While the holidays are meant to be a time of cheer and togetherness, that isn’t always the case for everyone. The holiday season can be lonely for some people, to begin with. This year, however, that loneliness may be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing.
Because of the pandemic and the holidays, you might be experiencing different types of loneliness this year than in the past. Whether you’re grieving the loss of traditions, missing loved ones, or you just don’t look forward to being alone through the season, it’s dangerous to let that loneliness overtake you.
Feelings of isolation can cause mental health issues like depression and anxiety. They can also lead to physical conditions like high blood pressure, or even heart disease.
So, what can you do to combat loneliness during the holiday season, especially during a year that seems so uncertain?
Check In with Loved Ones
You might have to get a bit creative this year when it comes to connecting with the people you care about over the holidays. Large family gatherings may not happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t “see” or talk to your loved ones.
Thanks to advancements in technology, there are plenty of ways to stay connected with friends and family this season, including:
- Phone calls
- Video chats/Zoom calls
- Streaming watch parties
Because the holidays are typically full of events, try to plan something that can still bring everyone together safely. Planning events can help you combat loneliness and give you something to look forward to. Whether it’s a walk outside while socially-distancing from each other, a remote yoga session, or even Christmas dinner via Zoom, planning a unique way to get together this season will help you to feel better about missing out on some normal traditions.
Spend Time Outside Your Home
Just because you might be encouraged to social distance this year doesn’t mean you have to avoid going out completely. In fact, getting out of your home can be a big help and boost your mood quite a bit. It might feel as though you’re “banned” from people right now, but that isn’t necessarily true. Getting out of your house will show you that others are still out there, too, in your neighborhood and community. Simply seeing other people out and about can help you to deal with any physical loneliness you’ve been struggling with.
Changing your environment can also lift your spirits and make you feel refreshed. One of the best things you can do is to spend time outside. Studies have shown that being out in nature is good for both your mind and body, improving things like your:
- Blood pressure levels
- Immune system
- Sleep patterns
Spending time outdoors can also reduce stress, improve your memory, and lower your levels of anxiety, which might be raised right now due to the holidays.
When you don’t feel so trapped or confined, you’re less likely to let loneliness take over. So, spend as much time as possible outside the walls of your own home, and see for yourself that even though things might be different this season, the world is still moving and people are still out there.
Adopt a Furry Family Member
At the height of the pandemic, pet adoptions across the country began to soar. When people realized that they would be “stuck” at home for quite some time, the idea of having someone there to curb that loneliness and bring comfort became more important than ever.
Adopting a dog or cat can help to combat feelings of loneliness and bring so many additional benefits to your life. According to the American Kennel Club, there are several scientifically-based benefits to having a dog:
- They are good for your heart health
- They reduce stress
- They can help you cope with crises
- They make you happier
If you or someone you know is a senior or older individual, dogs can also help by improving both cognitive function and social interaction with others. Plus, dogs can keep you active and are great motivators, so you won’t be tempted to just sit at home doing nothing. Cats can be great companions as well if you’re looking for a bit less work but still want to share that love and affection with someone.
Keep in mind that adopting any kind of animal is a big responsibility. You’ll want to do your research beforehand, including the overall cost of things like pet insurance, food, supplies, and even toys.
The holidays may be different this year, but you don’t have to struggle with loneliness throughout the season. Finding ways to combat that loneliness and still appreciate the holiday spirit will help you to get through to the new year. By that time, there may be more of a light at the end of the tunnel in regards to the pandemic, as well.
Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer in Boise, ID. Ever since graduating the University of Montana with a degree in English, she spends her spare time gardening and cuddling with her cat, Casper.
Image courtesy of mikoto.raw.