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Despite being celebrated as the season of joy, the festive season is often a source of additional stress for people in our community, especially those already living with depression and anxiety.
Helpline charities worldwide report a 40% increase in calls over the festive season – so while most of us are looking optimistically to a time of celebration and reflection with family and friends, for others the time can be more distressing.
Connect Health & Community Children, Youth and Family Program Manager, Kirstie Edwards said the reality is that the festive season can be a confronting and lonely time.
“Unfortunately, the festive season for many is a time when troubles are magnified and challenges seem all-consuming,” she said.
So as we head into the end-of-year celebrations, here are some things to keep in mind about what others may be experiencing.
Australian charities record Christmas as the time of greatest need for their support. With 15% of households consistently unable to pay their bills and debts, an additional 5 per cent of households are unable to afford normal electricity bills and meals. These families’ biggest concerns are not about what Santa will bring or what luxuries they will add to the table, but whether they can actually feed, clothe and house their children over the Christmas period.
Charities like The Salvos, St Vincent de Paul and The Smith Family accept donations of time, money and goods to help ease this pressure for these families at Christmas time. If you can assist, your contribution will be greatly appreciated.
Depression, anxiety and loneliness
Despite being a time of getting together with friends and family for many, Christmas is often a time of great loneliness, with increased symptoms of depression and anxiety experienced by many. Family stresses, relationship difficulties, loss, social isolation and even the pressure to over-spend at Christmas can be impacting those around us. While most of us are reflecting on joys, others may be struggling with pressure and grief. They may be dreading family functions, under pressure to meet work deadlines or overwhelmed in their social isolation at a time when there is increased socialising around them.
During this period, crisis support organisations like Lifeline experience a 40 per cent increase in calls.
Ms Edwards encourages us to be mindful of the unseen pressure facing others at this time.
“We can never fully know what other people are going through, but we can be mindful that others’ experience of Christmas may not be as pleasant as we would hope it to be,” she said.
“For those experiencing stress, the most important thing for them to know is that it is not unusual to feel stressed at this time of year. They are most certainly not alone,” she said.
Ms Edwards said being kind to ourselves and others, as we approach the festive season, can make a big difference for all.
“No matter what you are facing this festive season, it is important to not put too much pressure on yourself. Your health and happiness is the most important gift you can give yourself and others. And if you are able to help someone who you know is feeling pressure, that is precious too,” she said.
Ms Edwards said people already feeling anxious about the festive season, can contact Connect Health & Community for information about help available. Call 03) 9575 5333.
Tips for taking the stress out of Christmas
Many people experience mood swings and depression during the festive season. If you feel depressed at the prospect of Christmas, you are not alone.
For 24/7 crisis or suicide prevention support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.
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