The festive season is not just there to give us a well-needed break, or load us up on presents we don’t actually need; it’s there to remind us of what matters: connection, love, relationships and family.
It's 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, images of the ‘perfect’ Christmas – a dynamic, bustling scene with smiles on every face - are in constant supply.
For so many of us though, Christmas can be the hardest, most painful time of year.
The lead up to the ‘big day’ (which usually begins months before) can exacerbate 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.
If you’re going to be spending the Christmas period alone or if you find the festive season particularly challenging, here are a few tips for how to manage...
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.
Though you may be tempted to hibernate, especially when it's cold out, resist the temptation and get out amongst nature.
One of our supporters, Anna, explained how she got into walking over the Christmas holidays in 2020 when she could no longer visit family: "I spent hours planning the best local walks, looking at maps, reading guides. It gave me something to look forward to, and I'd challenge myself to take interesting photos along the way. Getting all wrapped up and then coming home for a hot bath helped me sleep better, and being proactive and positive really helped my anxiety too."
Sounds like heaven to us!
Take a social media break
It’s proven that the more time you spend on social media, the greater your social anxiety becomes. Take a break from all these channels where festive cheer is at an exaggerated high, and instead spend the time nurturing your own passions and interests.
Get busy liking things in the real world instead of in the digital debacle that is social media. More on this here >> marmaladetrust.org/socialmedia
Spread some festive cheer
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
Rather than be hard on yourself, treat yourself. Pick something frivolous that will signify to you that you value and respect yourself. This will signal to others that you are full of self-love, and will invite others to treat you with similar respect. 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!
Let it out
Don’t suppress your feelings and gloss over any pains you may be experiencing. Acknowledge what hurts and use it as a chance to set yourself up for the future. More on this here > marmaladetrust.org/threestepapproach
As we have mentioned an estimated four million people in the UK will spend some of Christmas alone. Who lives in your community that might also be feeling lonely? 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.