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Preparing for Isolation During the Holidays with Blue Cross Blue Shield of MI

December 15, 2020

For many people, the holiday season will look different this year. Often, the last few months of the year are busy with parties and visiting family and friends. But due to COVID-19, many individuals are already experiencing isolation and activities like traveling and gathering in large groups may not be possible. Some may find it difficult to cope with these changes to the holiday season.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Dr. William Beecroft, medical director, behavioral health, and Julia Kyle, behavior health strategy and planning director, joined Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer for the Detroit Regional Chamber, for a discussion on coping with stress, change, and isolation through the holidays and into the winter months.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way people interact and connect, including how holidays are celebrated this season. For some the lack of interaction and time alone can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

“It really takes time to be able to think about how to be able to spend time with yourself to really understand yourself a bit more, and be able to understand what your needs are,” said Beecroft. “Many times, people are very social, and they need to have that outlet.”

For those who thrive on social connections, it may be necessary to seek out interactions like virtual support groups or standing virtual appointments with family or friends. Having social interactions, even virtual ones, on a regular basis may help eliminate feelings of isolation.

Others who do not require as much social interaction may alleviate symptoms of loneliness and depression by prioritizing hobbies or outlets that give them a sense of pleasure or sense of purpose.

The Impact of the Holiday Season

With ongoing restrictions on group gatherings, this year many will miss “normal” holiday celebrations with families. To minimize the sadness brought on by missing yearly traditions, Kyle recommends focusing on new traditions with family and friends and building memories and support systems.

“Just because we can’t do it exactly like we did that last year, doesn’t mean that we can’t make something special and have nice traditions over this holiday period,” said Kyle.

Recognizing Feelings of Isolation

Things you need to look out for to recognize feelings of loneliness:

  • Lack of purpose, whether in work or in things that used to bring you pleasure.
  • Slipping memory.
  • Lack of concern for self-care.
  • Loss of appetite or sudden weight gain.
  • Disrupted sleep patterns like sleeping too much or too little.
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring you happiness.

If experiencing any of these symptoms for extended periods of time, Beecroft recommends touching base with your primary care physician or even a trusted friend to start getting the support you need.

“At Blue Cross, we have virtual support groups that you can actually call up, register for and possibly be able to get into that day to be able to talk to other people that are dealing with all of this,” said Beecroft.

Self-Care During the Holidays

Things that keep people physically well, also keep people mentally well. With that in mind, keeping a routine and engaging in regular exercise and spending time outside can have a tremendous impact on an individual’s well-being.

“Exercising regularly, being outside, and taking time to talk with friends and family – those are things that keep us physically well and keep us mentally well,” said Kyle. “As humans, we are creatures of routines and when our routine is disrupted it throws us off, and I cannot think of something that has been more disruptive than this pandemic to our routines.”

In this time where so much is out of your own control, it’s important to take control of your own environment and prioritize self-care – no matter what that looks like.