Amid all this family celebration time, we seldom stop to think of those people who may not be joining loved ones. Some people don’t have family with whom to get together. Others don’t have the means to travel to far away relatives, and some may be estranged from families and no longer welcome at the dinner table.
It’s no co-incidence that the suicide rate increases sharply during the year-end holiday period – when surrounded by people celebrating with loved ones, being alone can simply seem unbearable.
If you are going to be on your own this festive season, there are lots of things you can do to make yourself – and others - feel better.
Give the Gift of You
You are not the only person spending the festive season on your own. There will be many people in hospices and old-age homes, for example, who won’t have a single visitor. Pop in and see someone. Take a small gift, or some flowers, and you’ll be amazed at the happiness this simple gesture will bring – for both you and the person you visit. Or volunteer at a shelter or hospital. Seeing others in situations worse than yours will help to put a solo silly season into perspective.
Own Your Alone Time
If you usually work long hours in a stressful job, a couple of days which you can dedicate completely to yourself – guilt-free – is a wonderful present. Spend the day in your pyjamas, have a long bubble bath with scented candles, catch up on reading, write overdue letters and emails, snooze in the afternoon, get rid of clutter your home…the possibilities are endless.
Make the Connection
Even if you physically can’t be with family or friends, you can, thanks to the wonders of technology, do the next best thing. Spending 15 uninterrupted minutes catching up with a loved one on Skype or over the phone will boost your mood for a long time afterwards. Research shows that spending time connecting with friends lowers stress levels and helps decrease symptoms associated with depression. Just talking to loved ones can help people feel happier, have more patience, and increase their tolerance for stress.
Get out and About
If you live in an area where it is possible, and safe, to go for a walk or run, do it. It is a great way to get rid of the blues - and the roads will be virtually empty. Even a brief walk at low intensity can improve mood and increase energy. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a positive effect.
Go on Holiday – With Yourself!
If you know in advance that you’re going to be alone over the holidays, book yourself a getaway at a spa, game reserve, chalet in the mountains, cottage at the beach…anywhere you want to go. Spend the time getting to know a new place, or revisiting a favourite spot. And if you haven’t planned beforehand, there are always great last minute deals to be had. Airlines vastly reduce the price of tickets if you fly on Christmas day, for example. Take the opportunity to explore somewhere new!
- Newton is a counseling psychologist in Durban. For more tips on surviving the festive season, see www.clairenewton.co.za