Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration, unity and good feeling, but for many, this year threatens isolation and loneliness in place of the usual pleasures. We want to remind you that you are loved and remembered, even when things feel tough. Whatever your holiday season looks like, these words are for you.
From Fred Baker:
The winter season holds significance for many— whether as a time of festivities, or a (perhaps, infrequently-arising) opportunity to return home, catch up with family, and see old friends. Unfortunately, as Covid-19 restrictions persist, it has become clear that this winter will not encompass the usual celebrations, family activities, and heartfelt reunions. Instead, many of us have found ourselves – perhaps for the first time – remaining alone at university for its duration.
This could be for all manner of reasons. Perhaps to protect a vulnerable relative or because of travel restrictions. Regardless of the reason, it can be difficult to remain positive under such isolating circumstances.
Family and friends are fundamental to many of our Christmas celebrations. Therefore, if you do celebrate Christmas, you could be struggling to get into the festive spirit on your own. It may be helpful to take this year as a unique opportunity to do Christmas your way. You might have never spent a Christmas alone before, and might never do so again, so try to commemorate the occasion by doing something for yourself. Cook the food you like, decorate your home your way, and relish the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not fight over the TV remote. This is your Christmas, so take the chance to treat it as such!
It’s also important to remember that you’re spending this holiday season on your own, but you aren’t alone. Although this may, at times, be hard to keep in mind, there are many other students in the same situation, grappling with similar problems. Likewise, be mindful of the fact that your friends and relatives are still there for you, even if they can’t be there in person.
If you’re missing those close to you then, where possible, keep in close contact with them this winter, by calling, texting, or even getting on Zoom. Of course, this isn’t the same as being there with them, but it could help in dealing with feelings of loneliness or homesickness.
There’s a cliché which tells us that adversities, like the ones you’re facing, make us who we are. This idea can, at times, provide comfort in challenging circumstances. However, it is not a rule, and sometimes this just isn’t the case. Adversities are just that – adverse – and being alone throughout the holiday season is tough, in a way that no amount of Zoom calls or Christmas movies can change. If you find yourself struggling, you shouldn’t have to ‘grin and bear it’. There are people who want to support you – be they your friends, relatives, or a volunteer at the end of a phone line. You deserve help, and should never feel ashamed to reach out.
Have a happy, safe holiday season and remember that, although it may be challenging, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. None of us could’ve foreseen how this past year would develop. Likewise, next year holds almost infinite possibilities.
From Taylor Ogle:
I know Christmas cheer feels a bit different this year. I myself find it hard to listen to Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas without getting a bit too down for my own good. However, you should know you aren’t alone. Many students are considering evaluating different plans and holiday arrangements than normal. Some families are shielding and others face Christmas Eve dinners with fewer place settings at the table.
Winter can be difficult in the best of circumstances. The days are shorter and the nights seem to draw in with clouds of darkness that are thicker than usual. Even enjoying daily walks, taken up by many over the course of the pandemic, is trickier with the unforgiving cold and rain.
For a lot of people, this Christmas is going to be an unlikely one-off. Maybe you’re spending it with housemates instead of family, or . Mmaybe you’re alone for Christmas for the very first time. As unideal as it may seem, use this unorthodox holiday season to create traditions of your own and give yourself the gift of self-love. Wrap yourself up in a massive blanket and truly coddle yourself. You’ve survived a year no one expected. You deserve all the love, care, and gratitude you can give. Make that extra cup of hot chocolate. Add extra marshmallows and whipped cream. Watch the cheesy holiday film no one else in your house ever tolerates.
If you’re ever feeling particularly blue and downtrodden, take a tip from the American icon Mr Rogers: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” In a holiday season bogged down by tier restrictions and limited contact, focus on the people around you who are looking out for others. Look at the friends who call to check in on you and the neighbors delivering groceries to the vulnerable. And if, by chance, you can’t see any helpers, go and be one yourself. While Christmas cheer looks a bit different, the good will and glad tidings are here to stay.
From Eve Thomas:
This Christmas promises to be a very strange one. We are all spending time apart from those we love, and, for many of us, this isolation will weigh heavily. The time in lockdown over the last year has highlighted exactly how easy it is to get lonely, with an estimated 45% of adults in the UK experiencing loneliness (equating to 25 million people); it has become the unspoken pandemic.
When I started university, I was very shy, and I found it far easier to spend time alone in my room than with my flatmates, who it seemed had become close friends. It was probably the loneliest time of my life because I felt so far away from my family and friends from home. Over the Christmas break, I got some respite away from university, and returned with a new resolve to get to know my flatmates a bit better; it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I learnt that when you reach out to people, they almost always respond: people want to be your friend, and they want to be a part of your life, but sometimes taking the first step is intimidating. Two years on, I see these ex-flatmates at least weekly, even in the pandemic, and they remain some of my closest friends.
If you find yourself alone over the festive season, please remember that, however bad it gets, someone will always want to speak to you. Being isolated for extended periods can give us time to internalise a false narrative of abandonment as we synonymise being physically alone with being emotionally alone. It is crucially important to maintain a distinction between these: just because you are on your own this winter, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have anybody to talk to. Try reaching out to family and friends, even if they are people you haven’t heard from in a while; the chances are that they will be delighted that you have got in touch. Just because they may have been busy with the chaos of the season, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to speak to you; they might just need you to make the first step.
If family or friends aren’t an option, it is important to remember that you are valued, and that someone is waiting to hear your story. Although lockdown makes it harder, there will always be opportunities to meet new people and to make new friends, whether through hobbies such as dance classes (many of which are still happening online), walking groups (for post-lockdown) and local activities in Town Halls or community centres. It often feels terrifying to make those first steps, but my personal experience promises that just trying your best, however tentative your attempt to strike up conversations may be, often opens the door to new and important relationships.
In the meantime, try some of these contacts to get advice and comfort, because you are never forgotten and you are always loved.
MindInfoline: 0300 123 3393
Samaritans: 116 123
If you are a child or a young person, contact ChildLine at 0800 11 11, or send them a message through Ask Sam.
If you are between 13 and 25, contact The Mix at 0808 808 4994
If you are an older person, contact The Silver Line at 0800 470 80 90 or AgeUK at 0800 678 1602
If you are a parent, check out netmums.com for resources and support