The Christmas season is meant to be a time of joy, but for many people, it can be a time of stress, anxiety, disappointment or loneliness. Christmas comes with high expectations of perfect, happy families enjoying luxurious celebrations and gifts, but not all of us are able to live up to these ideals.
Christmas can intensify feelings of grief and sadness as some people experience feelings of isolation, financial pressures or increased family conflict that can make this a very stressful time of year.
If you have lost a loved one in the festive season, whether it is to death, divorce or other circumstances, you are likely to experience feelings of grief and loneliness. These are normal and difficult to avoid, but talking openly can be helpful.
Consciously remembering the loved one, for example with a memorial service for a loved one who has passed away, may also help. If there’s someone you’ll be missing this Christmas, making a new friend or getting in touch with an old friend you haven’t seen for a while, may ease the loneliness and sadness.
If you are feeling isolated it may help to make plans to be with other people in the festive season, and particularly on Christmas day. Volunteering with a charity service is an excellent way to avoid negative feelings by to getting out and amongst other people. Helping other people can often foster positive feelings and open new social networks. It may also be helpful to prepare a list of people you can contact throughout the day if you are feeling lonely or isolated. It should include loved ones, but also professional support such as telephone lines which can be called if you have difficulty coping.
Help your friends and family by watching out for these symptoms and helping loved ones seek assistance if needed. If you think a loved one requires professional assistance ask that person if you can help organise a doctor’s appointment or obtain information about depression on their behalf.
Excessive alcohol consumption is common in Australia, particularly in the festive season. At this time some people may use alcohol not only as a celebratory mood enhancer but also as a means of coping with the additional pressures the festive season entails. While alcohol temporarily produces positive feelings and relaxation, when it’s intoxicating effects wear off it can contribute to stress and depression. Use of illicit drugs is thought to contribute to depression, and some evidence suggests that illicit drug use increases in the festive period.
The festive season is also a time when addictions kick in with a vengeance, issues with alcohol and eating increase with all the celebrations and parties.
The fun spirit of Christmas and New Year often involves social drinking and although the consumption of alcohol might make you feel more relaxed, it is important to remember that alcohol is a depressant and drinking excessive amounts can cause low mood, irritability or potentially aggressive behaviour.
Unless you recognise the symptoms and seek help and support, you, or someone you know, may miss out on much needed assistance.
Seek help from friends, family or a health professional if you, or someone close to you, experience these symptoms. Wesley Hospitals have a team of health experts who specialise in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.