From loneliness to family tensions: how to care for yourself this festive season

21 December 2020

For many of us, the holiday period is a fun, festive time to reconnect with our family and friends. Yet for others, it can create feelings of loneliness, stress and anxiety. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Nearly six million Australians feel lonely and isolated at Christmas. Luckily, our psychologists are here to help, by sharing their advice on how to make it through the silly season.  

Challenging family get-togethers: how to navigate them

The holidays are the perfect time to bring the whole clan together.

But are you anticipating some family conflict or tension?

To avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed, it’s important that you prepare yourself for situations that might arise. You could decide to avoid certain topics – or think about some neutral talking points.

If you’re feeling worried about what you might say, we also suggest not making the silly season too silly. By limiting alcohol consumption, you’ll more effectively manage your emotions and communication.

Beforehand, you can also devise a plan with a trusted family member to whisk you away if tensions rise.

Some subtle ways to excuse yourself include getting a head start on the cleaning up or playing with the kids!

Loneliness: it’s so common, here’s how to cope

For many people, the holiday period is one of the loneliest times of the year. In fact, nearly six million Australians feel lonely and isolated at Christmas.

And with international borders now closed and state travel restricted, this number is likely to rise significantly this year.

So, if you’re not in touch with your family – or can’t be with them physically as you normally would – we suggest making plans well ahead of time. This will help reduce those uncomfortable, or even distressing, feelings. It could be organising an ‘Orphan Christmas’ with others in the same position.

You might consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, nursing home or children’s hospital. Or you could reach out to a neighbour or friend. You might be surprised who will open their doors to you in this giving time.

Limiting your social media use is also a wise idea, as it can invite an unhealthy comparison to other people’s lives. This may leave you feeling even more isolated.

Split from family overseas or interstate? Here’s how to manage.

Will you be separated from your loved ones this year due to the pandemic?

Luckily, it’s not an all or nothing scenario. There are still ways to connect with loved ones over the holidays.

Why not start Christmas day by opening presents together on a video call? Or if you haven’t managed to send a gift, you could share a meal or drink together.

If you’re looking to uphold traditions of festive games and laughs, you can still do so in the virtual world. Houseparty is a group video chat app that lets you play games, from trivia to drawing!

Feeling heightened social anxiety? Some helpful strategies.

It’s been a long year of isolation. And now with Christmas nearly here, you’re probably facing crowded shopping centres and back-to-back social events.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s totally understandable.

We recommend giving yourself some much-needed space by scheduling in no more than one social event a day and allowing yourself the luxury of simply saying ‘no thank you’.

As for the swarms of shopping crowds, we suggest shopping local (they need you!), going online or using click-and-collect services.

The financial stress of gift-giving: there’s no need to go overboard

For many of us this year, money is tight.

In fact, a recent government report found that Australian families have been reducing their non-essential expenses, essential expenses – and even reaching into savings to cover the necessities.

So, where does this leave Christmas gifts for your friends and family?

Here’s the thing: the most appreciated gifts are the ones with the most thought and meaning – not those with the highest price tags.

So instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the presents you need to buy, why not think outside the box?

You could create some personalised DIY gifts, provide a babysitting voucher or offer to help with the cleanup on Christmas day. Your thoughtful gestures will be much more valued than you might think.

And before buying something new for your child, have a look online for secondhand options.

If you’ve been feeling especially down recently, our qualified psychologists are here to help. Please call us on 1300 995 636 to make an appointment or learn more.