Curb social isolation and stay connected this holiday season

A few ways to combat loneliness and support your mental health
Family making heart signs with their hands in front of a laptop

For the past few years, loneliness has risen to epidemic levels, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The psychological effects of loneliness – such as depression and dissatisfaction in family, social, and community life– often take their toll on physical health as well. For example, loneliness, defined as feeling unsatisfied with social relationships, and social isolation, i.e. having few social contacts, are associated with certain chronic conditions.

With the holidays around the corner, social isolation and feelings of loneliness can increase. This year, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could potentially heighten those feelings even more. If you are feeling lonely right now, know that you are not alone. Here are some tips to help you or a loved one find healthy ways to cope with loneliness and isolation this holiday season.

Reach out to friends and loved ones

While it might seem obvious, research indicates that simply picking up the phone and calling someone you love truly can help. In fact, phone calls, video calls, online chats, and even email can help mitigate the effects of loneliness, especially for older adults.

A word of warning, though. While social media can help you stay connected, research suggests that limiting use to around 30 minutes per day might be best, though of course this amount can vary from person to person. This could be because prolonged usage might be associated with contributing to feelings of loneliness and depression. So while scrolling through Facebook might seem like a good way to see all your friends at once, chances are some quality one-on-one time with someone you love might be better for your mental health.

Get involved in your community

Researchers found that joining organizations with common goals, such as community choirs, can reactivate interest in life and reduce loneliness in older adults. While the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the U.S. to hit pause on gathering in person, there are still ways to stay connected through shared community interests. Virtual gatherings, such as book clubs, online religious services, and other events for people with shared interests, could be a positive alternative during the pandemic.

Additionally, volunteering is a great way to connect with other people and reap the additional mental health benefits from giving. While the pandemic is also affecting volunteering opportunities, there are still a variety of ways to make a contribution virtually or while maintaining physical distancing, such as mentoring youth online or picking up trash in your neighborhood.

Talk about your feelings

While it’s common for many people to feel lonely and isolated during the holidays, sometimes it helps to talk with someone about how holiday isolation is affecting you or a loved one personally. Friends, religious leaders, family members, and even neighbors or housemates can all be allies in helping one feel more connected to others.

Sometimes, even when we do all the “right” things, it still might not be enough. That’s when seeking professional care might be the next step. Therapy can be a great place to talk about your feelings in a non-judgmental space as well as get treatment for underlying issues that might be contributing to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Virtual mental health sessions are available through services such as Teladoc, Magellan Health Services, and Beacon Health Options, where someone can speak to a mental health professional in the safety and comfort of their home.

While holiday isolation and loneliness is a common trend, there is no single solution that will help everyone. Sometimes, it takes a combination of resources to truly help. Going through the holiday season alone can be tough, but no matter what you or a loved one are going through, help is available.

Looking for support to help improve your mood and feel less lonely? Explore the programs available on Wellvolution® designed to help support your mental health.

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