Christmas can be a time of great happiness for many people as it brings together family and friends, but so some it is the most difficult time of the year.
We all feel lonely from time to time. Feelings of loneliness are personal, so everyone’s experience of loneliness will be different.
Loneliness can affect people of all ages, anywhere at any time. Christmas, however, can be a season when some, such as elderly people living on their own in rural areas, can feel it most acutely.
While we all think that our rural villages and towns are all very close-knit communities who care for each other and protect people against loneliness, this isn’t always the case. Our rural communities are becoming more fractured and the number of residents who can name the other local residents, let alone their neighbours is reducing.
This loneliness can be amplified by the reduction in services, whether it’s poor public transport, the disappearance of pubs, shops and community groups or poor phone or broadband connections. When people feel less connected, they are more likely to feel lonely.
You could be experiencing loneliness from a change in circumstances such as bereavement of a life partner or family member or friend, you may be going through a relationship break down, you may be a single parent with limited social opportunities, you could be retiring and losing out on that social contact you once had at work, you could be starting out at university or in a new area, where you don’t know anybody. You may be settling here from another country, or from a minority group and living in an area without others from a similar background. You could be suffering from a long-term health condition or disability which makes it difficult for you to get out or socialise.
The effects of loneliness and isolation can become very damaging to peoples health and the Charity Age UK have estimated that these effects can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is more damaging than obesity.
It’s not always easy to identify signs that a person is lonely, but clues could include:
Having a significant change in their routine (for example getting up a lot later than usual)
Neglecting their appearance or personal hygiene
Complaining of feeling worthless
Not eating properly
You should also consider if a person has had a change in their circumstances, such as:
Losing a loved one.
Moving away from friends and family
Losing the social contact and enjoyment they used to get from work
Experiencing health problems that make it difficult for them to go out and do the things they enjoy
If you know someone that you think maybe lonely, no matter how young or old one of the most effective ways to help is simply by being there. Christmas can be a tough time and, but it’s important to consider relatives, friends and neighbours. As well as company, small practical help can go a long way, checking people are warm enough, offering to grit paths or delivering shopping.
Helping others can also be hugely rewarding and may alleviate an individual’s own sense of isolation and improve their mental health. These practical acts of support can sometimes develop into friendships and social relationships.
For a lot of people, loneliness is a constant feeling, not just an emotion they experience at Christmas, if you know someone who is going to be on their own during the festive season, could you spare a place at your table for Christmas or Boxing Day?
Whatever the reason or the cause, there are things that you can do to help make a positive change.
Try to make new connections: -
Try to join a class or a group or attend a local coffee morning.
If you can, volunteering is a great way of meeting new people as well as helping others which can boost your own self-esteem.
Try a befriender service - search local charities or organisations who offer befriending as a way of a regular visit or call.
In January we will be launching our new “Good to Talk” Telephone Befriending Service. If you know someone who is becoming isolated, have a chat with them, and with their permission, please get in touch! Call Caroline Maxwell on 07854 717419.
If you would like to support us by volunteering in this service, please call Joanne Hoy, Volunteer Coordinator on 07484 934329.
Let’s make a difference today.