The holiday season can be a lonely time – especially for people who live far away or are estranged from their families, going through a relationship breakup, grieving, or living alone. For those who don’t celebrate the holidays, the barrage of music, images, television programs and traditions can make them feel isolated and excluded. Loneliness and social isolation can have a negative effect on both our physical and mental health at the best of times, and unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic still among us, these feelings may be intensified this year. Know that as a dentist, CDSPI’s Members’ Assistance Program (MAP)*, is here to support you, your family members and your staff at no cost through these difficult times.
Loneliness and well-being
Lonely or socially isolated people are at a greater risk for depression, anxiety and, when older, dementia. Loneliness can also affect the immune system, making us more susceptible to illness and contributing to the development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Unfortunately, when we’re sad or lonely, we often withdraw and avoid social interactions and that can make us feel even more disconnected from the world. We need to combat loneliness head-on.
While it may not be easy, here is some advice from CDSPI’s Members’ Assistance Program (MAP) provider, Shepell, to help lift your spirits during this unusual holiday season.
- Be realistic. It’s hard for anyone to not be affected by the holiday hype. Television, movies, magazines, and social media are full of images of people having fun. It’s easy to feel left out and let down. Realize that no-one’s life is perfect, most families face challenges, and that people usually only share the best moments of their lives on social media. Shift your focus to the great things you do have in your life – a true friend, a loving family member or supportive co-workers. Remember that as COVID-19 continues, everyone’s holidays will look a little different this year and you’re not alone.
- Take a break from social media. Studies have shown that heavy social media use over time results in lower psychological well-being and feelings of loneliness, rather than vice versa.Unplug for a while.
- Be proactive. Loneliness causes us to underestimate how much our friends and family care. Instead of waiting for people to extend an invitation, be the one to arrange social gatherings and suggest activities. While we can’t all be together in person this year, consider coordinating online get togethers or fun activities such as virtual board game/trivia nights, potlucks, or Secret Santas.
- Volunteer or lend a hand. Many people are alone or need help during the holidays. While some of the usual volunteer opportunities may not be appropriate due to COVID-19 restrictions in your area, consider offering your time to help at-risk seniors. You can phone to check in on them, deliver groceries, or help a neighbour in need by doing both.
- Become involved in your faith community. Churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques hold many events throughout the year that are great opportunities to forge new relationships. They may not look the same this year, but you can still check to see if there are virtual services or gatherings you can attend.
- Pick up a new hobby and expand your social circle. Look to your community to find out about virtual activities in your area. Consider trying an exercise class, joining a virtual choir, taking a language course, or trying your hand at something crafty.
Your Members’ Assistance Program (MAP) can help you cope during the holiday season. They are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Talk to a counsellor for support or access relevant resources. We invite you to contact them by calling 1.844.578.4040 or visit one.telushealth.com.
*MAP is operated by TELUS Health.