Spending Christmas Alone? You're Not Alone

17/12/2014 01:38 GMT | Updated 15/02/2015 10:59 GMT

I'm quite full of Christmas cheer this year, compared to how I've been in the past. I've accepted that panic buying crowds make me, well, panic so I'm avoiding the high street; I've accepted that money is tighter than in recent years so I bought all my presents in November; I've accepted that I AM obligated to see the family at some point, but I don't HAVE to stay so long that I'll get cabin fever.

But there will be a least one or two dark winter days, and nights, when I will be on my own. And I'm sure I will be lonely. I work from home, so if I'm having a detox (which I am currently) I can go days without human contact. So I can imagine what it's like for housebound pensioners.

Loneliness isn't just a risk for the old at Christmas. A BBC Radio 5 live poll found that 7% of all adults and 10% of those aged over 65 expect to spend Christmas mostly on their own. 18 to 24-year-olds are nearly as likely (30%) to feel lonely as those over 65 (31%) and 28% of adults say that they feel lonely at least some of the time.

The rise of social media, texts and so on can actually breed social anxiety. Contact is just a click away but, if you are feeling a bit low, you can't control whether that contact will help you or hinder you. You might see your friends at a party that you didn't know about, or wish you had made the effort to go to: you might feel left out, rather than included, by constant contact and a stream of selfies that relentlessly clutter your newsfeed.

Anything can trigger an urge to binge eat, or binge drink, particularly at a time of year when alcohol seems to be positively rammed down our throats. That includes boredom - it makes the day go faster - as well as loneliness. Hypnotherapy can help - better to spend 20 minutes with a recording and fight the urge that give in and start to spiral.

Hypnotherapist Georgia Foster said: "Your reason for drinking so much could be completely different to the next person's: guilt, fear, loneliness, confidence, anything could trigger your desire for drink but the Drink Less Mind recordings focuses on those issues and helps you work out a strategy to manage."

And it's important to have an action plan that works every month of the year. The Campaign to End Loneliness, emphasises that "loneliness is not just experienced at Christmas, so we all need to support people year round". The charity advises that loneliness can be transient - coming and going at certain times - or chronic, when someone feels lonely all or most of the time.

In my experience, loneliness can be triggered by circumstance - a breakup, moving house, being made redundant - or just something that you can feel even in a room full of people.

Let's end the blog on a lighter note - tackle your own loneliness but also reach out to those around you who may be spending Christmas on their own. Volunteering is a great way to tackle loneliness, as it helps you focus on something external, not internal. Author Marian Keyes recommends baking to beat depression.

Alternative therapies like acupuncture and reflexology could be used as well as or instead of hypnotherapy. Exercise is another good one - it may be getting colder but a brisk 15 minute walk can transform your whole day. And don't forget to talk to a doctor, honestly, if you feel things are getting out of hand.

There are still 9-10 days left until Christmas so there's plenty of time to turn your festive frown upside down.