By Claudia Cheung
With the ongoing global pandemic and therefore, social distancing, it is harder to celebrate the holidays with your loved ones this year. For many of us staying indoors, it seems normal to feel lonely and isolated during this time.
VIBE 105 spoke to Dr. Yael Goldberg - Clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist - Baycrest Health Sciences, for tips on dealing with the pandemic holiday loneliness and helping people around you who are suffering from isolation.
Signs of Isolation
“In terms of signs of people who are suffering from isolation, we want to look for how much it impacts our daily lives. How much it is interfering with our daily routines and habits like good hygiene practices, exercise and diet. When someone is suffering from isolation, we would see a dramatic decline in their overall mental health and their ability to manage their daily activities,” Dr. Goldberg describes.
How loneliness can affect your health
Loneliness would not only affect us mentally but also affect us physically, and Dr. Goldeberg explains why. “Human beings are social beings. Any social withdrawal or social deprivation has its effects. Those effects can be different depending on the person. Coming into the pandemic, everyone had a different level or degree of interest in socializing. There is a lot of variability in terms of psychological effects. I think there is a significant impact on people feeling hopeless or a sense of inability to manage independently.”
“When your mental health has taken a hit, there will be less motivation or less ability to take care of your physical needs. For example, when you’re having a rough day, you might not make the best decision for yourself. You might not make the best food choice. You might eat more junk food or comfort foods, or eat out of boredom or loneliness. This is just one example of how loneliness will affect us physically and mentally,” says Dr. Goldberg.
Celebrating the holiday during quarantine
Because of COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing, many people might not be able to celebrate with their loved ones.
Dr. Goldbery suggests: “It’s essential to make connections with people. You could schedule a day to have multiple connections with other people, whether by phone or Zoom, FaceTime or email. Even apps like Kahoot and House Party could help, where you can interact and play games together. Schedule a day for connection so that you will know it would not be one endless, hopeless day. If possible, going out for a walk would help too. Suppose you cannot go outside because of the weather or safety reasons. In that case, you could do some exercise in your home, watch some YouTube videos, have a dance party with yourself, get yourself moving a little bit,” Dr. Goldberg suggests.
Grieving during the holiday
“The holiday is going to be particularly rough for those who have recently lost a loved one. Depending on what stage of grieving you are in, try and find ways to connect with people, friends, family and colleagues. It is important to honour the grieving process and know that grief is not linear. It is expected that the grieving process would be messy and all over the place - and it’s okay to miss your loved one, especially during the holiday. It is okay to be sad and cry. Think of some good memories you have with them and be comforted in those memories,” Dr. Goldberg advises.
Connect with others using social media
“Social media can be a positive tool for connection. It helps to avoid the sense of loneliness where you can feel connected to others in your social community,” says Dr. Goldberg.
“However, it also has harmful effects. If a person were spending all their time on social media, that would not be healthy for them - maybe they would wish they had that lifestyle or outfit, etc.. If you are looking at things and craving what other people have, it will make you feel bad about yourself. It’s crucial to gauge your reactions to what you see on social media,” Dr. Goldberg warns.
How to help someone who is suffering from isolation
To help people suffering from isolation and loneliness, Dr. Goldberg recommends checking in on that person depending on your relationship with them.
“The safe thing to do is checking in on them by shooting a text or email. Just say, ‘thinking of you. I hope all is well. Let me know if you want to talk, etc.’ Just let them know they are not alone,” Dr. Goldberg instructs.
Do not forget to check in with people you love. If you are feeling sad and lonely, always look for help. It is better to let it out than to suffer on your own.
Remember, you are not alone.