Hi everyone! This year I'm doing a series of posts about mental health at Christmas. This week's post is about tackling loneliness at this time of year, and why that's both hard and important.
I love Christmas. It's my second favourite time of the year (after Halloween of course), and I enjoy almost everything about it - the spirit of giving, the changing colours and lights, the cosiness of it all. Something I don't enjoy, of course, is how lonely some people can be this time of year. Campaign to End Loneliness tell us that 230,000 - 450,000 people over 65 spend Christmas alone every year, but the more time I spend on social media, the more I am reminded that over 65s aren't the only ones who struggle with this time of year. That statistic says nothing of the people who are under 65, or those who don't feel able to go back to families that will not accept them for who they are. They are important too, and a vastly overlooked group of people at Christmas.
Loneliness is one of those things that isn't very well understood. You can see people on a fairly regular basis and still feel lonely, or you can be alone a lot of the time and not necessarily feel lonely. With loneliness, as with a lot of things, it's more to do with how it's perceived than any kind of "facts" on the matter.
If you feel lonely at Christmas it can be so much worse, because it feels like everyone else is having a lovely time with their super close-knit families and friends. Adverts tell us that everyone wants to see us all the time, and that nobody should be lonely at Christmas. Which doesn't change the reality that some people are, and can make people feel even more isolated. Here are a couple of things that you can do instead:
If you want to help people who might be lonely at Christmas, there's loads of things that you can do. But there's also probably a few things that you shouldn't do as well - here's a list of tips:
Christmas is a complicated time of the year, made even more complicated by loneliness. But we can help ourselves, and we can help other people, to try to make the world a little better - and for me, that's what Christmas is all about. Do you have any tips to manage loneliness at Christmas? Let me know in the comments.
Dr Sarah Blackshaw: Clinical Psychologist, blogger, tea drinker, interested in dinosaurs and shiny objects