We often think of Christmas and New Year as being one of the most joyful times of the year but for some people, it can be one of the loneliest. It can also be a period that triggers anxiety and other mental health conditions. There are so many expectations attached to the festive period, many of which can be a tipping point. Research from MIND suggests that as many as 1 in 10 of us struggle to cope at this time of year and this figure is higher for people who currently have a mental health problem.
Who Might Be Affected?
Older people are one of the more obvious groups that are likely to be affected by loneliness, especially if they live alone and don’t have family around them at Christmas. If you have an elderly neighbour that lives alone, be aware of them and check in with them over the holidays. You might even consider asking them to be part of your own Christmas plans to ease their loneliness.
You might be more surprised to know that younger people are often struggling with loneliness at this time of year too. Expectations to go to events, put on a happy face and splash out on gifts over the holidays can be factors that lead to a spike in anxiety and depression for 25-34 year olds. Poor eating habits over the festive period can also make existing mental health problems worse. MIND’s research highlights the fact that almost 20% of people feel isolated and lonely at Christmas even if they’re not physically alone.
According to research from The Priory Group, 1 in 3 males aged 25-34 feel lonely over the Christmas period - even when they’re surrounded by people. They’re also one of the groups that is traditionally least likely to reach out for support.
The Impact of Loneliness
Feeling lonely over Christmas and New Year can have some very negative health effects. Loneliness and social isolation can be as harmful as being obese and smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It’s linked to dying earlier, cognitive decline, high blood pressure and depression. Scary stuff!
Spotting the Signs of Problems
Some of the signs that loneliness and mental health problems include:
- Losing interest in things that used to bring enjoyment
- Spending more time alone and withdrawing from social activities
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
If you notice any of these changes in someone you know and suspect that they may be struggling over the holidays, let them know that you’re there for them. If they want to talk, offer a listening ear and make sure that they’re aware of the help and support that is out there. They’ll probably be feeling completely alone and this can help more than you think.
Coping With Loneliness, Anxiety and Depression at Christmas
If this time of year triggers feelings of loneliness, isolation, anxiety and/or depression, don’t suffer in silence. I see many clients for these issues, many of which came to a head over the festive period. If this is the case for you, it’s important to understand that there is support to help you get back on track.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help, along with other treatments.
Hypnotherapy is one of the most successful interventions for anxiety and depression and can help to change thought patterns and behaviours linked to them.
Contact me today to talk more about how we can work together to overcome anxiety and other mental health problems and make 2019 the year to get back in control of your mental health.