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Coping with loneliness at Christmas

Posted on 15 December 2021

The festive season is painted as a magical period full of time spent with family and friends. But some of us find it a difficult time of year.

So we’re sharing some tips to help you manage mental and social wellbeing over the Christmas period.

Why do we feel lonely at Christmas?

Many people can feel a heightened sense of loneliness and despair during Christmas because they are not able to be with loved ones or don’t have many people around them. Other people may have family around but feel detached from them all because of something they are struggling with.

The season can intensify pre-existing feelings of loneliness, bring up trauma from difficult Christmases times in childhood, or be the first year a person is spending the season alone or without a loved one.

5 ways to feel less lonely this Christmas

Have a think about your emotional needs
Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone. Some people choose to be alone and live happily without a lot of contact. Other people might have lots of social contact, be in a relationship or part of a family, and still feel lonely.

This Christmas, you might want to take the opportunity to meet new people, or build deeper connections with those you know already. Maybe you’d like to limit your exposure to challenging family relationships and enjoy some much-needed me time.

Either way, take some time to think about what kind of social interaction will meet your emotional needs.

Make a plan
Once you know what you want, plan how you can make it happen this year. Communicate your plans well in advance to other family members/friends involved and be clear that this is important for your mental health.

Your Christmas doesn’t have to mirror the public perception of a ‘perfect Christmas’. In the lead up to the holiday, think about what you enjoy and plan your day around that. For example, instead of turkey and all the trimmings, cook your favourite meal instead.

Do something different
If the thought of spending Christmas alone at home fills you with dread, why not try something completely different?

Take a trip for a change of scene and the chance to explore somewhere new. It could be somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit, or a chance to meet up with loved ones in another part of the country.

If you have spare time over the festive period, maybe you could volunteer for a charity or organisation that you are passionate about. Supporting people less fortunate than yourself is an incredibly rewarding experience, and one that can help you appreciate the positives in life.

Get support
Some employers have benefits programmes which can contain a variety of mental wellbeing resources, such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). It would be worth checking with your employer to see if this is a service they provide and what other support you may be able to receive.

An EAP is a confidential service providing people with a 24/7 helpline whereby you can speak with a trained advisor about anything that’s worrying you and get actionable advice – even on bank holidays like Christmas and New Year when other services are closed.

You can also arrange sessions with a professional counsellor, either over the phone or by meeting face-to-face. EAPs offer advice on a huge range of complex issues; although sometimes all that’s required is someone to share a problem with in the wee small hours.

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