While Christmas can be a time of big family gatherings and busy schedules for some people, for many others in the community it can be a lonely time.
- Feeling social isolation during the festive season is common for a lot of people, but there are ways to beat it
- Catching up with family and friends, either at Christmas time or at another time during the holidays is important
- Spending time with other people in your community at events or while volunteering can also give you the social interaction you need
Just remember that everyone’s Christmas days will look different and what you see on social media or on television is not necessarily the reality.
You can make your own Christmas traditions, involving whatever brings a smile to your face.
If you’re feeling lonely or feel as though you might need more social interactions on your Christmas holiday calendar, here are some suggestions for how you can connect with more people in the community.
Family and friends
Ask what your family members and close friends are doing not just on Christmas day, but for the next few weeks. Christmas celebrations don’t have to be on Christmas day if that doesn’t work into everyone’s plans. You could swap presents and share a meal at any time leading up to or after Christmas to get in your dose of celebrations.
There also doesn’t have to be a Christmas theme to your plans. Simply catching up with someone for a chat, a coffee, a walk or a crafting activity is just as beneficial.
If your loved ones are far away, reach out electronically, by phone or over the internet, but use whatever form of communication you are most comfortable with so that it is easier for you to engage with the other person.
You could share your Christmas dinner over an online video platform, send pictures of Christmas decorations and scenes to each other, or even write them a letter or card and send it in the mail.
Make sure you tell people how you’re feeling – whether you’re feeling lonely or feeling happy to be spending time with them. If you don’t tell people how you’re feeling they may not know, and you might be surprised at how the people in your circles react when they hear that you’re struggling with the holidays or feeling down. You might find out they enjoy spending time with you a lot more than what you thought.
It can be a busy time of the year for some people, but don’t think you’re forgotten, and if you need to reach out to family and friends because they’re preoccupied, then do so. Often people forget that Christmas is about social connection and get caught up in business.
Other community members
Christmas is about family but family doesn’t always need to be about who you’re directly related to. You can choose who you spend time with. Maybe you could celebrate with friends, neighbours or other people in your community instead if your direct family is not an option.
Talk to your neighbours about how they will be spending their time over the holidays and whether they might like to share a meal with you or organise an activity at home – even decorating the Christmas tree or putting up lights can be a good opportunity for social engagement.
There also should be a number of community activities happening in your area during the festive season. These could range from a Christmas lunch at the community centre to a New Year’s Day barbecue hosted by a local community group.
It might also be helpful to look for free activities happening at your local library. There could be Christmas concerts, book based events or even just community gatherings scheduled during the holidays for people of all ages.
An internet search will bring up most of the activities near you, but you could also check community newsletters, noticeboards or newspapers.
The spirit of giving
The Christmas tradition is based on giving to others. This can mean giving a physical gift or just giving the gift of companionship and support.
Giving back to family members, friends and other people in your community is one of the best ways to feel good during the festive season and can lead to deeper connections with the people in your support network.
Think about what gifts might be appreciated by your loved ones and then organise a time to catch up with them to give them the gift. Even just the act of giving a small gift – like a box of chocolates or a book – can lift your spirits and be the highlight of the day for the person you are giving it to.
You could also think about volunteering – one of the most common types of giving throughout the year – so there are lots of opportunities to volunteer around this time of year.
A volunteering role could be linked to an interest you have, for example you might be able to help out in the Meals on Wheels kitchen if you like cooking, or a community garden in your area might be looking for volunteer gardeners.
Whatever the volunteering role is that you choose, it will always involve an opportunity to meet new people and connect with your community.
Looking to the future
Many regular activities are put on hold over Christmas and New Year’s as people go on holiday or spend time with their own families, but remember that these breaks are not forever.
Having something to look forward to after the festive season can keep your positivity levels higher if you feel lonely when not attending your regular activities.
You could have a calendar or countdown to when they start up again, so that you can remind yourself of what you have to look forward to.
Any friends you have met at your regular activities may also be able to meet up with you during the break – you don’t only have to see them when you attend your activities. Often friendships can thrive outside of regular activities and meeting up with your friends is a great way to beat social isolation.
Do you have any other tips for beating social isolation? Tell us in the comments below.