At this time every year, psychologists across the western world are inundated with calls for help. There are plenty of people who are buckling under the financial and emotional stress of getting ready for Christmas with extended family. But even more common and more worrying are the people who truly dread this time of year.
For those who are on their own and those who are grieving, the holidays can be a gut-wrenching time. For those who have been through a difficult break-up and have to pretend to be happy for the children’s sake, it can all be too much. And for those people, who are longing for a partner and a family, having to endure celebrations with other people’s partners and children is torture every year.
We as a community can do a lot to support those who are struggling this Christmas. We can be firstly aware how hard it is for some. We can be careful not to complain about how stressful it is cooking for 15 people on Christmas Day, when others are wishing they had 15 people to cook for or the money to do it.
We can spend time with those in need – the elderly widow down the road, the single dad in the unit below, the friend dealing with fertility issues who can’t face another Christmas with her nieces and nephews. Humans thrive on connecting with other humans. That’s why loneliness is so distressing and one trigger for the spike in suicides over Christmas and New Year. It doesn’t take much effort to show compassion to others and doing so may well be the greatest gift you can give this Christmas.