Can I join in? How to overcome loneliness at Christmas
IT'S a simple question, but just how many of us fear reaching out this way as we confront being lonely while life swirls around us during the Christmas period.
Wanting to connect with other people at this time isn't a weakness says Australian Coalition to End Loneliness scientific chair and Swinburne University of Technology lecturer and clinical psychologist Dr Michelle Lim; it's a fundamental need. "I think a lot of people are reluctant to ask because they think something is wrong with them," she said. "In fact, there is nothing wrong with them. Wanting company at Christmas is a really normal thing."
There are several ways you can avoid loneliness:
- Get involved with local council services and community events being held during the holiday period.
- Join in with your local church's activities.
- Ask the members of your interest groups if they have an activity that you can join in with.
- Don't be shy to let people know you want to be included in activities. Tell your friends, family and neighbours. "We know from our research that we are poorly connected to neighbours, but they can be a really good resource for support," Dr Lim said.
When someone says no when you ask to join in, consider whether it may not be convenient or it's too short notice or whether you can schedule with them to join in at another time. "It's not necessarily a rejection," Dr Lim said.
If you can't find someone within your network who can help you manage your loneliness, look outside for others who can step in Dr Lim recommends. One 24/7 organisation you can contact for telephone, online chat and video counselling support is www.ontheline.org.au.
It's important to say something to someone, every day, at a library or shop or anywhere else within your community. Try to start a conversation with a person you don't know. Look at them while you talk; smile; show positive body language; try to make eye contact. This way you ensure you don't lose the confidence to reach out.
"Even if it's a superficial conversation, it can actually build into a more meaningful conversation over time," Dr Lim said.
Your pet can also be a great help in reducing your feeling of isolation. Talking to your cat or dog is a good start. Another is regularly taking your dog for a walk in the park where you can meet and talk to other dog owners.
And, if you know a business that is hosting members of your community for Christmas, you could suggest it takes bookings from single people and then groups them together at the function.