It’s the most wonderful time of the year when the British streets bustle with joy, smells of great food, and the only time when we restore our faith in humanity. Families across the UK gather to celebrate this joyous festive season together.
However, for some who adopted this land as a second home, away from family might not experience similar levels of happiness. Often the festivities can be filled with stress, anxiety, loneliness, or a familiar case of holiday blues.
With Christmas cheer around, you are probably experiencing a lot of mixed emotions of not being able to visit family and indulge in their traditional Christmas practices. In an ideal world, had there been no pandemic, you would have planned a holiday back home or with loved ones; however, sadly over the last two years, we have only been living in the hope that someday we would get to celebrate the holidays with our families.
Let us be realistic about the fact that it is impossible to avoid the holiday season and so it worsens the negative emotions you would be feeling right now. It's normal to have these emotions because we live in a world filled with uncertainties and are constantly bombarded with messages of being with family from what we see around us. Despite all of this, we try our best to maintain composure to get on with our day-to-day activities and think of Christmas as another day.
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Understandably so, it’s just another day but amid the festivities, one cannot help to think of family and have that burning urge of wanting to be with them. However, here are a few ways to help yourself, especially given the added layer of isolation due to the pandemic, to keep your mental health in check.
REACH OUT TO A FRIEND: As Christmas is the time when you would want to unwind, one should reach out to a friend from school, university, or a colleague perhaps? Even by sending Christmas wishes via text; undoubtedly, the perfect ice breaker. Given the pandemic, meeting in person is not quite possible but picking up the phone to talk is a great idea and makes a significant difference.
EXERCISE: As we are all aware that exercises help secrete endorphins and enhance our moods, outdoor exercises are always a great idea to help combat depression.
READING: Being all by yourself doesn't necessarily make you lonely. As they say, one great book is equivalent to a thousand friends.
TALKING AS A DAILY EXERCISE: In the last 7.5 years of living by myself and given my personality of wanting to be around people, I try to reach out to someone, even if it means for 5 minutes each day. It can be as basic as talking to a colleague, classmate, family member, friend, and the list is endless. I always find that this helps combat loneliness.
VOLUNTEER: As you have some time over the holidays; it would be a great idea to look into local community groups that might be in need of an extra helping hand. Volunteering is usually an uplifting activity to make you feel good. By helping others, you get an opportunity to meet new people which alleviates the feeling of isolation. Make sure to check out the do-it website (https:// doit.life/volunteer) which lists all the volunteering positions near your postcode.
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If in the event you are not comfortable in sharing anything too personal with friends or family, sometimes talking with a stranger feels less intimidating and it is best to get in touch with mental health charity services such as the Samaritans or CALM.
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) — open from 5 pm to midnight 365 days a year, and offers listening services, information, and web chat support for anyone who needs it.
Samaritans — open 24/7, 365 days a year and offers support via phone, email, post, and a self- help app.
by Damini Lalchand
Damini is a PhD Student in Psychology – School of Life and Medical Sciences, University of Hertfordshire.
*This column is part of the iGlobal Campus Roundup series with Indian National Students Association (INSA) UK