The festive season is here to fill our social media feeds with parties, smiles, holidays, family time and champagne. It’s such a great time to be with your loved ones, relax and refocus.
At the same time it’s also a very difficult time for many (and some of them have the happiest and most shiny photos of them all). As an expat I’ve certainly had many holiday seasons away from many of my loved ones and it’s not easy. And those times it’s tempting to lean into that lonely feeling and feel that “everyone else seem so happy with everything“. You might want to check out my post on the seasonal guilt if this resonates with you.
Remind yourself that it’s OK to not feel great and it’s a sign of real strength to choose to talk about it.
That’s why no matter how many gifts we give away or receive this holiday season, there is a bigger question underneath it all that needs to be asked; “Are you OK?“. It’s always a valid question no matter what’s going on for you or the other person. Because there is help and support available no matter how big or small the challenge is or how long it’s been around for.
How then do we best check in with ourselves and others?
- There is a big difference between relaxation and distraction. When we have time off from our usual day to day life, other (difficult) things can come up. Pain is usually something we aim to avoid at all costs, and if you find that you’re doing distraction or even avoidance around a difficult situation or relationship, rest assured it’s perfectly human. Just choose to be aware of it.
- Stop for a moment and check in with yourself and how you’re actually feeling. Is someone or something really bothering you? Could you talk to someone you trust about it? Pain is a helpful signal that we might need support and connection. There is a time and a place to deal with difficult things, and usually the best time to start (sometimes with the smallest step) is right now. Not after New Years Eve.
- Ask those around you if they are OK. Sometimes it’s worth asking a few times and a few different ways to get an honest answer. Helpful hint: someone answering ‘I’m fine‘ is usually not feeling fine or great at all.
If you have young people in your life and are looking for ways to check in with them and have meaningful conversations this holiday season, there are some very helpful tips available here.
If you or someone you know is not doing well, there are free and completely anonymous helplines and online forums available in most countries. Below I’ve listed a few organisations in Australia that do amazing work to support people through difficult times (and you can also call them to talk about a friend or family member you’re worried about).
- Lifeline Australia (alcohol, drugs, domestic violence and crisis support)
- Mensline (helpline specifically for men)
- Black Dog Institute (mental illness and seeking help)
- R U OK? (suicide prevention)
A problem is always bigger before it’s shared, so please reach out if you need some extra support. If you’re an expat struggling with homesickness or anything else, feel free to get in touch with me directly.
I would also like to wish you a safe and happy holiday season, regardless where in the world you are!