This time of year brings hustle, bustle, food, and family gatherings. For some, it is a joyful, full time and for others a time of loneliness. Whether you live alone, are apart from family, or are distancing from loved ones due to COVID, this can be a lonely time.
However, following a few helpful tips can help manage feelings of loneliness.
Plan ahead to help you cope
Plan what you will do when you begin feeling lonely. This plan can include a list of people you know you can call, places you enjoy going, or activities that lift your mood. Reminding yourself that you have a plan can allow you to approach the holidays more confidently.
Make a list of two or more things that bring you JOY
This could include time in nature, time spent enjoying your favorite hobby, reading a book, or calling a friend. Engaging in these activities allows you to replace your lonely feelings with feelings of happiness or peace.
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
Focusing on the things you are grateful for prevents you from focusing on the things you are lacking. Research shows that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Some simple activities that can cultivate gratitude are: writing a thank you note, keeping a gratitude journal, counting your blessings, or meditating.
Exercising and moving your body can release some of the physical symptoms that accompany loneliness: low appetite, lack of interest, or low energy. Exercise also increases endorphins (your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters), reduces stress, improves sleep, and clears the mind. The Muscles for Myeloma Fitness chapter provides opportunities to move your body, and connect with others who are trying to do the same.
Make new traditions
This is easy to say but can be hard to do. Resetting your mind and memories takes work, but can be done. Identify activities you like to do (reading a book, sitting by the fire, attending a play or musical event, baking, or cooking,) and create new traditions around these activities.
Most importantly, reach out to others to remind yourself that you are not alone. Call or video chat with a friend or family member. Seek out support. Within the myeloma community, there is personalized support available in the Myeloma Coach program. This program allows you to connect and talk with someone who can personally relate to living with myeloma. All of the Coaches have experienced myeloma themselves or cared for a loved one with myeloma. You do not have to face or live with myeloma alone.
You can also connect with others on shared interest topics in Myeloma Community Events.
If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety that extend beyond loneliness-it is important to share these difficulties with your myeloma care team (myeloma specialist, nurse practitioner, nurse or social worker). Discussing these concerns and their disruption in your daily life with your care team can help determine if additional supports are needed. If so, they can refer you to a specialist who can provide essential treatment, resources and support.
about the author
Rozalynn Hite is the HealthTree Coach Director and wife of myeloma patient Richard Hite. Rozalynn is an occupational therapist and mother of three beautiful children.