Are you getting a black dog for Christmas? Here’s what you can do about it

black dog for Christmas.jpg

For many of us (especially kids) Christmas is the best time of the year. People are serving endless courses of food and drink, exchanging presents, laughing with friends and family, going away on holidays…what’s not to like? However, for some, Christmas can be a living hell. If you’re isolated, then seeing all those happy people may only serve to remind you of what you don’t have.

We know that isolation is terrible for your mental health even when it isn’t Christmas time, but it’s dreadful for our physical health, too. Brigham Young University found that the physical manifestations of social isolation (eg, high blood pressure, the release of stress hormones, weaker immune system) can DOUBLE your risk of early death. This places the health risks of isolation on par with smoking, alcohol and obesity.

Isolated in a crowd

You can have people in your life and still feel lonely. You may work with lots of colleagues have a phone full to the brim with numbers and still suffer from the effects of isolation. In fact, you could be in a room with other people and feel like you have no connection with any of them. Hence, isolated in the middle of a crowd! This is because being around people is a matter of quality rather than quantity.

Isolation can definitely be a matter of choice, too. Some of us may prefer our own company, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Another common reason that people isolate themselves is because they may have been badly mistreated by a friend, family member or a lover in the past, and in order to avoid a repeat of that trauma they’ve put up walls to prevent people ever getting close enough to hurt them. Whatever the reasoning, humans are generally social beings by nature, and that means we need some form of quality company on a regular basis if we want to function properly.

Time for forgiveness

So, are you estranged from a loved one who’s wronged you? Great relationships can be destroyed over the most minor things. Forgiving past wrongs might be hard, but it can help you to heal and move on. Remember: forgiving somebody isn’t just for their sake, as letting go of anger and hatred is good for your own wellbeing, too.

When it comes to social contact, we’re sorry to say that Facebook and other forms of social media are unable to provide us with the kind of quality time that we need. Interacting with social media means you won’t get those realtime sights and sounds of in-person interaction, and this make it less rewarding than face-to-face encounters. For instance, interacting with somebody in person will release a dose of oxytocin, a delicious brain chemical, which is something that doesn’t happen when you type things into a box.

Ten thousand options

No matter who you are, nobody has to eat their Christmas lunch alone. You have hundreds of options out there on the day, and they range from cheap to wallet-rippingly expensive. There are lots of hotels, restaurants, clubs, RSLs and other places that put on an awesome spread on Christmas Day, and depending on your budget this could be a big plate of roast lamb with all the trimmings, or an all-you-can eat lobster feast.

Or…hold your own party!

You may know some people who will also be alone on Christmas Day. They might be neighbours, workmates, old friends, whatever. The question is: What’s stopping you from getting together with them on the day? I had a chat with Malcolm, former manager of the Day 2 Day Living Program at Derby Street, Penrith. He told me that when he was at Embark Cottage at Blacktown, the staff members used to encourage the people who access this service to do just that.

Don’t think that you have to break the bank, either. A Christmas party could be as simple as a couple of charcoal chickens, some rolls and coleslaw. However you’re happy to celebrate is fine.

There IS such a thing as a free lunch!

Strapped for cash? If you need somewhere to eat Christmas lunch and there’s nothing in your wallet but moths, there are dozens of charities who provide a FREE lunch to whoever turns up. Here are just a few examples. They’ll be happy to take your call if you need more information in advance.

The Exodus Foundation
(02) 8752 4600

John Franklin Christmas Lunch
(02) 9545 0498
St John’s Anglican Church at Sutherland

Christmas at Samaritans is held in three locations:
Newcastle Foreshore Railsheds
Singleton Senior Citizens Centre
Wyong Race Club
1300 656 336

Flourish Australia also runs fun things over the Christmas period. For example, Buckingham House at Surry Hills will be running a “cocktail party” style Christmas celebration on the 23rd of December. They’ll have a talent show, music and lots of great nibbles. If you’d like to know more, call them on 1300 779 270


“Facing Christmas alone is a health risk affecting more people,” Dennis Mazalin, The Australian, December 7, 2015

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