More than eight million Britons will be spending Christmas alone this year, according to a new poll by Tesco Mobile. Of these 83% are unlikely to speak to anyone face to face on Christmas day.
And while it’s often older people who are thought to be most at risk of loneliness over the holidays, 24% of 35-44 year olds are likely to be alone on Christmas Day, compared to 12% of over 55s. The survey of 2000 adults found that 42% of adults are worrying about lonely friends or relatives.
If you are one of those spending Christmas alone, Dr Craig Knight, a chartered and Registered Psychologist and Research Fellow at Exeter university is sharing his top tips for surviving, and even enjoying, the Christmas break. Dr Knight is a psychotherapist offering online appointment on the Feelya psychotherapy platform.
1. Lose the social distance: The more social contact you can manage this Christmas the better. Lower your levels of stress and boost your happiness by increasing the number of people you see, upping your WhatsApp contacts and offering to help others in need. Of course, we must physically distance. If you can avoid a potentially infected citizen, then those heavy, dangerous, droplets of breath will fall to earth rather than breaststroke their way through your respiratory tract. But social distancing, during Covid19 – and especially at Christmas – is anathema. We need as much human support as possible.
Yes, Zooming and Skype aren’t quite the same thing as pulling a cracker with your dad, or sliding several Brussels sprouts down the back of your sister’s T-shirt, but that needn’t block conversation or prevent several people having a drink together.
It doesn’t have to stop the games either. Try the Puzzle (https://www.100pointchallenge.com/?aff=2) as just one place for being relatively silly with people you love. Before you know it there will be cheating and arguing and somebody losing the plot worse than Guy Fawkes. You will hardly notice the difference.
2. Leave the house: On the day itself, mask up and go or a walk, or sit outside. It is the one time of the year when even folks living in the South East of England won’t suddenly spot a mammoth shinning up a beech tree, or a worm eating their shoelaces just as a stranger tries to make eye-contact. “Merry Christmas” is a phrase happily returned by just about everybody. So be liberal in its distribution.
3. Listen to the radio: And if it is late and you’re lonely, and everybody’s in bed, or even if you haven’t done any of the things mentioned in this article, then switch on the radio or your favourite podcast. Lose yourself in it. Radio is company, the scenery is better than on telly and you can listen to it anywhere. What’s more, people live there and invite you inside.
4. Lie comfortably: Even when the four am devils start gnawing at your sanity, there are still things you can do. Did you know you feel happier facing one way in bed than another? Try back, front, right and left. You’ll find angels on one side. And that spare pillow; nobody is really going to mind if you give it a cuddle, you know; or pretend it’s your favourite film star or your first crush.
5. Look for mental health support: Remember that tens of thousands of us will feel lonely, anxious, distressed or depressed over the Christmas period. According to the mental health charity Mind, the pressure and loneliness of Christmas can affect mental health negatively. Their website has contact details of helplines. You might also consider private online one-to-one therapy sessions. Platforms like Feelya have professional therapists available throughout the Christmas break, at a time and price to suit you.
Whatever works for you, do it! But remember, while we must physically distance, social interaction – of all kinds – is even more important. Good luck, good health, and Merry Christmas.