(BPT) – For many people, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. For others, it can also be the loneliest. In a survey of more than 1,000 people, the AARP found that 31 percent of respondents felt lonely during the holidays sometime during the last five years.
‘There are many factors that affect our ability to live a long and healthy life,’ says Dr. Alex Chen, chief medical officer at Health Net. ‘Feelings of loneliness during the holiday season can result in stress and depression which can lead to serious health problems.’
In fact, for many people, these same factors are present consistently. Two out of five Americans report experiencing social relationships that they don’t find meaningful enough throughout the year, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. However, knowing the red flags of social isolation can help people identify the changes they can make to live a happier life.
In California, Health Net members have free access to an online program called myStrength. This program provides a variety of self-help tools designed to help empower its members to become and stay mentally and physically healthy. Through myStrength, members can access step-by-step eLearning modules, interactive tools and a variety of mood-improving resources all designed to help them achieve a long lasting, healthy change in their lives.
However, not all health plans offer these types of free resources to members. If you’re facing this holiday season with a sense of loneliness, here are some things you can do to improve those feelings.
First, start by spotting these symptoms:
- Changes in appetite – loss or increase
- Increased alcohol consumption
- Changes in sleeping habits – insomnia, napping more often or not wanting to get out of bed at all
- Lack of interest in conversation
- Decreased interest in self-hygiene or presentation
Here’s what you can do:
- Call and visit friends and family more often
- Volunteer at a local charity, hospital or shelter
- Take on a new hobby
- Get professional help
The AARP Foundations Connect2Affect also offers an online tool that can connect you with social activities like exercise classes, volunteering opportunities and meet-up groups near your area.
The holidays can be bittersweet for many people. Don’t let feelings of loneliness affect this holiday season for you. However, if you find that your best efforts still leave you feeling stressed and anxious without relief, reach out to your doctor for additional support.