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Health Plan of Nevada Offers Tips on Facing Social Isolation and Loneliness

Health Plan of Nevada Offers Tips on Facing Social Isolation and Loneliness

May is Mental Health Month. As the vast majority of states across our country continue with “stay at home” directives, even as we start to see areas entering phase 1 to reopen the economy, we will likely see some form of social distancing well into the future.

According to the Journal on Aging, this kind of social Isolation, with or without loneliness, can have as large an impact on a person’s mortality risk as smoking, obesity and high blood pressure; and loneliness, which can result from social isolation, can have serious consequences for people’s mental and physical health.

Loneliness is a common experience with 80% of population below 18 years of age and 40% of population above 65 years of age report loneliness at least sometimes in their life. Left untended, loneliness can have serious consequences for mental and physical health of people.

What can be done to avoid developing loneliness or depression during these necessary times of social distancing?

Health Plan of Nevada provides a long list of signs and symptoms to monitor, as well as many easy-to-implement recommendations to cope by forming new personal habits and interacting socially even in this limited environment.

Defining Social Isolation and Loneliness

  • Social isolation can be defined structurally as the absence of social interactions, contacts, and relationships with family and friends, with neighbors on an individual level, and with society
  • Loneliness is often described as the discrepancy between desired and perceived social connectedness
  • Loneliness often occurs in one of three ways:
    • Situational Loneliness
    • Developmental Loneliness
    • Internal Loneliness

Loneliness and Mental Health

  • Loneliness has been found to raise levels of stress, and poorly impact sleep
  • Loneliness is associated with a 40 percent increase in a person’s risk of dementia 
  • Lonely people suffer from more depressive symptoms, as they have than been reported to be less happy, less satisfied and more pessimistic
  • Loneliness is recognized as a contributing and maintaining factor in the development of alcohol abuse
  • Research on suicide has revealed that there is a strong association between suicide ideation and loneliness

Combatting Loneliness

Social interaction in any form can lessen feelings of loneliness:

  • Prioritize relationships
  • Connect with people regularly via the phone, video and in-person interactions
  • Join local churches, groups and organizations that share your common interests
  • Volunteer with an organization
  • Adopt or foster a pet
  • Connect with social services when needed
  • Reach out when mental health needs arise

There are certain times when social isolation and loneliness is harder to avoid, such as during mandated social distancing. The CDC describes social distancing as maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others and staying out of crowded places.

The following recommendations may apply during intentional social distancing:

  • Virtual/Video Conferencing
  • Telephone Calls
  • Virtual Travel and Trips
  • Fostering or Adopting Animals
  • Telehealth visits for mental health and behavioral therapy

Personal Habits to Support Your Mental Health

Shift Your Mind-set:

  • Let go of the negative self-talk / reframe your thoughts
  • Practice gratitude
  • Laugh!
  • Meditate
  • Practice breathing techniques
  • Use meditation app’s and podcasts to help with calmness and mindfulness

Personal Habits to Support Your Mental Health

Practice Self Care:

  • Sleep/rest
  • Engage in movement:
    • Some meditative, relaxing forms of 
      movement include yoga, tai chi and walking
    • Regular exercise may benefit brain health
    • Any activity that increases heart rate counts,
      even if you are unable to leave your home
    • Try virtual classes, apps, or creating a circuit
      with home equipment
  • Eat nourishing foods
  • Attend regular care check-ups

Feeling Confined? Take a Virtual Tour. The following places offer virtual tours:

Some Signs of Mental Health Changes:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Using substances more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Inability to perform daily tasks
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or others

Mental Health Myths:

  • MYTH: Mental health problems do not affect me.
  • MYTH: People with mental health problems are
    violent and unpredictable.
  • MYTH: Personality weakness or character flaws
    cause mental health problems.
  • MYTH: There is no hope for people with mental health problems.
  • MYTH: Therapy and self-help are a waste of time.
  • MYTH: Prevention doesn’t work. It is impossible to prevent mental illness.