A phenomenon called “cabin fever” tends to affect some people during the winter months. Long hours of darkness coupled with cold, inclement weather can put even the cheeriest person into a blue funk. For people who live alone, the effect can be more pronounced.
This year, in addition to the holiday blues, other factors are at play: social distancing and voluntary quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic. People who normally would venture outside to socialize during the holiday season might feel hesitant or not do it at all to prevent exposure to the virus. In those instances, friends and loved ones can mitigate feelings of isolation in various ways.
- Schedule video chats. Video conferencing apps have become the communication vehicles of choice during the era of social distancing. Different applications and services continue to evolve and help people stay in touch. It’s a good idea to plan regular chats once or twice per week with isolated or vulnerable people. Try to organize a large group chat on the holiday itself, so no one is left entirely alone.
- Drop off supplies. Even though supermarket shop-from-home and other delivery services have become common since the pandemic started, personal attention can break the cabin feer feeling for those who are isolated. Assemble care packages of supplies or holiday treats and deliver them in person – following proper distancing rules, of course — so you can see the smiles that result from a visit with someone familiar.
- Send uplifting messages. Children and adults can make personalized cards and mail them to loved ones at home or those who might be in senior care facilities. Send new mailings every week or two, so residents always have something to look forward to in the mail.
- Start a sing-along. Give your loved ones a call and sing a few Christmas carols or hymns with them. Read a well-known holiday story or some Bible verses with them. Remember, not going to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day could be difficult for seniors who have always attended church services.
- Ask for help learning a new skill. Asking for help in making crafts, working on a family photo album, or making favorite holiday recipes can give isolated individuals daily purpose and distraction. All lessons can be conducted online for safety.
Isolation and feelings of loneliness can affect anyone who suffers from cabin fever or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This year, those feelings might be more pronounced. Make a difference in someone’s day. A simple effort goes a long way. And do not forget to follow up after the holiday; the January blues can be even darker after everyone else is back to their routines.