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Coping With Loneliness During the Cold Months

Coping With Loneliness During the Cold Months

Coping With Loneliness During the Cold Months

Did you know that the winter months in Southwest Wyoming put your mental health at risk? According to a study published in Social Psychology, social isolation and feelings of loneliness may be more common in the cold.

Loneliness occurs when you feel disconnected. You want more social interactions, but they don’t happen. As the days grow shorter and the hours of sunlight become briefer, you’ll spend more time indoors. You may also spend more time alone. This isolation can cause you to feel lonely.

However, with the right steps, you can combat loneliness and reduce your risk for several health conditions related to loneliness.

Who Gets Lonely?

While loneliness can affect anyone at any age, it’s more common among older adults, young adults, adults who live alone, and people who are immigrants or live with disabilities or chronic diseases.

Other risk factors that might increase the likeliness of feeling lonely include:

  • Being a victim of abuse or violence
  • Experiencing discrimination or feeling marginalized
  • Going through a divorce, job loss, or other major life change
  • Lacking access to transportation or other essential resources for daily life
  • Making less than $50,000 a year

Why Loneliness Is a Serious Problem

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people feel lonely than ever before. It’s so common that the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General has called the spread of loneliness and isolation an epidemic.

This crisis may have serious consequences that go beyond your mental health. Live with loneliness for a long time, and it may affect your physical health, as well.

Feelings of loneliness may increase your risk for various health problems, such as:

Recognizing When You Feel Lonely

Some cases of loneliness are easy to detect. You lack social connections or close friends, you want both, but you don’t have them. At other times, loneliness is a bit sneakier. When this happens, it’s tricky to realize the root of your problems is a lack of social connection.

Unexpected symptoms you may experience due to loneliness include:

  • Abusing alcohol and illegal or legal drugs
  • Feeling tired, unmotivated, and low on energy
  • Getting headaches or other bodily pains
  • Having symptoms of illness without having an infection or disease
  • Losing your appetite or losing or gaining weight without trying
  • Waking up often at night or having a hard time falling asleep

Fight Loneliness With Friends

Loneliness can leave you feeling unwanted, like an outcast. When it does, you may want to stay away from others. However, doing so won’t help you move forward, and it may make things worse.

Instead of pushing away from people, go toward them, which will help you cope with loneliness and move past your feelings.

Here are a few ways to get started.

  • Be social. Social media is a great way to connect with others. Find old friends and send meaningful messages to them online. Make new friends by joining online groups. Whether you play ukulele, enjoy reading about World War II, or knit, you can find online groups with your interests. Just be careful. Posting on social media can increase loneliness if you don’t get the response you expected, according to the American Medical Association.
  • Make a difference. Nonprofit organizations are always looking for volunteers to lend a hand. Be one of them. By volunteering, you’ll meet new people and have new experiences. As an added perk, you’ll make a real difference in others’ lives. Knowing you’re improving life for others will help keep lonely feelings away.
  • Phone a friend. Talking to people you care about helps you feel less isolated. So, pick up the phone and call a family member or friend. Better yet, invite your neighbor over for coffee or dinner. At work, take advantage of break time. Try to coordinate taking breaks together with coworkers.

Dealing With Loneliness on Your Own

Other people aren’t always available to talk. Fortunately, you don’t always need other people to keep lonely thoughts away. You just need to engage your mind.

Focusing on lonely feelings can make you feel lonelier. Putting your mind to work on other things helps.

Great ways to avoid loneliness when on your own include:

  • Listen to your favorite music. Take the time to really listen to songs. Pay attention to what every instrument is doing. Sing along. Improve your physical and mental health by dancing.
  • Read a book. A good book transports you to other places. Added perk: Once you finish reading it, you’ll have a new topic of discussion the next time you see family or friends.
  • Learn something new. Thanks to libraries and the internet, you can learn how to do almost anything from the comfort of your home. Picking up new skills keeps you busy for hours or weeks on end. It also gives you a new skill to use in the months and years to come.

What to Do When Loneliness Lasts

Sometimes, it’s hard to shake lonely feelings. When loneliness sticks around despite using the techniques above, reach out for help. Talk to family and friends about how you feel. Then contact a mental health professional or your primary care provider. By being open and honest, you help your care team care for you.

This is particularly important if you feel hopeless or suicidal. During your visit, your care team can help determine whether you have an underlying mental or physical health issue leading to your feelings. Whatever the cause, your care team can provide treatment options tailored to your specific needs.

Call 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline which provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the U.S.

Can You Avoid Loneliness?

Unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed way to never feel lonely. You can reduce your risk by staying connected with loved ones and using the same methods that help overcome loneliness.

Additionally, you may want to adopt a pet. Furry, feathered, and scaly friends are great companions that give and receive love. Pets can also connect you to other animal lovers, which helps you grow your social support system even more.

Feeling lonely? Find a provider at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County to help determine the cause and move past loneliness.