Coping in Isolation: 'Tis the Season

 By: Jessica Satya Graha

Edited by: Carolin Cao

Even though the holiday season may be a time of celebration and social gatherings, it can be difficult for many people. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), around 64% of people report the holiday season making their mental health conditions worse.

The thought of gift-giving can be incredibly stressful for those with financial hardship.

It can be a depressing reminder for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones

The thought of family gatherings and meals can be very triggering for those with eating disorders.

Those with depression may be stigmatised if they don’t show the same ‘enthusiasm’ as others.

It can be an isolating time for those who are living miles away from their family and friends.

It can bring much fatigue and anxiety to those with jam-packed social commitments. 

There can be various factors that contribute to the ‘holiday blues.’ 

Social media during the holiday season can be both a blessing and a curse. With more free time on our hands, we can be left scrolling mindlessly on Instagram as we make unrealistic comparisons to the social influencers showcasing their glamorous festivities and lifestyles. As many businesses and companies try to make a profit in the festive period, over-commercialisation of holidays can detract from the celebration of harmony and culture.

Isolation is still very much an issue that doesn’t merely disappear during the holiday season. It can be due to homelessness, financial struggle, inability to return back to your home country and mental illness just to name a few. As soon as 1st of December rolls around doesn’t mean that these issues are instantly solved. 

So here are a few tips on how to take care of yourself during the holiday season. 

Be present

During this period, we are so often busy running errands, buying gifts and hurrying to attend the next social event, that we often forget to live in the moment. We are constantly wired to be in the ‘doing-mode’ that we neglect to simply be in the ‘being-mode’. We need to make a shift to potentially being mindful of what events we say ‘yes’ to so that the finite time we have…we spend intentionally with our loved ones. We need to remain realistic about our own capacity during the holiday season and remember to share the responsibility with our friends and family to avoid potential ‘holiday burnout’.

Be considerate

As discussed previously, the holiday season can be a time of difficulty for many people, so we need to remind ourselves to be empathetic and sensitive to others. Instead of quickly judging those who may not be engaging in the festivities and frivolity, we could show some understanding. 

Resist perfection

With much optimism, comes many high expectations that we set ourselves. We are often pressured to throw the biggest party. To cook the biggest feast. To buy the best present for loved ones. But is this what the holiday season is about? 

We are often so wrapped around the materialistic components of the holiday season that we forget that this was supposed to be a time to be with our family and friends. Take this moment in time to appreciate what really matters. To pause and breathe, and reflect on what we are truly grateful for this year.

Mental health in 2022 

In 2022, the focus of the annual mental health campaign was awareness, belonging and connection. According to the Australian Department of Health, almost half of all Australian adults will face mental ill-health at some point in their lives. 

The Australian government has recognised the growing issue of mental health and has made a commitment to aid the country in making changes. 

This includes: 

  • the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan 

  • the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement

  • Vision 2030

  • National Mental Health Policy

  • the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan

  • the COVID-19 National Health Plan

  • the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce

Various initiatives and programs have been subsidised such as low-cost phone calls, online mental health support, face-to-face appointments, mental health care plans and Medicare rebates to aid Australians. Moreover, more and more research is being completed to see what inefficiencies lie in the healthcare system as well as what programs and policies need to be developed to help improve the health and well-being of Australians. 

End of the year reflections

As the year comes to a close, let’s be kind to ourselves and appreciate the things that we have accomplished. For some of us, it may seem that we have barely achieved anything when in reality, we were able to survive a challenging year that threw many curveballs. 

The world is still recovering from the repercussions of the pandemic. The economic and financial difficulties continue to cause disruption to many families and small businesses. The availability and quality of healthcare remain an issue as many health care workers are over-worked and burnt out. 

For some, it was our first year in university - a daunting time of meeting new people and forging new friendships. For some, it’s the final year of our degree before stepping into the new world to save lives. 

Whatever hardships you have had to battle this year, know that you have accomplished many things, even if nobody was watching.

This will be our last article of the year, thank you all for your support and we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!