Isolation and the Holiday Season

The holiday time of year can be challenging for many of us – even when there’s no pandemic keeping us in our homes.  Here are some suggestions for feeling less isolated during the festive season:

1.      Be self aware, and be ready.  This is a good time to check in with yourself.  Watch for (or learn) the triggers that lead to lonely feelings during the holidays.  Comparing your holiday to others’ (or even to an ideal in your mind) can lead to feelings of disappointment.  Let go of expectations, and move towards healthy and happy activities to ease the situation.  Remember your own capacity to bring happiness to others, and pursue that to the fullest.  Reducing your social media might also help.

2.      Speaking of bringing happiness, you could give to a charity — whether it’s through your time or talent as a volunteer, or with gifts of money, food, or clothing.  The act of giving, small or large, releases chemicals in the body related to happiness (such as oxytocin and dopamine).

3.      Set an intention to say “Yes”.  Try to accept social invitations, even if you don’t feel motivated by them at the time.

4.      Keep things around you that help you enjoy solitude.  Cook your favourite foods.  Adopt a pet.  Light a candle or string up some warm Christmas lights.  Pick up some good books.  Cozy up with your comfy slippers or a cozy blanket.  Create a warm ambiance by playing some of your favourite music.

5.      Attend a virtual workshop, class, or concert.  There are many groups, Knox included, offering virtual events over the festive season.  If you’re not sure where to start, think about a hobby or something that you enjoy.  Find a local book club, learn about your backyard birds, or take a Christmas baking class. Check our Knox’s Instrumental Measures series, or attend worship with us on Sunday mornings.

6.      Connect (verbally) with at least 1 person each day.  Make yourself a reminder note for this one.  Then connect with an old friend or long-lost family member.  Call a neighbour, a friend, an old schoolmate, or your child or grandchild. 

7.      Pursue what’s healthy.  Get out for some exercise – on your own or with a friend.  Try to get the right amount of sleep at night.  Food and alcohol can affect your mood, so fill yourself with healthy fuel.  Meditate and pray.  Stop everything to breathe deeply a few times a day.

8.      Read at least 20 pages a day.  Scientists say that reading puts our brains into a state that’s like meditation.  Your brain will enjoy reading because it leads to better sleep, lower stress levels and even higher self-esteem.  Choose something lighthearted, warm, or laugh out loud funny.

9.      Connect with friends virtually for more than a chat.  Watch a TV show or play a game of Scrabble with a friend over the phone or by screen.  Collect up friends and acquaintances who will otherwise be alone for Christmas dinner and Zoom your meal together. 

10.  Focus on the things you are grateful for, and look for opportunities.  Gratitude can help move you through a period of isolation because it triggers feelings of vitality, energy, closeness and compassion.  Focusing on opportunities will improve your mindset as you let go of old plans, routines and rituals.  Start a gratitude journal and make daily entries about what you are thankful for.  When you find yourself focusing on things that can’t happen this year, think about the new things you are doing that bring meaning or happiness to your life. And then…

11.  …Plan for next year instead! Sometimes all the helpful tips in the world aren’t especially helpful.  It’s a good idea to call a friend, a family member, or even a helpline when you feel like you need support.  Sharing how you feel can make a world of difference.  It’s starts with reaching out.

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Some resources:

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/mental-health-covid-19

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/mental-health

https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca

310Mental Health Support:  Call 310-6789 (no area code needed) for emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health.  And, as always, call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

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