Unless you've managed to reside under a rock these past eight weeks, you'll no doubt have been bombarded, hourly, with the never-ending message - the same one we hear year in, year out - that Christmas should be the most wonderful time of year, that you should enter a state of near-permanent joviality and you should spend every waking minute with your nearest and dearest, arguing only over who put the sweet wrappers back in the tin. But for quite a few people, Christmas is anything but the fairytale that consumerism would rather have us believe. For myriad reasons, Christmas can be a time where our struggles are merely amplified and in the face of such forced frivolity, everything seems a whole lot worse. Add to that the shorter days, the cold weather and the fact we should be hibernating and it's incredibly easy to see how someone could slip into a negative, self-reflective spiral. Christmas can also be a time when those who are prone to bouts of loneliness, social isolation or even those without a family at all experience their lives as though it's through a magnifying glass; if not all is rosy in your life, you'll never be more aware of it than at this time of year.
This Christmas, we're encouraging our dear readers to take a moment to consider those in their lives who perhaps don't have someone to share dinner with - many Irish this year don't even have a home - let alone a tree with lights and the latest must-have gifts wrapped underneath. Though it's a time for you to kick back, relax and indulge - and so you should - it's also a time to be kind and mindful of friends and neighbours. Today we're mindful of the fact that it's not just the season to be jolly - for some it's not possible - but also the season of goodwill. Whether you call into your elderly neighbours to wish them a Happy Christmas and ensure they're warm and okay, or you give up your Christmas morning to volunteer at a homeless shelter, now's as good a time as any to make the world a better place. And the smallest of gestures will make a huge difference. If Home Alone taught us anything, it's that nobody should be alone on Christmas and recent studies have shown that loneliness and isolation can have considerable physiological effects on people, given that it's engrained in our nature to be social.
Apart from those around you who may be lonely or sad this Christmas, we also want to remind our readers that it's okay if you yourself are not feeling so cheery. These days, in fact now more than ever, we're enduring the effects of stress, and sometimes, when you eventually take your foot off the gas, your mood can take a little dip, especially when something like Christmas has been so over-hyped. If you're not rocking around the Christmas tree, or falling in love under the mistletoe, don't fret; you're human and it's just like any other day that will and go in the blink of an eye. Make it your mission to be present and mindful, no matter what situation you may find yourself in. And if things get too much, reach out to someone. Communicate. Talk.
Below we've listed some information should you, or anyone you know, be in need of a helping hand this Christmas.