Beating the Blues: How to Combat Social Isolation

Beating social isolation

Do you often find yourself feeling sluggish or under the weather, or wishing you could crawl back into bed as soon as you get up? Could be the January blues, especially if this is a seasonal occurrence. But if these are symptoms you’ve been grappling with for months or even years, it could be due to social isolation.

Social Isolation Affects EveryoneCombatting social isolation

Social isolation used to be a concern we reserved for the elderly – alone, isolated, with dwindling family and friends. While elderly isolation is a critical issue, social isolation’s reach has expanded, largely due to the equally expansive reach of social media.

Ironically, our addiction to social media is partly due to its ability to make us feel more connected with people. But just as we know that what we see and read on social media is highly curated and edited (#notreal), the connections made are equally ephemeral. And when the time comes for an ugly-cry session or just-need-to-vent drinks, real-life friendships just aren’t there to provide that support.

Of course, social media is not the only culprit contributing to social isolation. This time of year alone can wreak havoc with our inner balance: low levels of daylight, debt accumulated after the holidays, an abrupt vacuum in the social calendar, and even failed New Year’s resolutions can all trigger a fragile state of mind.

Social Isolation is a Serious Health Issue

Combatting social isolation

It’s no wonder that the third Monday in January has become known as Blue Monday. The blues can easily lead to increased isolation, which can lead to depression. And it’s not just a mental health issue.

Isolated people aren’t just sad, they’re unhealthy.

According to a report in Psychology Today, research confirms that loneliness increases the risk of poor health and even premature death.

And a UK study found that chronic social isolation has the equivalent effect on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

Eleven percent of Canadians aged 15-24 meet the criteria for depression and the World Health Organization cautions that depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.

It’s so pervasive, so serious, that last year, Britain appointed a new minister of loneliness and Australia is exploring options for the same. While Canada doesn’t have a national strategy in place, Manitoba does have a minister responsible for ensuring that seniors stay engaged socially.

If these statistics and trends are starting to depress you, take a lead from Cliff Arnall, creator of the algorithm that “discovered” Blue Monday. The psychologist claims his intention was never to make it a depressing event but rather to empower people to take action to mitigate the blues. His wish was that people would see Blue Monday coming and find remedies before the blues set in.

How to Feel Less Isolated

Combatting social isolation

So what can you do to combat social isolation?

  • Monitor and manage time spent on social media. If you want to reduce minutes and hours on your phone, start by putting it away during meals and when socializing with real-life friends.
  • Are you getting enough sleep? Make sleep a priority and aim for a regular schedule that has you going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Make plans with friends that anchor you in your community. Go for brunch, visit an art gallery, attend a lecture. Find ways to build “play” into your life. 
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Comfort foods, fast foods, party foods – they taste great and are often associated with happy times. But these foods lack the full nutrition your mind and body need to maintain healthy function.
  • Reach out to a healthcare professional if you’re worried about lingering feelings of isolation and depression. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you do have a community ready to support you.

Looking for more wellness inspiration and support? Come talk to an expert at the LD Pharmacy anytime.

How Parents Can Help With Anxiety in Young Children

Returning to school after summer vacation can be an exciting time, but it can also be stressful for kids and their parents. The start of school may be especially challenging for children who are starting at kindergarten or a new school. Some anxiety is a normal response—most kids experience mild back-to-school uneasiness that gradually fades once they meet their teacher and settle in to class.

Here are some tips for parents to help your child with back-to-school anxiety so they can prepare for a successful new school year.

Listen to their concerns

Whether it is getting a new teacher, schoolwork, dealing with a bully, or missing a friend, listen carefully and avoid dismissing their fears. Kids often have worries! Validate their feelings and give them gentle reassurance that everything will be fine—but don’t overdo it. Keep the conversation short and casual.

Re-introduce term-time routine

After the laid-back, fun-filled summer months of playtime, sleep-ins, and family outings, the transition back to a routine can be challenging. Sometimes it’s met with a lot of resistance—not just for children! A week or two before school begins, start to re-introduce school year routines gradually such as picking out clothes the night before, waking up, eating, and going to bed at regular times.

Schedule a rehearsal

Much like adults are often advised to do when preparing for an important job interview, a trial run before the real thing can go a long way towards easing anxiety. Do a walk-through of your kid’s daily route to school. If you can meet their new teacher, walk the halls, and visit their new classroom before term starts, take advantage of the opportunity. Becoming familiar with the surroundings will prepare them for the first day of school and alleviate any fears of the unknown as will seeing a familiar face on the first day!

Get them excited to see their classmates

Arrange a playdate or two with some of their school friends before school starts. Research shows that the presence of a friend during school transitions can improve children’s academic and emotional adjustment.

Plan a fun treat

Give your child something fun to look forward to after the first week of school.  It could be a trip to the movies or a bowling alley or to the swimming pool. Perhaps invite one of their school friends to join them! Give them something to look forward to, even though they have to go back to school!

If your child needs extra support to make a successful transition, let someone at school know — the teacher, an aide or the principal. Anxiety symptoms that persist beyond the first month of term may require consultation with an expert.