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Positively Managing Loneliness

Senior Services recently hosted a four-week series on loneliness with Meghan Dahl, L.M.S.W., Behavioral Health Therapist at MidMichigan Medical Center in Midland, which involved learning strategies for maintaining connection with others. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the recommendations for “social distancing” can help reduce the spread of the illness, but this can also increase feelings of loneliness for many older adults. Social distancing does not need to mean social isolation.

Here are several tips to manage stress and maintain connection during this time:

  • Take breaks from the news and social media. Gathering accurate information can be helpful to manage anxiety, but over-exposure can increase stress and worried thoughts. Take a break and focus on other things for a while.
  • Focus on what you can control. Let go of concerns that are outside of your control, and concentrate on what you can do. For example, you can focus on keeping up healthy habits like physical activity and eating well.
  • Schedule pleasurable activities in your day. While you may not be able to do as many activities outside the home as you used to, you can still find small joys in day-to-day life. Go outside, look for signs of spring or explore a new hobby.
  • Connect with loved ones. You may not be able to see them in person as often, but try to set up times to call people on the phone. Texting and video calls (i.e. FaceTime and Skype) are also good ways to stay in touch. Emails and letters can be sent. Make a plan for regular check-ins.
  • Learn new technology for gatherings. There are many options now for online gatherings of groups of people. Services like Google Hangouts or Zoom will allow a group of people to all meet and chat using video and/or phone. If you are unsure about how to do this, ask a technologically-savvy loved one about setting up these options. These are great options for social groups or distant family/friends to stay in touch.

Some resources:

  • 2-1-1 of Northeast Michigan for referrals and assistance with essential needs
  • Disaster Distress helpline, phone (800) 985-5990 or text “talkWithUs” to 66746, visit www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov
  • Crisis Hotline – Community Mental Health for Central Michigan (800) 317-0708
  • Senior Services in Midland, phone (989) 633-3700 or visit www.seniorservicesmidland.org

As a service to the community, MidMichigan Health has published a COVID-19 informational hotline with a reminder of CDC guidelines and recommendations. Staff is available to help answer community questions. The hotline can be reached toll-free at (800) 445-7356 or (989) 794-7600 or visit https://www.midmichigan.org/coronavirus.