Loneliness can be exacerbated by a lack of workplace relationships and the sense of purpose our jobs give us
Christmas can be a joyous time, full of gift giving and parties with friends and family.
However, for many people who rely on work for social connection, the season can be far from merry.
Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director, AccessEAP, said that while loneliness isn’t a mental health problem, it can contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, which can be a significant risk factor to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.
“This issue can be exacerbated by a lack of workplace relationships and the sense of purpose our jobs give us,” said Slepica.
“Supportive social relationships and a sense of control which one feels at work can help make people more resilient.”
Slepica added that the holidays can be an isolating time that some may even dread for fear of being alone.
“Employee Assistance Programs can provide out of hours support for employees, so it’s important for employers and managers to remind teams of this resource over the holidays.”
The potential combination of stressful Christmas activities and isolation can be reduced by pausing, making plans, being mindful, and taking time to relax.
Most recently the tragic New Zealand volcano incident will leave many families grieving instead of sharing the holidays together. For these people grief, loss and feelings of isolation will be intense and may require long term support.
Slepica offers the following advice on how to take care of yourself over the festive season:
Be mindful and take stock of what you have
It’s easy for our minds to get caught up in what we want and forget all we have. It can be helpful to consider what you have to be grateful for and there is something to be said for focusing on the positive.
By practicing mindfulness, which is paying attention to the present moment, we can learn to shift into more positive ways of thinking, and appreciate this time for what it is – a chance to take a deep breath and relax.
Thinking of what is truly important to you can help you to recognise opportunities to participate in your community, often free festive events are run by local Councils.
Give the gift of giving
Whether it is helping someone in need, or checking in on a friend or neighbour who is spending Christmas alone, giving back by donating your time to someone else is rewarding.
Not only will it make another person feel good, but it will also trigger your nucleus accumbens, the part of your brain, responsible for feelings of reward, releasing feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and dopamine into your system and can have lasting benefits.
Talk to someone
If the festive season feels overwhelming or isolating, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Ultimately, there are times in life when we all need a bit of support and speaking to someone, as opposed to keeping it to yourself, is the best way to cope.