Recently I was listening to the song ‘Love Shine A Light’ by Katrina and The Waves which was the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1997. While the message is both uplifting and positive it is interesting that the song was dedicated to the Samaritan charity.
At this time of the year, the Samaritans receive a record amount of phone calls and evidence has shown that November can be a peak time for depression. There is certainly an aura of darkness around this particular month; bright evenings have fled away and Christmas is still too far in the future to be a realistic focus. A lot of people complain of feeling really low in spirits. It can be a bleak time for many.
There are elderly people who do not get out at all during November because of the cold weather and the increased chances of falling on pavements made hazardous from crumpled leaves. At this time of year, in particular, we should try and make contact with older neighbours who live alone.
Feeling depressed is harder for older people because they have less to look forward to, and indeed many may be quite literally alone if their relatives and friends have predeceased them. Perhaps we could offer to bring them shopping or to a matinee in the theatre or cinema. Inviting them to our home, even for just a cup of coffee, offers a change of scene and the opportunity for a chat. Lack of human contact isolates people and increases feelings of despondency.
It is a sad truth that the toxic epidemic of bullying online and off has indeed cast a shadow of darkness over Irish life. Now, more than ever before parents and guardians need to be there for their children and observe their behaviour. Behaviour is always communication.
They also have a responsibility to make sure their children respect others and realise that it is not acceptable to hurt children in their class or school. Family love should not be so exclusive to the point that others are viewed as strangers or outsiders. The worst manifestation of this is when one family member backs up another who has done something wrong, with the result that someone else is blamed for something they did not do. Ideally, their light of love should be a beam shining outwards to include others in its warm glow.
As we prepare for Christmas and the giving of gifts young people have an opportunity to reflect on what life might be like for homeless children who cannot counteract the November blues by curling up on the sofa, warming themselves in front of a cosy fire or having a nice cup of hot chocolate when they want to.
We should try and be aware too, of changes of moods in people we know, be it at work or among our friends. Not everyone ‘looks forward’ eagerly to Christmas, indeed many dread it as it may be a reminder of people who have been lost through death or relationship breakdown.
Christmas is a time when we are ‘expected’ to be happy; just because it is that special time of year does not mean that we are. We can become so caught up in the ‘hype’ around the Festive Season that we can be totally unaware of people around us who are suffering.
What other practical things can we do when the November Blues threaten to get the better of us? Well, whatever our state in life we all do have things to be grateful for. A friend of mine recently advised her cousin who was feeling very ‘low’ to write a gratitude list for the things in her life which were positive. This does help to focus off negative thoughts and is a reminder that we all have blessings in our life.
It is always rewarding to do something for others and is a great way to leave our own troubles behind for a while. Is there an older person who might need to have their dog walked or a younger one who could use some help with their homework? When we start actively thinking about the needs of other people it is amazing how creative we can become!
Every year the Team Hope Christmas Appeal sends thousands of gift-filled shoeboxes to children who live on the margins of society or in conflict zones. The date for completion is early November, but there are other groups in the country who have taken up the idea for the homeless in Ireland. This is a great way of helping others and all ages can become involved.
Whatever you might decide to do or not do, remember that the November Blues pass and there will be light again. There is always the joy of Resurrection after the trial of the Cross.
Written by Marie – Therese