Here’s how to help tackle loneliness over the holidays, for yourself or someone else

Loneliness can strike at any time, but spending the holidays alone can be particularly challenging.

Loneliness can strike at any time, but spending the holidays alone can be particularly challenging. Photo: Getty

Christmas is almost here. Trees are decorated, gifts are wrapped and carols are playing on repeat.

But for many Australians, the holiday season is particularly lonely, isolating and financially difficult.

The festivities can also act as a stark reminder of loved ones lost.

It is important to keep all of this in mind because, if this sounds familiar, you are not alone.

And if it does not apply to you, please spare a thought for others who are doing it tough and read on for tips on how to help.

Support is in high demand, but don’t be put off

Lifeline Australia is expecting a record number of phone calls over the Christmas period, with the number already up 40 per cent compared to before the pandemic.

Lifeline CEO Colin Seery said the increased demand reflects the increase in personal stressors over the festive season.

Things like added financial pressure, grief over lost loved ones, family conflict, loneliness and isolation are all factors, he said.

“The holidays are not always a happy, jolly time – in fact, for many, this time of year can be challenging and heighten feelings of isolation or loneliness,” Mr Seery said in a statement.

“Over the past two years, many of us have been coping, rather than thriving, and that is OK.”

He said Lifeline is preparing for peaks of up to 4000 calls across the 24/7 phone line, web chat and text services.

They will be busy, busier than they have been in their history, he said.

But not too busy to take your call.

“It is really important that no one feels they have to face this holiday season alone,” he said.

Robert Sams, executive director of Lifeline Direct, told The New Daily there is no wrong reason to use their service.

“One person’s concern is another person’s crisis,” Mr Sams said.

“Crisis can be a relationship concern, a financial challenge – whatever is concerning you at that time is a reason to call Lifeline.”

It is an anonymous service and Mr Sams said when someone calls, they can expect to be listened to and to feel heard without judgment.

Their support workers are well trained to take your call and to offer compassion, he said.

Mr Sams said the best thing we can do for someone who we feel may be struggling is to ask them and to listen without trying to ‘fix’ things.

  • For more information about suicide prevention, click here.

Lifeline has released a free Wellness Guide for the holidays, you can access it here.

There is also an option to make a donation.

Tackling loneliness at Christmas

Dr Grant Blashki, lead clinical adviser at Beyond Blue, told The New Daily loneliness is often associated with mental health concerns, but can strike anyone at any time.

He said it is important to be kind to yourself over the holidays, as it can be a particularly challenging time.

He also shared the following tips to help tackle loneliness.

What not to do when you’re alone on the holidays

If you are spending the Christmas period on your own, Dr Blashki recommends avoiding social media if you can, unless it is to reach out to someone for a chat.

“Social media can be toxic and it’s a bit comparative,” he said. 

“There is nothing worse than sitting at home scrolling through other people’s lovely Christmas photos.”

He also recommends avoiding too much alcohol, as it can lead to irrational thinking and can make it harder to keep things in perspective.

christmas volunteering

Spoiling yourself, or making time for others, can help you to feel part of something at Christmas. Photo: Getty

What to do to keep loneliness at bay

Dr Blashki said the first thing he advises is to tone down expectations. 

“There’s a big build-up about the festive season, but it comes and goes,” he said.  

He said to plan ahead to avoid “arriving on Christmas Day with no plan, feeling awful because you are on your own”.

Try to make a plan for how you will spend it, he said.

Do something you know makes you feel good, like going for a walk in the park or in nature.

It could include:

  • Spoiling yourself: Make a package for yourself or, if you can afford it, get yourself some kind of present
  • Planning activities: Pick a couple of good movies to watch, make a good playlist, plan to go for a nice walk, to cook or do hobbies
  • Organising food: If you enjoy cooking, get some nice food to have ready to cook up a storm
  • Thinking of others: Volunteering for a charity or community group can be a great way to be part of something and helping people feels good, too
  • Hobbies: Get a good puzzle or some supplies so you can do your hobby on Christmas Day.

Focus on appreciation, which is easier said than done. But try to focus on things you are grateful for, like living in a peaceful country.

Do check in with yourself and if you are feeling it is all too much, reach out to a friend or family member or call Beyond Blue or Lifeline.

Whether you are alone or not, try to think of someone you know at work, in your community or friendship group who could be on their own and invite them to spend it with you, he said.

In case you missed it, The New Daily recently asked Australian Psychological Society president Tamara Cavenett for some tips on how to take care of our overall mental health over the silly season.

You can read those tips here.

And if you are having a hard time this holidays, there is support available:

If you or someone near you is in immediate danger, please call emergency services on 000 

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