A Psychotherapist on How to Feel Less Lonely During the Festive Season

christmas loneliness

This year has been a year like no other. The same goes for Christmas – we’ve never quite experienced one like this. Fingers crossed, we’ll never have to again.

With borders closing, rules changing, flights being cancelled left right and centre and the Northern Beaches being cut in half (south side forever), there’s a high chance your Christmas doesn’t look the same as it usually does. In fact, you might be looking at spending Christmas without your family, or even alone.

If you’re experiencing loneliness this festive season, it may be comforting to know you’re not alone. In 2018, the Salvation Army commissioned research that found more than 2 million Australians feel socially isolated during the festive period. Outside of Christmas time (and before COVID), one in four Australians were lonely.

“It’s no surprise that individuals who are isolated at Christmas time can find the holidays confronting,” psychotherapist Julie Sweet told The Latch. “COVID-19 adds an additional stressor for so many. The uncertainty can be stifling; the inability to be able to plan can cause a sense of hopelessness.”

Sweet emphasised that loneliness can become a major wellbeing issue, and possibly result in further health issues including anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, and more.

One powerful thing you can do, says Sweet, is to name loneliness. “Give voice to it. Express how you feel and ask for what you need. It’s important that feelings are identified and needs are met.”

Another important step in combatting loneliness? Vulnerability, according to Sweet. “One brave sentence, saying ‘I feel lonely, I need connection’ can bring someone the help they need.”

Some COVID safe practical steps you can take include writing down how you feel, seeking help and recognising you’re not alone. Another tip from Sweet was to “stay close to what brings you joy,” whether it’s art, cooking, or even belting out some Christmas bangers.

Reaching out to others is another important step. Sweet recommends to, “Keep lines of communication open, face to face or remotely, connection is connection.”

For some, it may involve seeking out crisis support or engaging with mental health services. “Contact support services sooner rather than later if spending Christmas alone is destabilising,” she added.

Her final reminder to The Latch for getting through the holiday season? “As cliche as it sounds, remember ‘this too shall pass’ and Christmas will come and go.”

As someone who has spent the last two Christmas’ alone – one on a couch in London eating Chinese food, one half-asleep on the floor of a Middle Eastern airport – I can vouch for that.

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