By Marie Duffy, PR and Communications Officer
When we think of the Christmas season, we traditionally think of the Hollywood movie, the festive scene in front of the fire or everyone sitting around a dining room table- a time for friends and family. But for many people, this is not always the reality.
There was a huge emphasis placed on isolation and loneliness during the covid pandemic and people were told to be aware of its impact. But loneliness and isolation existed before the lockdown, and it will continue long after too.
Loneliness and being alone might sound the same, but they’re different. Being by yourself doesn’t always make you lonely, and being with a lot of people doesn’t always make you feel connected. Knowing this difference is important when we talk about loneliness.
Everyone feels lonely or disconnected at some stage. However, it can feel heightened at times like Christmas because of our expectations of what Christmas is ‘supposed’ to look like, and the expectations that we place on this time of the year. In reality, Christmas is far from what we see portrayed on our tv screens.
Many who feel lonely feel like they are the only ones who feel that way, but that’s untrue. Loneliness affects people of all ages, from all backgrounds and all walks of life.
In 2022, 34% of calls to Samaritans were for reasons of isolation and loneliness. Samaritans answered tens of thousands of calls last December, with over 1,000 calls for help on Christmas Day alone.
Read our tips below for things you can do to help you feel less lonely
- Try to connect with someone else by text or phone even if you can’t meet them face to face.
- There are lots of online groups where you can meet with people who have similar interests and are looking to do things together. Joining one of these groups can be a fun way to meet new people.
- Some people find volunteering a good way to give back to others and meet new people at the same time. Check out Volunteer Ireland or your local volunteer centre who have a list of volunteering opportunities available. www.volunteer.ie
- Having a routine can be extremely helpful and help break up the time if you feel that you spend a lot of it alone. Read our blog having a routine here.
- Many people find having a hobby like crafting, painting, or even reading a book or watching a movie a good way to pass time and helps them feel less alone.
- Try to get out of the house if you can. Even if you aren’t spending time with people, being around others can help. Some people find going to the cinema, theatre, or a coffee shop, even if they are on their own helpful, because they are still surrounded by people.
- Spend time in nature- Nature has this beautiful way of making us feel more connected to the world around us. Try to go to your local park, woodland, beach or somewhere you can listen to nature and spend time in it.
- Listen to a podcast- Lots of people find listening to podcasts as a way of dealing with loneliness. Podcasts are a great way of learning about new things and having the company of someone your ear whenever you need it. Check out Mental Health Ireland’s podcast on loneliness with comedian Allison Spittle and Sean Moynihan, the CEO of ALONE.
- Exercise- Many people feel better after exercising and it has been shown to reduce anxiety and to increase the feel-good endorphins in our body. Why not get a double whammy of endorphins by exercising in nature. Watch our video on exercising in nature here. If you can’t get outside to exercise, try sticking on some music and doing some gentle movement.
- It’s about the quality and not quantity of your interactions- If you find that you are surrounded by people and feeling lonely, try to remind yourself that it is the quality of your interactions that you have with people and not the number of interactions you have. You might find being in a group of people overwhelming but might feel more comfortable talking to someone one on one.
- If you know someone who might be struggling with loneliness, try to spend some time with them or pick up the phone and give them a text or a call. Not only will it make them feel less alone, but it will make you feel good too.
- Remember that Samaritans take calls from people 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Including Christmas Day. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone at 116 123 or if you find email more comfortable email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also text about HELLO to 50808 or www.textaboutit.ie to text a volunteer. The charity ALONE provides a service to older people who may be at risk of isolation or loneliness. You can read more about ALONE’s service at www.alone.ie
Remember, Christmas isn’t like the John Lewis tv ad for everyone. It’s perfectly normal to experience loneliness at times, but by following the above tips, you can prevent it from being a long term thing. Go gently.