treat yourself to a good book. In fact, treat yourself to something you’d really enjoy but wouldn’t normally buy – a new item of clothing, some expensive chocolates, new food items or that nice bottle of wine you have always fancied but thought too extravagant. 

If the weather is reasonable, make yourself go outside. Walking is a great way of relieving stress and lifting the spirits. You don’t have to go far, but the fresh air will help. Be kind to yourself and remember it is Winter, so plan carefully if you do decide on a longer walk than normal. If you have a garden, maybe it’s time to go and chop down the dead branches and rake those leaves. Any physical activity will release endorphins to make you feel better. 

Do you know anyone else who might also be lonely? Is there another single person close by (or someone you can phone) who you think might benefit from one of the things we have mentioned above? This could not only help you realise that you are not alone in your loneliness, but be of mutual benefit to you both. 

Meditation is also a wonderful self-help tool. You don’t have to tie your legs into impossible yoga positions or think this is anything complicated. It is the exact opposite – just set aside some time in the day when you know you won’t be disturbed and spend 20 minutes sitting comfortably, concentrate on breathing deeply and try to empty your mind. Don’t panic if you find it hard to stop your mind wandering, just simply bring it back to concentrating on your breathing and you will soon get used to it. 

There are a lot of easy tips online to get your started, (and of course, some more in-depth websites), but for a simple relaxation technique, just do the basics. 

One really helpful basic guide is by author Matthew Johnstone. There is a link to a youtube video and to his book below. If you would rather have a paper copy, the book “Quiet the Mind” is widely available. 

https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Quiet_the_Mind.html?id=I3rMBQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

If you want to “quiet the mind” in a different way – watching birds in the garden is wonderfully meditative. I discovered this whilst doing “The Big Garden Birdwatch” each year in January – it is so relaxing that it is hard to stop after the designated hour. However, you don’t have to partake in this event to benefit, just put out some feeders (it may be up a day or two before the birds discover them) then spend as long as you like watching the different species arrive. 

Finally, if things really do get too much for you this Christmas, remember the Samaritans are there 24 hours a day 365 days per year – their free phone number is : 116 123 

If you are struggling with isolation or loneliness, we can help too. We’re working online; for a confidential chat on how we can help longer term, call Adriana directly on +447890 667103 or our office 01625 786026. Email [email protected].

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