As we approach the festive season, many people are looking forward to spending time celebrating with loved ones. However, despite the general sense of Christmas joy and cheer, many people will be facing a very tough time over the holidays. Adding the challenges caused by the pandemic to the equation, and the mental health of many Australians is at risk.
Many people will be feeling vulnerable and facing isolation these holidays due to a variety of reasons. Perhaps they have few friends or family members in the country, are dealing with relationship breakdowns, have been living away from home or have lost and are missing loved ones. Whatever the reason, there are a variety of ways you can combat your own negative feelings over the festive season, or help others that you know may need support.
“We know that loneliness is associated with poorer mental health generally – with the pandemic, loneliness became more common,” says Beyond Blue’s lead clinical adviser, Dr Grant Blashki.
“Society already has such high expectations about what a wonderful time Christmas is going to be…a great time of celebration, but at the same time can make [the pain of] loss of loved ones, or isolation, or relationship breakups more acute.”
Dr Blashki suggests several ways to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. Beginning with pampering yourself, you can do a few little things to make yourself feel more special over Christmas and the New Year season.
“Make yourself a Christmas package, plan some nice activities, cook up a nice meal, set up your favorite movies or a playlist to listen to, or get a good book,” says Dr Blashki.
“The other thing that’s quite good is if you can get into a good hobby – get involved in a puzzle, fix something, a hobby that you previously engaged in and stopped doing when you were younger.”
Another way to combat negative feelings is to get involved with your community over the holidays. Not only are you spending your time doing something wholesome and productive, but you’re making other people’s holidays brighter and happier with your actions.
“A lot of charities are looking out for people to help and volunteer, and that can be really lovely because you’re helping other people, but it can also be great for you because you’ve got company and you feel like you’re part of something compassionate in the community,” Dr Blashki explains.
It’s also easy to slip into a pattern of negative, self-blaming thoughts. Dr Blashki suggests that if you can, you try to frame your thoughts in a more positive way by focusing on the things that you do have, rather than those that you don’t have.
“If you like mindfulness and focusing on appreciation, think of your health and the fact that we live in a beautiful country,” he says.
If you aren’t struggling with negative emotions and thoughts this festive season, it may be beneficial to reach out to people that you know might be having difficulty. Whether it’s someone who has lost a loved one, is away from their family and friends or has experienced the breakdown of a relationship, you can embody the festive cheer and spread the love with others these holidays.
“Have a bit of a think about your networks and someone you think that could join you,” Dr Blashki suggests.
“It increases the fun, and it’s also a nice good deed and will make it special for someone.”
Beyond Blue has a Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service available on 1800 512 348, as well as the regular phone line on 1300 224 636.
Dr Blashki also suggests Beyond Blue Forums for people who may not feel up to speaking on the phone.
“It’s a moderated forum – there’s no trolling or bullying, you don’t put your name in, but actually if you’re having mental health issues and you want to see how other people are dealing with things or have a chat to people,” explains Dr Blashki.
“There’s a lot of people that actually feel a little bit more comfortable with typing – if you’re a bit socially anxious, it’s really good because it’s actually anonymous.”
Speak to your GP or health professional if you need help, or utilise 24/7 support services. Visit Beyond Blue online at www.beyondblue.org.au. If you or someone else are in immediate danger, phone 000.