Every year, Australians are bombarded with a sleigh-full of commercials showing well-behaved families sitting down to the ideal Christmas lunch.
The fact not every family lives up to such expectations means more Australians feeling let down or overwhelmed when the big day arrives.
As it prepares for its busiest time of year, Lifeline is reminding Australians to look out for themselves and others this Christmas season.
People might feel stressed about money or family tensions, disconnected from others and a general sense of being overwhelmed.
Lifeline psychologist and chief research officer Anna Brooks says it’s important for people to remember to put their own oxygen mask on before they help others.
“We’re already seeing a lot of people using our services because of financial distress,” Dr Brooks told AAP.
“And so of course over the Christmas period, with events and trying to entertain people and present buying, those sorts of issues are only going to be exacerbated.”
Lifeline volunteer Michelle says many of the people she talks to feel they need to meet a certain standard, like those shown in relentlessly jolly supermarket ads.
“We see these lovely Christmas ‘happy family’ ads on TV, with a table full of food and beautiful gifts under the tree, but not everybody can live up to that expectation,” she said.
“It can really get to a lot of people.”
The seemingly endless expenses involved with Christmas can place many people in financial stress, particularly in the midst of a cost of living crisis.
Lifeline reminds families to set a budget for gifts, decorations and food and avoid impulse buying.
Traditions can also be re-evaluated, for instance opting to take part in a Secret Santa rather than buying gifts for every single person.
Christmas doesn’t always look like it does on our screens – and that’s OK.
“It could be that there’s two parents who both want to have the kids for Christmas and it can sometimes get a little bit heated,” Michelle said.
“Or that previous generations have been able to provide all this wonderful togetherness of family – whether it be real or imagined – it’s just not like that for everybody.”
Feelings of loneliness commonly emerge over Christmas, making it important for Australians to connect where they can.
Lifeline suggests people reach out to loved ones – even those they haven’t seen for some time – for a catch-up, call or card.
They can help others by reaching out as well, reminding each other it’s OK not to feel festive all the time and emotional ups and downs are normal.
Lifeline volunteers like Michelle are available 24 hours a day to talk and listen.
“There’s options out there for people who are feeling the struggle of this season,” Michelle said.
“That initial reaching out to talk to someone can be very, very nerve-racking – but we’re there and we want to help.”
Lifeline 13 11 14
beyondblue 1300 22 4636
(Australian Associated Press)