Extra. Amplified, Bright & glaring.
It’s the season of ‘everything’ - bright, sparkling, festive and most certainly in your face.
Curated highlight reels of excessive spending, socialising, matchy matching and extravagant gifting.
It’s the dream of the 2.4 family. Festive photo shoots, military style ‘activity’ schedules and don’t get me started on grown women and multiple advent calendars.
At Christmas, when everything is heightened, then everything is heightened again. Feelings and emotions, good and bad, run high. Amplification, again, of everything you have or perceive to not have at all. It’s a fact that you can have all of that, and yet feel nothing. In a room full of people, family or friends we can still feel the loneliest at this time of year, not forgetting the people who will literally be alone over the year end holidays.
Travel plans are on hold again throughout peak visitor season, the pressure usually put on the women of the household let’s face it, added to financial considerations, social anxieties, typical ‘slow down sickness’ that rears its head as soon as we ‘start to stop’... It’s a lot. A LOT.
Traditionally a time to get together with family and friends, for many it just won’t be possible this year. For those leading independent lives, minus partners or children, the rest of the year rushes past, almost carefree, but there is something about Christmas that mirrors any feelings of isolation we have being unable to spend time around other people or the pressure to enjoy a ‘traditional’ festive season. Christmas can exacerbate loneliness just by its cheery nature. Okay at other times, we have time to reflect and are reminded of people and relationships lost or dwell on the more negative aspects of the 12 months just passed.
Into our second ‘Covid Christmas’ few of us could have imagined we’d be here again this year. Stop the Corona Coaster - this woman wants to get off.
Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone. It’s not about how many people you have in your lives, it’s about how you feel. Being alone for many is a choice. Social overwhelm is real and so many of us have changed our habits irrevocably in the past two years, and frankly, enjoy the extra peace and quiet. Christmas pressure to feel the absolute opposite of ‘lonely’ can drive us mad. The expectations are immense, but the truth is, how much of this do we place on ourselves?
If this season sees you feeling lonely, it might be time for a bit of positive reflection. Time off work or away from school schedule madness could leave you with more time to reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, or that relative you constantly beat yourself up about not speaking to enough, or ever. Connections are what make us human and we can’t live our lives in silence or as an island - even if you do have a literal housefull.
It’s also time for honesty, with yourself and others. Is it time to say ‘Enough’ ? How much are we responsible for our own loneliness? Are we bottling up emotions, catastrophising scenarios or masking how we really feel? It’s time to talk. Understanding exactly why you feel lonely, if it isn’t an obvious lack of human interaction, is the first step to being able to minimise these feelings and taking control of your own wellbeing.
You need to get out. Home feels safe and comfortable but is also wildly claustrophobic. I am a homebody and can go days without going outside, but there is a limit, and like a pressure cooker I get to the point where I just have to get out and about - recharging my energies for the next few days of hibernation. And it doesn’t have to be forced. If you are still working, can you take your laptop and work out of home? Exercise releases endorphins and lifts our moods, but we are not all gym bunnies or similar. A literal change of scenery, anything at all, lifts my energy considerably, and any movement is exercise. You may have the world at your fingertips nowadays, but an online life is no substitute for a real one.
Getting lost in a book can really help too, a podcast or even a documentary. Taking our minds to other places sparks fresh thoughts and creativity, you never know, you might learn something new.
If you fancy a new pastime or hobby but have been putting it off due to time or lack of confidence, make 2022 the year you get started. I don’t believe in resolutions, but you can take this time to map out the logistics of what it is you’d like to start realistically, and do some research into what, where, how and how you can make it fit around your work or family life. New pastimes bring new people into your life too. Some of the most interesting people in mine are never the expected circles of those whom we are conditioned to be friends with.
Without sounding harsh, we have to recognise the absolute fact that as adults, nobody is coming to ‘save us’, sobering I know, but how cool is it to know that we are all masters of our own destiny? Feelings of loneliness usually mean that we have something missing, and it’s up to us to recognise this, understand what it is and gradually make the change.
Forced fun, family time and socialisation in December leave us with feelings of ‘lack’ - and that’s false too. Most of the commercial Christmas that we see now, and via social media is just that. I genuinely find it really quite sad that people hire in ready decorated trees - for hospitality and retail outlets sure, but your tree is yours and the true meaning of Christmas is to promote peace, love and kindness - is it time you started with yourself?
When we are bombarded with the ‘magic’ of Christmas from early November and often earlier - if we get caught up in that, we are secretly often ‘over it’ by the time it actually comes around, which is another reason for a little introspection. Things really are as tricky as we make them for ourselves.
Thinking about the moments that triggered loneliness for you across previous holiday seasons can help you to plan differently this and forthcoming years. There's not a single way to address loneliness during Christmas. Some people long for connection and relationships, while others want space for themselves. Consider what it is you long for and what may help to support you during YOUR end of year slow down. Make yourself a priority as much as you can, and within reason, as from woman to another, I suspect that is one thing missing from Santa’s ever lengthening list.