By Claire Dixon (Academy Lead)
There are lots of expectations to have a wonderful Christmas, regardless of whether you celebrate the event itself. TV adverts, supermarket promotions and work events all set up very glamorous ideals of what our Christmases should look like.
The Christmas period is short compared to the rest of the year. For those of us who have been struggling year-round, we can’t just switch those feelings off for One Magical Day. Yet we are expected to somehow put our experiences into a little box, put a ribbon on it and pop it under the tree.
In fact, feelings of isolation and loneliness can amplify over the festive season if we don’t feel like going out to parties, don’t have people around us to celebrate with or face very real challenges around the finances, illness or loss.
This time of year also asks us to reflect. When you are struggling with your mental health, this can be less than helpful. Our reflections could show a world of pain that we just can’t face. Thinking about the year ahead could feel overwhelming or impossible.
We want you to know that if you feel this way, it is valid. You are valid. We want you to feel optimistic that things can get better, but we know that this can be very difficult, and it’s OK if it’s hard to don a festive jumper and put on a smile. There is no right or wrong way to feel at this time of year, even if you are surrounded by loved ones.
Here are some things you could find useful if you’re feeling isolated or lonely at this time of year:
- Pyjamas and big fluffy jumpers: lean into trying to feel as physically comfortable and cosy as you can.
- Hobbies, interests and connection: find an online forum or WhatsApp group and introduce yourself. Chances are, there’ll be someone in a similar situation to you, posting at all hours of the day and night for you to connect with.
- If you use the social media platform X, there is a hashtag #JoinIn organised by comedian Sarah Millican to chat and connect with others who may be feeling lonely around Christmas time.
- Volunteer for a local organisation: you could help in a food bank, deliver food parcels if you have transport, serve food on Christmas Day or even sing carols at a residential care home.
On Christmas Day:
- Go for a long walk and deliberately make eye contact (if you can) or say hello or Merry Christmas to those you pass – they are likely to respond.
- Go to a church service if that feels appropriate to you – there will be many community events at churches on Christmas Day where you are likely to be met with warmth.
- Don’t be ashamed to stay in bed all day with chocolates and crisps if that’s what you need.
Whoever you are and whatever your situation, you are not alone, even if it feels that way right now. Prioritise yourself this Christmas and do what you need to look after yourself.