Christmas is a time of celebration, yet seeing others surrounded by families and friends can often bring up feelings of loneliness and isolation, which may be even further heightened by the change in circumstances brought by the Omicron variant.
According to data from the Office of National Statistics in 2017, 1 in 20 adults report feeling lonely either often or all the time, with younger adults aged 16 to 24 years reporting feeling lonely more often than those in other age groups. Furthermore, a study conducted by Age UK in 2017 found that nearly 1.4 million seniors struggle with increased feelings of loneliness and isolation during the holiday season, as their days are constantly repetitive and special days just ‘pass them by’.
Loneliness doesn’t come easy on people. Research shows that loneliness and isolation can be associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, an increased risk of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, and dementia. Some experts have put the damage caused by loneliness on the same level with the harm caused by smoking and obesity.
The struggle with loneliness has increased even more with the pandemic for all age groups, so it is more important than ever to support each other through this isolating and stressful time. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can support someone who might be feeling lonely over the holidays.
10 Ways To Support Someone At Christmas
There are a multitude of ways that you can support others who may be feeling lonely at this time of year. Here are our top ten:
Connect with people
Reach out to loved ones in different ways. If you are unable to meet physically, set aside time for a phone call, video chat over FaceTime or Zoom. If meeting online, make time as if you would if you were meeting in person and treat it as you would treat a normal meet-up. If you are able to meet up in person, go for a walk or a coffee.
“Be present and make yourself even more present: nothing feels more reassuring than checking in regularly but instead of the odd email, text or WhatsApp message why not make a card, an animation, a video or a gif with photos of your best memories together?” - Catia Soares, psychotherapist.
If you have yet to introduce yourself to your neighbours, the holiday season is a great time to do so. Knock on your elderly neighbour’s door and introduce yourself. You never know, you may make a new best friend.
Celebrate small achievements
The end of the year can also be a time when people reflect upon their achievements and set New Year’s resolutions. While self-reflection is healthy and helpful, it’s easy to downplay achievements and beat yourself up about the goals that you haven’t accomplished, then set unrealistic resolutions for the New Year. Why not get together with those that you care about and take time to recognise and celebrate the small wins and the obstacles that you have overcome this year? It may help you re-calibrate your expectations for the New Year.
Invite them to join your family for Christmas
Think about neighbours or friends who might be alone on Christmas and invite them to join you and your family for dinner. The pandemic has meant that many have been unable to travel home to their families. International students may well be spending their Christmas away from their family and friends and on their own. Reach out to local universities to see if there is anyone you could open your home to this festive period. The same goes for some who may be working away from home, or the elderly, who may have family who cannot get to them this year. A little goes a long way at this time of year.
Engage someone in a new hobby
Does Betty two doors down know how to knit? Ask her to teach you how. No doubt she will love showing you the ropes and you can start 2022 off with a new skill. Is your Granny who is away from the family a champion at the Chess board? Play a game with her over FaceTime and have her teach you her tricks. Do you enjoy engaging with the arts? Share your skills with your neighbour. A finished painting on their mantle piece can provide a great sense of achievement and a reminder that they are not alone. This is a great way to connect and bond over shared hobbies.
Share your favourite book
If there’s a book you just cannot put down, recommend it to a neighbour and discuss it once they have read it. If they are an avid reader, ask them for recommendations of books that they love and you may find a new favourite. You never know, you could start a new book club soon!
Share a meal
Like to cook? Sometimes the elderly could do with some assistance in the kitchen with some hearty home-cooked meals. Consider gifting an extra plate of a hot supper, or a home-cooked frozen meal that they can heat up easily. Here are some of our favourite winter warmer recipes for inspiration. The Casserole Club, created by FutureGov, offers a wonderful service connecting keen cooks and their elderly neighbours living nearby who would love nothing more than a hot, home-cooked meal and a conversation. This wonderful project has seen new friendships and connections develop that make them smile everyday.
Volunteer your time
Organisations that support older people such as Age UK and Independent Age offer ‘befriending’ schemes for elderly people who may be isolated. Often they will match you to an elder who you can then drop in regularly for a tea and a chat, become a telephone friend, an Active Buddy (Age UK) who helps individuals to become more physically active, or to help with shopping. Other organizations that accept volunteers to combat loneliness in the elderly include the Royal Voluntary Service and The Silver Line.
Offer support and resources
Offer people support and give them the resources they need to ask for more help if they need it. If you have a particular skill, offer it out. Are you a particularly skilled handy person? Offer to put up your neighbour’s shelf that has been sitting in her garage for four months. Some may feel uncomfortable asking, so by offering a helping hand, you can help to alleviate that discomfort.
Send a Christmas card
Get to know your neighbours by sending them a Christmas card, or use the Christmas card as a means to invite them round for a Christmas tipple.
Get clued up on local events
If someone has indicated that they might be unwillingly spending Christmas alone, you can suggest events that may be going on in the local community. The Alexandra in Wimbledon, southwest London, offers free Christmas lunches to anyone who would otherwise be spending Christmas solo. In 2017, they served 62 roasts! Consider searching for similar events going on in your area and pass the information on, as those who could benefit from them the most, often don’t know about them.
If you or someone that you care about are struggling with mental health, you are not alone. Our professionals at Augmentive are here for you. Book a free consultation with our in-house therapist Sarah, who can help you find the right support for you.