November and December are packed with holidays: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Islamic New Year, Christmas and New Year’s Day, along with other religious celebrations. These special days are times to celebrate with family gatherings, religious observations, festive foods and cherished traditions.
However, not everyone views the approaching holidays with happy anticipation. For many individuals, the holidays can be a time of loneliness. These feelings are often magnified by television and print media messages that pressure us to be joyful.
There are many situations which amplify loneliness, increasing feelings of stress and unhappiness for those involved:
- Inability to attend family gatherings because of distance or difficult finances.
- Alienation because of family issues.
- The dread of attending parties or other social situations, instead remaining alone at home.
- Memories of family members who are absent because of death or divorce.
- Fractured families due to military or other mandatory separation.
- Being far away from home for students, especially if the student is unable to travel home for the holiday.
Enjoying the holidays also comes with additional responsibilities, such as planning family visits and hosting celebratory meals. There can be considerable financial pressure as well, as gift-giving is a primary focus for many. Instead of relishing these activities, they can create an added burden.
These feelings of loneliness and stress during the holidays can lead to anxiety and even depression. In addition to affecting one’s personal life and relationships, work attendance and performance may also suffer. For students, the loneliness of being away from home is compounded with the added pressure of final exams and end-of semester project deadlines.
For Human Resources, this is the perfect time to ramp up Employee and Student Assistant Programs communication efforts. As the holidays approach, take steps to increase the visibility and accessibility of these services for students, administrators, employees and managers. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Reach out to your EAP provider. Discuss seasonal promotion pieces in the form of posters and table tent cards.
- Consider adding a daily EAP-related message to your company or school internal website.
- Ask your EAP provider for specific information on how stress and depression can be evident in the workplace. Share this list with managers, student liaisons and on-site health professionals, and remind them of the EAP referral process.
- Emphasize the confidentiality of the referral process.
Be careful to avoid diagnosing an employee’s problem – it’s best to let an EAP professional take over if an employee seems troubled and comes to you directly for help. The best move you can make is to refer him or her to your EAP.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Human Resources professionals are torn in many ways, including taking care of others. You know the value of EAP services – don’t neglect yourself if you experience loneliness or excessive stress. Practice what you preach – there is no embarrassment in reaching out for personal help.