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How the Holiday and Winter Seasons Can Make Us Feel Isolated

Find out how to battle feelings of loneliness over the holidays.

The holiday and winter seasons can bring about mixed emotions for many people, including strong feelings of loneliness and isolation. In fact, in a study conducted last year by International Psychogeriatrics, they estimated that three-fourths of Americans experience moderate to high levels of loneliness. The study also revealed that nothing beats the holidays for evoking that alone-in-a-crowd feeling. Loneliness is distress caused by a lack of satisfactory relationships, not being alone, according to the study’s leader Dilip Jeste. Conversely, you can be lonely even when surrounded by people.

Some people may also still be feeling lingering sadness about the end of summer. We can feel so many mixed emotions that can drain our energy and invoke feelings of loneliness and isolation at this time of year. We can either give into those feelings of anxiety or come up with alternative methods that help us end the year on a high. Here are a several tips that may help you:

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5 Tips To End Your Year on a High Note:

1. Review all the goals you set for the year, personally and professionally. Self-evaluate and honestly assess how you’re doing with accomplishing each goal. Don’t panic if you feel like you’re behind on some more than others. The fact that you’re looking now will still afford you time to make some adjustments before the end of the year. Remember that your work goals were written a long time ago. You should have a more realistic sense of what you need to prioritize with just a few weeks left in the year, without the guessing. Try not to personalize or over analyze some goals that may not be achievable and were out of your control. Focus on the ones that you feel are most achievable in the short term.

2. If you happen to have a year-end review a work, self-evaluate about where you are and where you want to be. The more time and thought you put into this the better prepared you’ll be and the more thoughtful and productive the conversation can be as opposed to impulsive or emotional. Avoid making assumptions about how the review might go. Stay focused on what you want moving forward. People need time to think after taking in information in high-pressure situations.

3. Think about ways that will enable you to decrease the feelings of loneliness and isolation which are associated with the winter months. You can do that with friends and by yourself. Try to strategize in advance by scheduling your evenings and weekends. Find ways to keep yourself occupied during periods of time when you traditionally feel the most isolated. As the days get shorter and it gets dark earlier, nighttime can be the most challenging period of the day to avoid feeling lonely. Make plans with friends or your partner to go out to dinner, go to a concert or do a fun indoor activity like a group painting/dancing class or bowling. If you’re looking to do something alone, find things where you’re around other people because that will also decrease feelings of isolation. There are always people to be around at the theater, museums, movies and sports events.

4. During the winter it’s important to do activities that keep your energy up so that you don’t fall into a low mood. Make a point to take advantage of outside activities. Think about taking a hike, bike riding, or ice skating.

If you’re not an outside person, try meditating, Yoga, exercising for 20-30 minutes at home (at least 3 times a week) or go to a gym. Exercising can be restorative and help you feel more energized. If you’re able to develop a weekly regimen, you’ll notice a heightened level in your ability to sustain your energy.

5. Make sure you have a plan for the year-end holidays, particularly if there are issues that need resolution or if you think you may be spending the holidays alone. Decrease your stress by working out a plan to visit a friend who lives nearby, or you could travel to see. You’d be surprised how many people would be happy to have you for the holidays if you just face your fears and ask. If there are issues that need to be worked out between you and your partner or family members, try to reach a compromise. Engaging in one or two mindful discussions will lead to a much more peaceful holiday season and a positive start to the New Year.

Remember, advance planning will help you to enjoy the winter months more, keep your energy up and avoid the lingering feelings of dread, loneliness, and isolation that could potentially ruin your entire holiday season.

More from Jennifer Guttman Psy.D.
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