Loneliness affects many this time of the year. We spoke to a counselor who told us how to deal with the challenge.
The holidays are a time of joy and togetherness, but the prospect of safety during the pandemic might make this 2020 season a lonely one.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding gatherings and traveling during Thanksgiving and Christmas, which might cramp many family plans. Holidays, in some cases, are the only time of the year when loved ones near and far come together.
With the elderly being at high risk of COVID infection, many may simply opt to stay home alone, as they have been doing for the past six months.
Neriluz Maldonado, a doctor and counselor who lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, emphasized the great social challenges many face this holiday season.
“The pandemic has been a real challenge for everyone. Even children, with their tendency to be more technologically inclined, have found it difficult to adapt. Older adults often don’t know how to access technology, and contact is more difficult,” Maldonado told The Americano.
The doctor’s main recommendation for people alone during the holidays is to keep their minds occupied.
She said putting together an itinerary of activities to clear the mind and keep themselves entertained is crucial.
“It’s not good for you to get up and go to bed watching the news,” Maldonado said. “Unfortunately, there are many things happening. Before going to bed, people should not watch the news. It’s better to listen to music,” the family-and-trauma-expert doctor recommended.
She also recommended keeping the music upbeat. “Try to avoid melancholic songs,” Maldonado said. “Another option would be to watch a comedy movie or series.”
On Thanksgiving Day, Maldonado said a good way to start the day would be to take inventory of all there is to be thankful for in 2020.
“When getting up in the morning and going to bed at night, write something to give thanks for on a small piece of paper and put it in a jar,” Maldonado recommended. “It could be something like, ‘I’m healthy; I’m thankful for the plants; I’m thankful for my eyesight,’ and so on, every day until December 31. On New Year’s Eve, read the contents of the jar and see all the good things at hand.”
Maldonado believes in the power of “human energy”—how focusing on the positive will attract a positive reality.
“When you think negatively, things are not going to go your way,” the expert said. “You are creative—moving positive energy brings forth good things. It has been debated many times, but the truth is that we are energetic beings. Scientifically, it’s been proven how feeling gratitude brings forth positive effects in the body.”
The doctor highlighted that we must give ourselves “the merit we deserve.” On Thanksgiving, it might be uplifting to prepare a recipe we haven’t tried before, she recommended.
“You can decorate the table beautifully and take care of yourself,” Maldonado said. “Groom your hair, get dressed up, do your makeup—all of this will help you feel better.”
The doctor also recommended craft-making as a way to self-care. “Those who cannot visit their family because they live abroad, for instance, can make a Christmas tree ornament and mail it to their [family],” the doctor said.
A virtual gathering using Facetime or Zoom at a specific time when all can connect and share for a while is always helpful, Maldonado recommended.
She said holidays are a good time to identify those we have not kept in touch with for a long time. “Whether it is because we are sad, busy, or simply because we are not in the mood to talk, sometimes we distance ourselves from family or friends,” the specialist said.
“Holidays are good days to connect—your call was probably exactly what that one person needed,” Maldonado explained. “When you bring joy to another person, that also becomes something positive for you.”
The counselor recommended dancing as another way of bringing joy to people. “It doesn’t matter if people know how to dance or not—they should just move their hands and feet because dancing brings joy,” Maldonado said. “They can also play videos on YouTube or watch a virtual concert.”
“We must focus more on knowing ourselves—recognizing who we are and who we can support,” the counselor emphasized. “People mired in depression or loneliness think they have nothing to give—and we all have something to give.”