The holidays are a time to bring people together, but this holiday season will be especially lonely for many people. The COVID-19 pandemic has mandated physical separation from many loved ones, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Social distancing and quarantine measures require a disconnection from our social lives. These restrictions prevent us from enjoying the normal cultural traditions of the holiday season.
The holiday season is often a lonely time for many people but is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, they do not have a supportive network of family and friends to engage with during the holidays. This time can be a reminder of how isolated they are and how much they yearn for a connection. After the passing of a loved one, the first holiday season without this person may be a time of significant grief. Additionally, if you relocated away from home or are just not able to physically engage with your loved ones, the holidays can be a struggle.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and travel restrictions have only exacerbated distance with others. Holiday travel will be severely limited, and this will leave many people alone during the holidays. For many, we only see family members during the holidays. We may not be able to see grandma or grandpa or numerous other family members.
What can I do to alleviate loneliness?
Engaging in activities such as your favorite hobby or nature walks can help you refocus your thoughts. Although it may be brief, keeping yourself occupied can help to alleviate feelings of loneliness. Exercise not only is a distraction, but physical activity increases neurochemicals that facilitate a positive mood. Partake in local community events with other people in your community. Many communities are offering holiday activities where people can come together and connect, even if socially distant. Host a virtual party for your friends and family. Although you may not be able to physically spend time with loved ones, you can still connect virtually. Bake holiday treats and send them to someone. The act of cooking and sharing instills a sense of social connection. Lending a helping hand in your community and volunteer your time. The act of helping others fosters a sense of meaning and togetherness.
Are virtual connections meaningful?
When you are not able to connect in-person, virtual connections are an option. We are can still communicate with others and have meaningful conversations in an online environment.
What are the best ways to support someone coping with the loss of a loved one this holiday season?
When someone is struggling with loneliness, offer your time and presence. Even if you can’t be physically present, be available for the person to share his or her difficulties. The person may need space to process their feelings of grief and loss. Provide supporting and confirming words in a compassionate way. If the person is in intense emotional pain, you may help them by finding mental health support from a psychologist or counselor who specializes in grief counseling.
How can I still connect with others when I can’t travel to see them?
When you are not able to see your loved ones in-person, you may want to schedule a virtual holiday party. You can still enjoy their virtual presence. Many families are planning to share their holiday meals together virtually. Although this isn’t ideal, the most important part is that we continue to connect and support each other.
You may want to take the time to call your loved ones individually. This will allow you to have meaningful conversations without all the distractions of a large get-together. You may find that you have a better and more in-depth conversation than you previously did.
What if I’m feeling overwhelmed by loneliness?
If you are finding that your daily functioning is limited because of your mental state, then you may want to seek professional counseling. Working with a psychologist or counselor can help you to learn what exactly is causing your loneliness, to develop effective coping skills, and to implement healthy lifestyle changes. Loneliness is often connected to depression and other mood disorders and therapy can help address these mental health issues. Additionally, working with a therapist, you may find that your therapeutic relationship reduces your sense of social isolation and provides a source of support.
If you are in need of counseling, Dr. Mazzei is here for you. She is a Health Psychologist who has helped many people struggling with loneliness. She will work with you to develop a treatment plan to address your concerns and get you on a path to a fulfilling life. She offers both in-person therapy at her office in Chandler, AZ, and online counseling for residents of Arizona, Illinois, and Nevada. Please contact our office to ask any questions or schedule an initial consultation.