This may be sabotaging your health

This may be sabotaging your health

Humans are hard-wired for connectedness. Sharing experiences, passions and even a few hardships together is what we need to feel balanced and happy.

But sometimes social interaction can become uncomfortable, and retreating to isolation can feel like a safe space. However, too much alone time can be detrimental to our physical and mental health.

Last year, a U.S. Surgeon General advisory report warned we’re in a loneliness epidemic, and society’s lack of social connection will have dire implications on our collective health and well-being. According to the report, about half of U.S. adults say they’ve experienced loneliness. Those who experience social withdrawal increase their risk of premature death by 30 percent. They also are at an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

“We need each other,” says Julie Offutt, psychotherapist at Aurora Health Care. “Symptoms of anxiety and depression are more prevalent in those with a severe lack of social interaction, and the risk of developing dementia is greater.”

Self-care may help fight off loneliness, but Offutt cautions it could be a distraction that can potentially lead to social isolation.

“It’s important to carve out time for self-care. It’s just as important to ensure you’re not detaching yourself from others and be intentional about making social connections as part of your wellness regimen. Isolation, depression and anxiety are inextricably linked and cause us to avoid interaction with others,” Offutt says.

Offutt recommends the following tips to help offset feelings of being alone and improve your socializing skills:

1. Follow the 15-minute rule. Spend 15 minutes each day connecting with someone. Whether you’re in-person, video chatting or talking on the phone, it’s hard to feel lonely when you’re interacting with others.

2. Volunteer. Do a good deed. Being of service not only helps others and gets you socializing, it’s also good for your mental health. It can reduce stress, combat depression and keep you mentally stimulated.

3. Exercise. Discover the art of yoga with friends, grab a buddy and meander around the neighborhood or bike to work with a co-worker to get some physical activity. You feel less separated from the world when you’re experiencing it.

4. Connect with people from your past. Sometimes it’s easier to connect with old friends than it is to make new ones. Reach out to an old roommate, former classmate or a relocated loved one to reconnect.

Digging yourself out of solitude is a journey. Offutt suggests taking it day by day and moment by moment. “Start by creating a plan. Will you invite a loved one to lunch, catch up with an old friend, strike up a conversation with a neighbor or ask a co-worker out for coffee? Designing ideas to use when you’re feeling lonely is key to your healing journey.”

Looking for a behavioral health provider? Find care where you live here: Wisconsin | Illinois

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  2. I just recently lost my dad. I am having a hard time dealing the loss helping my mom. She’s been with him for 60 years.

    • Anna Kohler

      Hi Becky, we recommend you reach out to our call center at 414-454-6777, option 1 for a virtual assessment and further care recommendations. Or, visit your nearest emergency department for immediate care if you are exhibiting risk of harm to yourself or others. Thank you.

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About the Author

Amber Thompson
Amber Thompson

Amber Thompson is a marketing graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. In her free time, Amber enjoys passion-filled projects including blogging and photography. Amber loves spending her free time reading journalistic columns, listening to motivational podcasts and discovering creative recipes to get her young son to eat his vegetables.