Even in the best of Covid-free times, loneliness can be amplified at Christmas. For many, the sense that the rest of the country is together, rosy-faced, pulling crackers or sitting around their twinkling trees can be too much to bear. This year, with restrictions on how many family members we can gather together, that sense of loneliness could be greater than ever. If this is you, or someone you know, then neuropsychologist Mara Klemich of heartstyles.com – who has a better understanding of the human psyche than anyone I’ve met – has the following advice.
Explore your feelings
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by loneliness, but in order to manage these feelings, it’s important to take notice of them. ‘Ask “what is it that bothers me most about being alone this Christmas?”’ says Mara. ‘Then you can start to decrease their impact.’
Change the story
We can twist the reality of our situation in our heads. ‘Loneliness frequently bombards us with a false story,’ says Mara. ‘One that says we are alone or deserve to be or will always feel lonely. The most helpful thing to know is that loneliness can be a liar, and it’s frequently based on fear.’ Mara suggests challenging our beliefs and acknowledging what we feel may not be an accurate picture – to allow us to see things from a different perspective.
Do something for others
‘Loneliness can be such a big, overwhelming feeling that it can swallow up everything in its path,’ says Mara, which means we can lose reality on the world around us. Her advice: look outwardly, at others: ‘Maybe you could reach out to someone else who is struggling or deliver a thoughtful gift.’ This could be a bit of your time, or something as simple as a phone call. Alternatively, consider volunteering – helping those less fortunate can foster a sense of gratitude.
There is much scientific evidence to prove that this, if you are able to do so, will improve your mood. ‘It makes you more likely to reach out and connect with the people around you,’ says Mara.
If you’re sad about being unable to see loved ones, Mara suggests taking ‘time to reflect on things you have to be grateful for. See your situation with a big-picture perspective and shift your mood.’
Initiate social events
Don’t just wait for invitations; make sure you initiate something social. Mara suggests socialising twice a week, whether it’s going for a walk or even a FaceTime call.
Tiny gestures – a quick hello to your neighbour, asking your shopkeeper how they are spending Christmas or smiling at someone on a dog walk – can help alleviate loneliness for both.
Pick up the phone
Obviously face-to-face contact with loved ones is unbeatable, but if that’s not possible, Mara says, don’t underestimate the mood-lifting power of a phone chat, or, if you can bear it, one more Zoom call.
If I could give one gift…
It would have to be the Neom Wellbeing Pod. A beautifully designed aromatherapy diffuser, it has filled my house with essential oils for most of 2020. The Christmas Wish Pod Starter Pack comes with an essential oil that smells of a Christmas cake baking in the oven. From £100, neomorganics.com
Well worth the weight
I’ll be honest: I was dubious about weighted blankets until I tried out one from Mela. Woven from 100 per cent cotton and glass quartz pellets, it moulds over me like a big sleepy hug. Definitely worth a try if you suffer from fretful sleep patterns. From £99.99, melacomfort.co.uk