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The holidays aren't happy for everyone

At Christmas time we are surrounded by images of happiness, love, togetherness and family. For many people, this isn’t the reality.

The days and weeks leading up to Christmas can be hard for people going through a tough time and can be associated with negative feelings like sadness, loneliness and worry. I know I find this time of year a little hard.

The expectation for many is a time for togetherness with family and friends, but if you’re alone, live away from family, are experiencing the loss of a love one, a painful divorce or breakup, navigating tense family dynamics or custody issues, it can just be a hard time and often disappointing. If this is something you can relate to, please read on.

While you can’t change some of these circumstances, there are ways you can make Christmas time a little more enjoyable, whether you’re alone or with loved ones.

  1. Remove the pressure - we can get so caught up in the expectations of the ‘perfect’ Christmas, the frantic shopping for gifts, hours of cooking and decorating for the perfect Christmas lunch, that we forget what it truly means to us or how we want to spend it, or if we want to celebrate it at all! Take a moment to think about what this time of year means to you. Is it a time of religious sentiment, a time to reflect and plan ahead, is it just about the food or a few days off work. Keep this in mind when planning how you’ll spend your time. Bringing Christmas 'down to size' helps to remove that unnecessary pressure.

  2. Create a new tradition - if what you’re currently doing each year isn’t working for you, not making you happy, then change it. It could be saying no to travelling hours to see family that always leaves you feeling stressed and exhausted and instead staying home and cooking a meal you’ve always wanted to try, cocktails and karaoke on Christmas eve, Christmas brunch instead of lunch or get away entirely (a camping trip or a short cruise). If you don't want to spend the day alone, there are social groups like Meetup, that host get togethers or 'Orphan Christmas' that you can join (or host your own) and spend the day making new friends. Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be complicated or extravagant, just something that makes you happy and resonates with you and the people you want to share the day with.

  3. Spend less - it’s hard to resist the temptation of buying lots of gifts to make people happy but consider giving a different kind of gift. It can be an experience (tickets to a show, a cooking class, movie session) or the gift of time (a date with your mum or dad, mother-daughter girls night), or a gift of service or a handmade gift (a homemade meal for a friend, a pamper session for your partner), buy your gifts from an Op shop, set up a theme with friends and strict dollar limit, have fun with it without breaking the bank. There are lots of ways to show you love someone without spending tonnes of money.

  4. Get creative - spend the day doing a puzzle, painting a picture (lots of tutorials online), or is there something you’ve been putting off, like writing that story, a craft piece you’ve wanted to tackle or a lego set you want to build. Using our creativity can be a real boost to our mood as well as calming and any of these can be done alone or with a loved one. Put on some tunes and let your creativity flow.

  5. Go outside and digital detox - go for a walk at the beach or park, pack a picnic and go on a hike. It’s no secret the outdoors and fresh air is great for our health and mood. Go for a walk around your neighbourhood to see the Christmas lights, even if it’s not your thing, some of these displays are pretty impressive and can’t help but put a smile on your face. Digital detox the day, stay off social media. Sometimes seeing peoples happy Christmas moments can lead to comparison and sadness, you don’t need that added pressure.

  6. Slow down and treat yourself - a long soak in a hot bath with a good book, a soak in the spa with a glass of wine, an at-home facial or an afternoon nap. Take time out for yourself, whatever that may look like. It’s ok to take a moment, slow down and do something just for you.

  7. A movie marathon - yes, with popcorn and snacks or my favourite a charcuterie board and a nice glass of wine. Whether your’e alone or with family, friends, pick your favourites, snuggle into a comfy seat and get lost in the magic of the movies. If you’re away from your family make it a watch party, share a movie and chat about it after. This could be a new tradition!

  8. Practice gratitude - take time to remember what you’re grateful for. Reflect on the year that was, let go of what didn’t work for you, learn from your experiences and take forward with you the memories you’ve made. Maybe create a photo book with your favourite moments of the year, if you have kids they can make their own or you can do one as a family.

  9. Be a support for someone else - take time to remember that not all our friends will be experiencing Christmas the same way and may be facing struggles. Show them compassion and understanding. Invite that friend that is alone to come and share the day with you, or call a loved one that is alone or unwell. Helping others is a great way to create connections and share joy, as well as boosting your own self esteem.

  10. An act of kindness - consider donating a gift to the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal, food to a local food drive, gifting a bag of essentials for the Homeless Hub, local shelter or women’s refuge. Being generous and showing compassion to a person in need can make a big difference to their life and yours.

Above all else, please remember to reach out - if you find yourself struggling, be brave and ask for help. Sometimes our friends and loved ones don’t know how we’re really feeling, especially if we are good at hiding it. Let them know you need support. There are also services available all year round that can offer a safe space to talk and will listen without judgment, give them a call. You may be surprised how much it can help.

Some helpful contacts:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 -

Griefline: 1300 845 745 -

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 -

Mens Line: 1300 78 99 78 -

Friend Line: 1800 424 287 -

Whatever you’re doing, whoever you’re doing it with, I hope it's something that brings you joy, peace and love.

Stay safe, xx

Pic credit: Our staffy Mancha. Don't worry he's not sad, he always looks this way :)


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