Loneliness at Christmas - feelya

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Dealing with self-isolation at Christmas and its mental health implications 5 min read

The equivalent of the entire population of Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, Liverpool, and Leicester will be spending Christmas on their own this year. Twice as many as usual. 30% of these souls are over the age of 65, which is particularly serious as the company of others is the principal strut keeping many older adults active.

So, when turkeys shrink, when one day of Christmas freedom will cost us another five of lockdown, and when even Cousin Malcolm is starting to look like good company; it must be time to do whatever we can to alleviate the pandemic of loneliness created by Covid19?

Practice physical distancing, not social distancing

Whenever you hear anybody telling you to socially distance, whether at Christmas or any other time, ladle out imaginary admonishment; make free with the naughty step. Social distancing is the very last thing you should be doing.

The more social contact you can manage this Christmas the better. The greater the number of people you see, the more WhatsApp/phone contacts you ping, the more help you can offer others then the lower your stress levels are likely to be and the higher your happiness.

Of course, we should PHYSICALLY distance as much as possible. If you can keep the length of a toppled American president between you and a potentially infected citizen, then those heavy, dangerous, droplets of breath will fall to earth rather than breaststroke their way through your respiratory tract. But social distancing, during Covid19 – and especially at Christmas – is anathema. We need as much human support as possible.

Yes, zooming and Skype aren’t quite the same thing as pulling a cracker with your dad or sliding several Brussel sprouts down the back of your sister’s T-shirt, but that needn’t block conversation or prevent several people having a drink together. It doesn’t have to stop the games either.

On the day itself, mask up and go for a walk, or sit outside. It is the one time of the year when even folks living in the South East of England won’t suddenly spot a mammoth shinning up a beech tree, or a worm eating their shoelaces just as a stranger tries to make eye-contact. “Merry Christmas” is a phrase happily returned by just about everybody. So be liberal in its distribution.

And if it is late and your lonely, and everybody’s in bed, or even if you haven’t done any of the things mentioned in this article, then switch on the radio. Lose yourself in it. Radio is company, the scenery is better than on telly and you can listen to it anywhere. What’s more, people live there and invite you inside.
Even when the four a.m. devils start gnawing at your sanity, there are still things you can do. Did you know you feel happier facing one way in bed than another? Try back, front, right, and left. You’ll find angels on one side. And that spare pillow; nobody is really going to mind if you give it a cuddle, you know; or pretend it’s your favourite film star or your first crush.

Whatever works for you, do it. But remember, while we must physically distance, social interaction – of all kinds – is even more important. Good luck, good health, and Merry Christmas.

Article by Dr. Craig Knight