Christmas is a time when it feels like everyone we know is busy at social gatherings, spending time with friends and family, or shopping for gifts for all of the important people in their lives. When we turn on the TV, we’re confronted with images of the ‘perfect’ Christmas – a dynamic, bustling scene with smiles on every face.
But for many of us, the lead up to the ‘big day’ (which usually begins months before) exacerbates the feeling of loneliness at Christmas. It’s a time when we’re reminded of those who have passed away, family who live far away, or friends who are no longer in our lives, which, in turn, can leave us feeling left out and even more isolated.
Loneliness has recently been described as one of the greatest public health challenges of our time and the pressure to be connected when it comes to Christmas can make feelings of loneliness even bigger.
Loneliness can affect people at any age, although it can be particularly hard for those over the age of 75. According to Age UK, almost a million older people feel lonelier at Christmas, two out of five of whom have been widowed.
If you’re going to be spending the Christmas period alone, here are a few tips for how to manage the loneliness.
Remember you’re not alone
In the weeks leading to Christmas, the idea that you’re the only one without plans can feel really isolating. But, with the UK previously being named ‘the loneliness capital of Europe‘, we promise you you’re not!
A recent poll estimated up to four million people across all age groups in the UK could spend most or all of the day alone. So, many people are in the same boat. Our vision at Marmalade Trust is for loneliness to be more freely spoken about, therefore reducing its stigma. Despite the common hesitance to discuss it, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
Loneliness is likely to be experienced by all of us at some point in our lives and talking to others about it can remind us that it’s a totally normal thing to feel. It could be a nice idea to have a frank and honest conversation with someone you trust about times when you might have experienced loneliness and be open to hearing their experiences too.
If you find yourself with spare time over the Christmas holidays, why not look into local organisations and community groups that might need some extra help? We recently found a quote which we love:
“The best way to feel less lonely, is to help others feel less lonely” – Vivek Murthy.
Knowing you’re helping others is likely to make you feel really good too. It could also be a great chance to meet like minded people and possibly to make new friends!
Make a new tradition
While the Christmas period can feel like a time full of social pressures, it’s also a time where opportunities to try new activities increase tenfold! Have a look at the festive offerings in your area, and don’t be afraid to go along by yourself – take advantage of the chance to meet and chat with new people.
With wreath-making or gingerbread house workshops, bread making classes, Christmas concerts and fairs, you could pack your calendar with festive activities.
Make the most of some ‘alone’ time
If you’d prefer to stay in, one of our favourite things to do at Christmas (or any time of the year) is to get lost in a good book or box set – especially if you’re somewhere cosy with a hot cup of cocoa!
It can be really comforting having a pile of episodes or a long book to work your way through and not have to think about anything!
As we have mentioned an estimated four million people in the UK will spend some of the day alone. Who lives in your community that might also be feeling lonely?
Take a tip from Lou, our lovely Christmas project manager who in previous years has opened her home to any friends who would be alone, and had 24 people last year. You don’t need to host half the street, but even a cuppa and mince pie get together on Christmas morning can really make the day.
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts or any advice or experiences you might have for others in the same boat. Join our Facebook and Twitter community and use the hashtag #LetsTalkLoneliness. Merry Christmas from the team at Marmalade Trust.