December is traditionally a time for festivities and high spirits, with lots of us having some sort of family or workplace gathering to celebrate. While many people enjoy the opportunity to let their hair down and socialise, its not always something that everyone looks forward to. If you manage conditions such as social anxiety, depression, panic attacks, have caring responsibilities or mobility issues, the Christmas party season can be a real source of stress and worry.
Why can the holiday get-together be so difficult?
In a survey undertaken by the CIPD (2015), as many as 37% of employees did not attend organisational festivities, with some of the reason including inaccessibility concerns, stress of Christmas itself, trying to keep home life and work life separate and conditions such as depression and anxiety. Navigating inaccessible venues or building the courage to even attend an event is faced by many every year who are managing particular conditions and disabilities. Reasons for people not attending work festivities can range from urgent appointments and family commitments to a fear of social engagement with colleagues. As the season of goodwill arises, so do the anxiety levels of people who are trying to deal with succumbing to the holiday spirit, being the odd one out and explaining absences from Christmas parties. For some of us it can just all become a bit too much.
How can we overcome this?
As teams, colleagues or friends, when planning gatherings it is important to recognise that for whatever reason, some may just not wish to attend. Sometimes the perception is that those who refrain from taking part in seasonal activities are uncompromising or plain unsocial. The run up to the Christmas ‘do’ is often a big topic of discussion in the office which sometimes adds to the pressure to fit in and not be seen as the party pooper.
Our UK police forces are very diverse, therefore when considering any sort of team building activities, try to be as inclusive as possible. Think about accessible locations, and don’t isolate people who for whatever reason do not want to attend. Respect people’s decisions, but don’t isolate them from future gatherings where circumstances may be different.
The other side of the coin
Where some people may struggle with social interactions, others may be dealing with the loneliness that the holiday period brings. Half of disabled people say they are lonely and one in four feel lonely every day. Disabled people and carers face the complex issues of managing loneliness with barriers such as making friends and meeting people on a practical and emotional level. Sometimes a lack of understanding can also affect people with a disability making connections. Getting the right support is so important.
It’s important that we check in with friends, family, members and work colleagues to see that they are OK. Just breaking the ice with a coffee or a hello may be enough to help with the issue of loneliness that someone is experiencing. The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness is currently looking at the growing crisis of loneliness and ways to overcome it – by making connections.
The Disabled Police Association would like to wish you all a peaceful and happy time during the holiday period, when you get the opportunity to spend time with people you care about. We look forward to making disability and inclusion primary items on the policing agenda in 2018.