FIFO Focus Director Sandra Lam joins Big Al as part of the REDFM series FIFO Life.
In this Christmas segment, Dr John and Sandra talk to Big Al about coping with loneliness at Christmas time.
Coping with loneliness at Christmas time.
Loneliness is common during the Christmas time. People who live alone and individuals who are grieving the loss of a loved one or a relationship can feel pretty lonely during this period. In Australia, Christmas is a susceptible time for many as they struggle to manage the expectations of the season. Many people feel as though they need to meet societal pressures of being socially connected and with everyone trying to portray a ‘happy happy joy joy’ life. With the existence of social media, comparing ourselves to others can be unavoidable.
In this segment, we provide the following tips for those who need a little help getting over the feeling of loneliness.
Recognise, redefine and plan
Firstly, it is important to recognise you are experiencing loneliness. It is a feeling of loss and sadness of not belonging. At this time of year, anticipatory anxiety is heightened. We anticipate what’s coming and can work ourselves up over it so the first thing we need to do is be aware of what we are likely to do and plan a response. You may choose to see this time of year as a break from work. Redefine Christmas for yourself. You don’t need to go into the festive frenzy that others are going through. If you have experienced a loss of a loved one, you may want to plan what to do there eg, you may want to reach out to those who have experienced the same loss so you sense of loss has a place within a space of connectedness. If it’s a loss of a relationship, be kind to yourself and acknowledge that although it’s sad, you appreciate what you had and reassure yourself that you will be ok.
The best way to deal with loneliness is to override your instinct to isolate. It’s what our minds wants to do to protect ourselves from the possibility of rejection. Loneliness is one of those feelings that feeds on itself. So make an effort to fight this instinct and engage in enjoyable and interesting activities. Even if you do this by yourself, you will be less likely to focus on negative thoughts and break the avoidance spiral that loneliness may ignite. If you have been invited to an event, go. Don’t talk yourself out of it.
Avoid social media
This time of year runs rampant with people posting the “best of” pictures and videos on social media sites. Do you really want to compare your insides feelings to other people’s outside curated images? If you find yourself responding negatively to what you see and getting upset by these sites, limit the use or simply switch it off. Perhaps while you’re taking a break, your Facebook account could as well.
Label the emotions
Saying “I am feeling lonely” is very different to saying “I am lonely”. Labelling what you are feeling miraculously wires your brain to dissociate the experience from you as a person. Your feelings do not define you. Your feelings do not say anything about you and your likeability or circumstances. All it says is how you’re processing this time of year and how it is resulting in a feeling of loneliness. You can manage how you process your thoughts and feelings and therefore better able to regulate them.
Watching your diet, getting enough sleep, keeping hydrated, doing light exercise which include walking, and getting outside all works towards regulating hormones that impact on negative thoughts. Focus on taking good care of yourself. Make good choices when they present themselves. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself but just take steps to make better choices.
Volunteering is a great way to create feelings of worth. It helps you feel good about yourself while also helping those less fortunate. The double bonus is that it allows you to be with like-minded people who also want to make a difference. Serve in a soup kitchen or help organizations during the festive season.
When you’re experiencing profound loneliness, seek help. Seek support from others, whether loved ones, a therapist or both. You don’t have to suffer in silence. People will not judge you for wanting help so please don’t judge yourself.