With festive songs playing in every shop in Highcross and TV adverts presenting us with an idealised vision of the festive season, feeling low or lonely at Christmas can be a particularly isolating experience. Whether you live in the bustle of the city, or rural Leicestershire, loneliness is a pervasive adversary at this time of year.
If you don’t have family to spend time with over the holidays, you may be dreading a Christmas spent on your own. If you have recently lost a loved one, or experienced a relationship break-up, you may just not feel like celebrating, and may feel like you are ‘bringing down’ other people if you attempt to socialise. Elderly people are especially likely to be alone at this time of year, and may feel particularly vulnerable during the winter months.
The good news is that there are some simple, practical steps you can take to keep loneliness at bay this Christmas. We spoke to Madeleine Bocker, a Registered Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, an organisation with its headquarters in Leicestershire. Madeleine gives the following advice:
Be prepared. If you know you are going to be alone this Christmas, or you just don’t feel like celebrating, try to schedule in something you enjoy to take your mind off things. Plan ahead and make sure you know that you’ll be spending the day doing something enjoyable. Whether it’s watching a favourite film, reading a book, enjoying a walk through Victoria Park, or even taking a trip abroad, Christmas does not have to be spent sat around a tree opening presents.
Get involved. Charities are always on the lookout for volunteers during the festive period. Helping out, perhaps at a local Samaritans centre or a homeless shelter, can be a rewarding experience that could act as a great self-esteem booster.
Talk to others. Many people find themselves alone over the holidays. Do you know of an elderly neighbour, or an old friend or work colleague who is in a similar situation to you? Ask them if they fancy meeting up for a coffee or a bite to eat – it could make all the difference to both of you.
Seek help. If being by yourself causes you to feel extremely low or anxious, or if even around other people you feel a profound sense of loneliness that will not go away, seeking the help of a counsellor or psychotherapist could be extremely useful. Therapy can help you work through your problems, as well as make you more resilient and better able to cope with life’s ups and downs.”
Therapy offers you a safe, confidential place to talk with someone who is trained to listen attentively and to help you improve things. You can access therapy through your GP for free. You may also be able to access therapy through your workplace, or you can access it privately.
If you decide to access counselling privately, BACP’s public website contains a wealth of information for anyone considering therapy, including information sheets, videos and links to recent research. Its ‘find a therapist’ directory can also help you to find a private therapist in the Leicester area.
Originally published – 13/11/2014, www.bacp.co.uk