3 Ways to Combat Loneliness during a Pandemic Holiday
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
COVID + holiday cheer may seem like the perfect recipe for loneliness. Check out these 3 ways to proactively combat the lonely feelings that may come up this holiday season.
We have heard a lot about how COVID-19 and the corresponding restrictions are impacting mental health across the world. A survey conducted in April by SocialPro of 1,228 individuals found that at least 20% of respondents were lonelier than usual as a result of the coronavirus (1).
On top of the individual and collective loss due to this pandemic, the holidays, in particular, can bring up a lot of feelings. For some, the holidays are a magical time and extremely special. For others, the holidays can be a reminder of another year without a loved one, tumultuous familial relationships, unmet goals for their life, and how the season might not measure up to expectations.
With the recent surge of coronavirus cases, our country is experiencing the worst of this pandemic right in the middle of the holiday season. It is no surprise that we are here. Health experts have warned of cooler weather bringing us inside and therefore, less socially distant. The collective "COVID fatigue" we feel impacts us all as it can be hard to see an end in sight. The WHO describes pandemic fatigue as
...an expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis – not least because the severity and scale of COVID-19 have called for the implementation of invasive measures with unprecedented impacts on the daily lives of everyone, including those who have not been directly affected by the virus itself (2).
We are trying to operate and live life as normally as possible, while amid such loss. It is not shocking that we might be feeling numb and depressed during the uncertainty.
Due to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic recently, health experts have suggested smaller gatherings and in some cases, only getting together with immediate family members. For those that live alone, older adults, and college students, this could limit their ability to see family or friends like they are used to during the holidays. Not only are we now being told to limit physical interactions with others, but we’re hearing it in the middle of a season that can already feel lonely for some, even when surrounded by holiday cheer.
So how can you recognize loneliness and tend to these feelings when they come up?
Compassion (for self and others)
Extend kindness to yourself. Loneliness alone is not the enemy, rather, it is something to pay attention to. If you notice feelings of shame on top of loneliness, show yourself some grace. These are hard times and it is ok to be sad due to the losses from the pandemic and the holidays looking different this year. Another great way to combat loneliness is to get out of your head. Connect with the experiences of others to not be so focused on yourself. Donate time or money to causes that mean something to you or someone close to you.
Check on family members and friends that might live alone or have a difficult time around the holidays already. Connect virtually; send a card or special gift to let them know you love them and are thinking of them. Encourage connection whenever possible. If you feel a sense of dread or sadness, reach out to a trusted friend to let them know how you are feeling.
Self soothe when necessary. Take a bath, read a funny book, walk in nature, or drink a warm cup of tea. Simple rituals of our day to day lives can be enjoyed more fully when we practice being present in the moment. We can nurture ourselves when it is not possible to physically connect with others.
I recently saw that our local animal shelter was offering a "holiday sleepover" for some of the dogs at the shelter. The intention was to give the dogs a warm place to stay during the holidays and provide companionship during the pandemic. Opportunities like this are creative ways to think outside of our traditional methods of connecting.
How are you tending to and combating loneliness during this season? If you are struggling with loneliness and social isolation, reach out to someone for help. We are available for additional support at ActiveLife Counseling.
So, here's to a pandemic holiday season filled with compassion, creative ways of connecting, and comfort when needed. We at ActiveLife wish you the best!
2) WHO, https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/335820/WHO-EURO-2020-1160-40906-55390-eng.pdf