The countdown to Christmas has begun, but for many it can be a difficult and lonely time of year. The following article ‘Christmas Blues’ explores the challenges Christmas can bring and where to turn for help.  

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The countdown to the big day has officially begun, and across the country, doors are being ripped off of advent calendars in a frenzy. The shops are blaring Christmas tunes, houses are draped in fairy lights and tinsel, and there is an abundance of glitter everywhere you turn. For many this is blissful, the festive season bringing that warm fuzzy feeling and a keen anticipation for the magical days ahead.

However, there are also many that dread the winter months and the impending celebrations. For many reasons this can be a difficult time of year, that heightens the feeling of isolation or is perhaps connected to painful memories or loved ones lost.

In fact, if you listen carefully to some of the top selling Christmas songs, many of them are not so cheery. Here’s some examples:

The legend, Elvis Presley himself, sings of a ‘Blue Christmas.’

Judy Garland in ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ sings about moving away from home and loved ones. With the suggestion ‘we’ll have to muddle through somehow.’

Joni Mitchell in ’River’ tells of the heartbreak of giving up her daughter for adoption and the loss of her relationship.

Nat King Cole sings of ‘The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot.’

There’s a common theme here, one of loneliness, not being with the people we love, or perhaps just being or feeling alone in the world.

‘The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.’

Mother Teresa

I imagine many people have experienced a taste of this over the past couple of years. And with news of a new variant doing the rounds, its no wonder people are panicking that we will soon be plunged back into another lockdown.

So just how much of an impact does loneliness have?

Well, it turns out quite a bit. The Campaign to End Loneliness lists these worrying facts on their website:

  • Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 26% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015)
  • Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
  • Loneliness is worse for you than obesity. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
  • Loneliness and social isolation are associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke [1]
  • Loneliness increases the risk of high blood pressure [2]
  • Loneliness with severe depression is associated with early mortality [3] and loneliness is a risk factor for depression in later life [4]
  • Loneliness and social isolation put individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia [5]

You can read more about the Campaign to End Loneliness here:

https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/the-facts-on-loneliness/

Cause of Loneliness:

There can be many causes: moving away from home, being in hospital, changing jobs, retirement, bereavement or a relationship breakup can all play a part.  

Loneliness is not always about being alone, the experience is different for everyone. Some people want to reach out but feel too anxious. For others it may be that they don’t feel understood, or maybe accepted by the people around them.

Tips to Manage Loneliness:

Mental Health Charity, Mind, suggest the following tips. The link to the full article is at the end of the page.

Take It Slow- Join an activity where you can be around people but choose how much you interact and at your own pace.

Try Peer Support- such as a befriender service or online community.

Make New Connections- Join a club based on your hobbies and interests. Or try volunteering.

Try To Open Up- Let friends know how you feel. Or you may feel more comfortable talking to a support service.

Try A Talking Therapy – Such as Counselling or CBT

Spend Time in Nature – Being outdoors can help boost mood and keep you healthy too.

Look after Yourself- Avoid drugs and alcohol, get enough sleep, eat nourishing food. It all makes a difference.

Don’t Compare Yourself- It may be helpful to cut down on social media for a while.

It’s not always possible to get out and about, but many services have now adapted and added an online element. Modern technology also makes it easier for us to stay in touch online when we can’t be together, or to reach out to new networks and support forums.

 But loneliness can also have a deeper root for those struggling to believe in themselves and their worthiness. It can be hard to connect with others when you don’t feel good in yourself. Here is where the inner work begins, the unravelling of all the negative thought patterns, instead recognising that you are enough just as you are. Many people find it helpful to speak to a counsellor or coach to identify the unhelpful thoughts and move towards the ones that build you up.

In loneliness you are never alone, it touches so many people’s lives whether fleeting or ongoing. But it can get better and there are many services that can help and many people that understand.

If you’re experiencing loneliness, there are some useful tips in the articles below.  If it all gets to much, please seek professional help. Speak to your GP or contact one of the charities listed here:

Mind:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/about-loneliness/

Samaritans:

Free confidential helpline available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Tel: 116 123

https://www.samaritans.org/

https://www.samaritans.org/branches/norwich/norwich-samaritans-news/were-here-if-youre-struggling-or-feeling-lonely-christmas/

Young Minds:

Text YM to 85258

Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

https://www.youngminds.org.uk/young-person/my-feelings/loneliness/

NHS:

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/feeling-lonely/

Article by Wendy Parrott

Youth Cancer Trust