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So This is Christmas…

By Jeremy Ireland, Psychotherapist on December 10, 2018 in Other

Don’t be a Grinch this festive season, by Newt Gingrinch

It wouldn’t be a December issue without a Christmas article. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s the one day of the year we all look forward to, right? Expectation and anticipation are high. We’re meant to feel excited: excited to see loved ones; excited for the kids, Grandma, even the dog; excited about giving and receiving gifts.

With the countdown to Christmas ticking away, the excitement scale will move towards extreme. The Michael Buble Christmas CD will have been on repeat since early November, the house will be lit up like Luna Park, the tree will be decorated to within an inch of its life and the kids will have been bribed into being on their best behavior. And just like that, the day we have waited for all year will be upon is – it’s Christmas, you’ve got to be pumped!

The reality, though, is that for many it can be a very different Christmas from the one we’re expected to have. The build-up can foster anxiety and depression. Anxiety about family, money and isolation. And depression as a result of the festive period exacerbating what’s missing in life, magnifying a sense of exile and feelings of sadness and nothingness.

For such people in need there is help.

Christmas is by far the busiest time of year for crisis support centre Lifeline. Their support workers man the phones 24/7, offering good old-fashioned care and compassion for people in need who are feeling at their worst.

Although anyone can feel lonely at Christmas, it’s the elderly that tend to be the most vulnerable.
As people get older the shine of Christmas can start to fade, especially if family members have moved on or passed away. Indeed, a recent survey in the UK found that two-thirds of adults aged over 65 reported that loneliness was exacerbated by the Christmas/ New Year holiday period – food for thought for our ageing population. Support centers such as Lifeline are crucial at this time. An empathetic ear and an understanding voice can really help if one is confronted with an empty house at Christmas time.

So what can we do to keep things in check if we feel the Christmas roller coaster is getting away from us? Well, for those of us who have stopped writing a wish list to Santa, perhaps the best place to start is to keep your expectations in check, and don’t feel guilty if you’re not keeping up with the standards dictated by Christmas card messages, photos in magazines or shop-front Christmas displays – the last thing we need is to be reminded about how much fun we’re not having.

Watch out for overconsumption, too. Nothing can turn the long-awaited Christmas gathering into a fiery family dispute faster than alcohol. If the drunk uncle has pressed your buttons one too many times, do what Elsa does in Frozen and ‘let it go’.

My personal favourite is not buying presents, for anyone, period. Not only will you be financially better off, you won’t feel resentful when your little nephew says he already has it, doesn’t like it or doesn’t even remember what you gave him five minutes after he opened it.

To keep the Christmas spirit alive we should encourage our community to look out for those who may be doing it tough over the Christmas and New Year period. A friendly conversation over the fence with your neighbour will do far more for the Christmas cause than sending them an impersonal e-card with dancing elves in it.

We all go through different waves of emotion at Christmas, whether we want to admit it or not, and the highs and lows are not always easy to control. Remind yourself it’s okay to feel sad or lonely and you don’t have to pretend otherwise for the sake of others. We can’t always choose to be happy but we can choose hope; hope that the Christmas spirit will endure. And that, my friend, is the best we can do.

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