The experience of loneliness at Christmas
By: Sinead O'Brien
Updated: 20 December 2018
In the run-up to Christmas and well into the New Year many people experience loneliness.
The type of loneliness I am referring to is an internal one that no amount of external company can cure.
It is a time where people evaluate their happiness scale on both a conscious and unconscious level which brings about many mixed feelings for lots of people.
We have a tendency to compare where we are in our lives to the picture of Christmas that is portrayed on Christmas cards and splashed all over the media.
We are presented with an endless stream of happy, smiling faces of couples, families and children, Santa, presents, beautifully decorated houses and amazing food. Is it any wonder we suddenly don’t feel too good without fully realising why?
Christmas, of course, can be a very happy time for many, however, this isn’t conditional for most.
The expectation to be happy and in the company at Christmas is higher than any other time of the year.
Christmas can bring about many memories from earlier times in our lives, we can think about those we have loved and lost, friends and family we may be estranged from and our financial and relationship difficulties can be heightened.
This is then all mixed in with intense pressure and range of feelings as we think about what we should be doing, what we should be buying and where we should be going. If none of these is in place, where does that leave us?
These challenging feelings are oftentimes difficult to manage and they can range from intense bouts of sadness, anger and fear. I must not leave out happiness as surprising as it is for most to learn, this is oftentimes a challenging emotion.
If we are not used to feeling happy, having experienced hardship and difficulties in our lives, perhaps with little or no support, when we do feel happy, can we trust it to last?
Any experience of happiness can oftentimes be contaminated with a feeling of strangeness and uncertainty. Many of us are challenged to allow in ‘the good’ and happiness is oftentimes short-lived.
So this loneliness I have mentioned is something that no amount of food, alcohol, presents or company can cure.
If we do feel any temporary relief from any of these it is normally short-lived. What we are most lonely for is in actual fact ourselves. Somewhere along our paths, we have stepped out of ourselves to meet the incessant needs of work, family, friends and other responsibilities. The list is endless.
This loneliness I describe is a hole in our soul and the only antidote for this hole is self-care and self-love.
These are alien concepts for most of us especially in an Irish culture which breeds ‘doers’ and ‘givers’. Do we really know how to mind ourselves?
What I am suggesting this Christmas time is for all of us to slow down and take time ‘to be’. Do what makes you happy. Who do you love spending time with? Where is your favourite place to go? What really makes you really happy? Yes, that’s right, I am asking what makes YOU happy. Not your partner, your parents, your children, your siblings, your friends, just plain old you.
Except you aren’t very plain after all are you? You’ve gotten yourself this far and you’re doing a fantastic job. Give yourself the gift of yourself this Christmas.
Make time to watch your favourite film, take a bath, and have a walk on the beach or whatever it is that lights up your spirit. It’s never too early or too late to start minding you. Wishing you a Christmas of new, one fueled with self-care and love. May you always be happy and well.
Written by Sinead O’Brien
MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS WORKING WITH Isolation/Loneliness ISSUES:
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Approach: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) , Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy , Mindfulness , Person-Centred Therapy , Other
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Specialities: Anger , Anxiety , Bereavement , Bullying , Chronic Illness , Co-Dependency , Communication Issues , Depression , Educational , Isolation/Loneliness , Panic , Personal Development , Relationship issues , Self harm , Self-Esteem , Stress , Suicidal Ideation , Trauma , Work Issues, Work/Life balance
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