Social isolation continues to be a problem during the holidays. And its irony can hurt. At the time when you most crave connection with others, it evades you.
But during the coronavirus pandemic, far more people will struggle with social isolation as we head into the late fall and winter holiday season. That could be the case all the more as the virus spikes across the nation.
As the holiday season approaches, it may seem that social isolation will become a ‘necessary evil.’ But your mental health and that of your family are too important to give up on healthy social interaction levels. Here are some ways to overcome this year’s pandemic holiday challenges.
Educate Yourself on the Dangers of Social Isolation
The negative results of social isolation are many. And the connection between social isolation and mental health are well-documented. A lack of interaction with others can lead to ‘social isolation depression’ (situational depression or another depression disorder).
In his “Psychology Today” article entitled Surviving Loneliness During the Holidays, Guy Winch Ph.D. shares the following:
“Loneliness is not only painful emotionally but it can have a devastating impact on one’s long term psychological and physical health. Loneliness predisposes us to depression and increases our risk of Alzheimer’s disease, it suppresses our immune system functioning, it stresses our cardiovascular systems, and when chronic, it affects our very longevity.”
Because of the psychological effects of isolation, be careful not to view social interaction as an either-or option. It’s not. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you need regular social interaction with others to stay mentally healthy.
This year, you may have to get a bit more creative about how you pull it off. But make sure you do one way or another. Your mental wellness and that of your family depend on it.
Explore Alternative Ways to Keep in Touch
When it comes to social isolation and loneliness this holiday season, things could be uniquely challenging. As it stands now, it looks highly unlikely that we’ll be able to meet in person with family and friends as we did in years past.
Make a point to avoid all-or-nothing thinking. The reality is that you can still use Facetime or Zoom to your advantage to stay in touch with family and friends.
You can also interact on a deeper level with your immediate family. Just be careful not to completely give up on social interaction with family and friends during the holidays because things are difficult and different this year.
Reach Out to Others (Even if You Don’t Feel Like It)
Especially if you’re an introvert, it may feel most comfortable to avoid others because the pandemic offers a socially acceptable excuse to do so. While avoiding social discomfort in the short term may bring you some instant gratification, the long-term effects could be quite harmful.
Depression and isolation often go together for those who become too comfortable with a lack of healthy social interaction. For that reason, if you feel the urge to avoid interaction with others this holiday season, do your best to resist it while keeping your long-term mental health in mind.
Focus on the Positives
While the late-fall and winter holidays will likely be frustrating in certain ways because of the pandemic, try to focus on the positives. This will give you the best chance of overcoming the social isolation obstacles you face. Now could be a great time to start some family traditions with your immediate family.
Another positive could be avoiding difficult family members without delving into ‘why’ so much because of the pandemic. Although you don’t want to make a habit of avoiding conflict, sometimes doing so is necessary for your mental wellbeing and that of your family.
Do your best to practice gratitude too. A slower pace for you and your family this year may be a blessing in disguise. You can still get in touch with family and friends, wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving and so on. You can also stay home in your jammies with your kids, watch movies and just relax as well.
If you stop and look around, you’ll find many other positives despite the challenging times we face. Also, we can all look forward to the hope that as disappointing as it may seem now, the pandemic should eventually improve once we have an effective vaccine administered. Yes, that will likely be a while, but we can all at least imagine that next year’s late-fall and winter holiday season will feel more normal!
Struggling with Social Isolation? Consider Counseling
Are you struggling with isolation from family and friends caused by the pandemic? Or, are you worried about the effects of social isolation on a child? Regardless of the circumstances, dealing with social isolation can be daunting. But the good news is you don’t have to walk that path alone.
Valencia Relationship Institute can help you break out of the air-tight and defeating experience of social isolation. We can provide evidence-based ways to overcome feelings of anxiety and sadness that commonly accompany social isolation.
VRI offers counseling in Valencia, CA and counseling in Toluca Lake/Burbank, CA. We also provide virtual counseling (teletherapy) if an online video counseling session would work better for your schedule or given the pandemic’s constraints.
Whether you need couples counseling, marriage therapy, individual therapy or family counseling, we can assist you. Scheduling an appointment with us is quick and confidential.