Feeling blue? Here’s how you can cope with 'lockdown loneliness' during the holidays

(BPT) - As California hospitals struggle with an influx of COVID-19 cases, state officials are imposing new stay-at-home orders on more than 33 million people. For some, the social isolation of lockdowns can be challenging, especially during the holidays, and the risk can have serious impacts on health.

“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk for premature death. It’s a risk that can rival those of smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity,” says Pooja Mittal, Medical Director at Health Net.

Social isolation most affects those who live far from family and miss seeing their loved ones. For others it’s the dread of attending a holiday party alone, which can lead to heightened stress and anxiety. This year especially, many more people may end up feeling lonelier due to the ongoing restrictions on travel and family gatherings due to COVID-19.

Local health plan deploys workforce to address social isolation

Social isolation during the holidays is so prevalent that one health plan in California is taking steps to address the issue. It is educating thousands in its workforce with the knowledge and experience necessary to better support their families, friends and communities they serve.

Health Net’s Social Isolation and Loneliness training provides both the information necessary to spot the issue and tools to provide solutions and propose recommended solutions, including:

  • Understanding the concepts of social isolation and loneliness and its root cause
  • Gaining awareness of the prevalence and impact of social isolation
  • Obtaining knowledge of the risk factors and available tools to identify social isolation and loneliness
  • Recommending solutions to address social isolation with members, family and friends

Tips for coping with loneliness at home

If you’re experiencing any of these challenges, here are some coping tips you can use to manage your increased levels of anxiety, stress and sadness:

  • Seek professional help – Although the holidays are busy, make time to seek professional mental health care if needed. It’s a great way to address any issues that may come up.
  • Get outside and grab some fresh air – Walking outside in the sun can be an effective calming tool. The benefits of spending time in nature include stress relief, better concentration and improved mental energy.
  • Start a gratitude journal – Spend five minutes at the end of each day writing three things that you are grateful for. Research shows that being grateful increases our overall sense of happiness.
  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol – The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends avoiding drugs and alcohol for comfort. While the escape can be appealing, substance abuse can worsen your issues.
  • If you need immediate assistance – The Mental Health Association of San Francisco runs a Peer-Run Warm Line which provides assistance via phone and web chat. To get in touch you can call 855-845-7415 or visit their website at mentalhealthSF.org.

Managing mental illness is always challenging, but it can be especially difficult during the holiday season. While the struggle can feel isolating, remember that you’re far from alone. Seek help from professional mental health services, maintain your self-care routine and include mindfulness practices to help you through this time of the year.

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