Being away from our loved ones is hard enough throughout the year, let alone over the Christmas. Traditionally, Christmas is seen as a happy family time when people are exceptionally nice to one another and they are expected to make an effort to spend some time together.
Among expats, underestimating the reality of depression as a real part of living abroad is common. Underestimating the reality of a higher risk of depression over the Christmas (regardless of where we live) is damaging to our psychological and emotional wellbeing.
Moreover, these negative feelings are compounded by other factors – for example, we can suddenly feel rather “empty” after relaxing and realizing that, at the moment, we don’t have to meet high expectations people at work usually have of us. We don’t know what to do with ourselves. Our bodies are not used to getting up so late, the holiday food, and not commuting to work. All of a sudden, we don’t have to act, be on guard, or pretend.
When a friend of mine asked me for the first time to spend Christmas with her and her family in London, I thought to myself: “How sad!”. I felt sorry for myself and I was drowning that sorrow in the feeling of embarrassment, imagining what it would be like. I felt envious and angry and I hated my life. Well, it was not embarrassing at all, and it was a lot of fun, actually. It brought me and my friend closer together and I started to value friendships more.
Without family around, Christmas time might not be much fun. Unless we have a very good reason to stay alone over the Christmas, I would recommend talking to friend and spending Christmas with him or her, focusing on the positives.
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