Overcoming Loneliness & Isolatiom | Depression in Seniors | Supporting Kids’ Mental Well-being | Wellness Resources | New Year’s Goal: How to Practice Self-Care for Better Mental Health


Overcoming Loneliness & Isolation

Humans are inherently social animals who rely on interpersonal relationships for a variety of needs. When people experience healthy friendships, family dynamics, and even casual positive interactions with others, they feel a sense of belonging and satisfaction, which translates to better health. Unfortunately, when your social connections and relationships don’t meet your individual needs, feelings of loneliness and isolation may occur and can have potentially devastating consequences.

How do loneliness and isolation affect physical and mental health?

Feelings of loneliness and isolation can significantly impact our health, especially when these feelings occur for an extended time. Unsatisfactory social relationships or connections can lead to a host of problems for both body and mind.

Physical health can be impacted by loneliness in surprising ways. According to the Centers for Disease Control in “Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions,” loneliness can significantly impact our health. It increases the risk for premature death, strokes, heart disease, heart failure, and other cardiovascular issues at levels comparable to those who smoke, are obese, or physically inactive.

Various studies have also shown correlations between loneliness or isolation and other complications, reports Amy Novotney in “The risks of social isolation.” These include poor sleep, decreased self-control, higher stress levels, and lower immunity, to name a few.

Mental health struggles can also develop from feeling isolated or lonely. This is true not only for adults but children and adolescents. On June 3, 2020, researchers published their findings in “Rapid Systematic Review: The Impact of Social Isolation and Loneliness on the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents in the Context of COVID-19.” Maria Elizabeth Loades et al. found depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation and attempts are potential issues resulting from a lack of sufficient positive and healthy social relationships.

Among older adults, extended social isolation may even increase an individual’s risk for dementia or cognitive decline, according to a 2019 study, “Are loneliness and social isolation associated with cognitive decline?” by Elvira Lara et al.

How are various demographics impacted by loneliness and isolation?

While all people require some level of personal connection and interaction, individuals and specific demographic groups may have different needs or struggles related to loneliness and isolation. Anyone can, at times, experience isolation from others. Those who lack close family or friends, have moved to a new place, differ from their community, or belong to any kind of outgroup are at risk of missing out on their desired level of social connection. Certain groups, according to the CDC, are particularly at increased risk of experiencing isolation and loneliness.

Single parents may have children around, but that isn’t enough to prevent feeling lonely or isolated from adults. Parenting, even with a partner, already comes with these challenges. It can be exacerbated if you’re also dealing with a challenging co-parenting situation or experiencing a loss.

Seniors are a group significantly affected by social isolation. Experiences like divorce, becoming a widow or widower, children growing up and moving away, retirement, chronic illness, and moving to a retirement home or care facility can increase these feelings.

People with mental illness can have symptoms reappear or increase in severity if they don’t have access to a support network, including friends, family, or others to connect with.

Immigrants may face language barriers, differences in customs or local dynamics, or lack established social relationships. They may also feel incredibly lonely being away from their home, culture, or family.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community may be affected by discrimination and stigma. They may even experience loss of relationships with family and friends who don’t accept them, leaving them isolated from former social groups.

People with disabilities may experience increased isolation or feelings of loneliness depending on their individual situations. They may face barriers in communication, discrimination, stigma, or even physical impediments preventing easier engagement in social relationships.

How to reduce isolation and loneliness?

Unfortunately, dealing with loneliness and isolation is becoming a widespread experience. According to experts, most people from all walks of life report feeling a lack of social connection or relationships at some point in their lives. Sometimes experiencing these feelings is a consequence of larger problems like a pandemic where people need to maintain distance to stay safe.

Though it may seem impossible, isolation and loneliness do not have to become a permanent state. Even if you must be physically apart from others, there are many ways to stay connected and build new social relationships.

  • Reach out to friends, family, former co-workers, or neighbors who you haven’t talked to in a while or have lost touch with. Send an email, a letter, a text, or even pick up the phone and give them a call.
  • In situations like a pandemic, where physical distancing is necessary for a while, it’s crucial to find ways to connect with others. Try scheduling social time such as regular video calls to catch up and even share a meal, movie, game, or activity together from your own homes. Find ways to get together safely outdoors in small groups, appropriately spaced apart.
  • Join groups where you can connect with others through shared interests. A book club, cooking class, community college course, club sports team, fitness class, or community theater are a few possibilities. During a pandemic, look for virtual opportunities. It’s easier to maintain relationships when you have things in common – plus interest-based groups provide opportunities to connect with others in a structured but lower-stress environment.
  • Technology opens up so many opportunities to make social connections and build virtual relationships with real people. You can join social networks and find groups for people in similar life situations, with similar interests, or just looking to connect with others. Just be conscious of how you’re using social media. Seeing other people’s “highlight reels” can actually increase the feeling of being left out.
  • Volunteer for a cause that’s dear to your heart. You can find others who share similar interests or values while gaining satisfaction from giving back to your community. Especially consider working with populations who are at risk for loneliness. This way, you can help others while helping yourself.
  • If you’re experiencing significant mental or physical health problems related to loneliness or isolation, speak with your doctor or mental health care professional. They can support you and direct you to various resources.

When feelings of isolation or loneliness become overwhelming, it’s hard to imagine how to change your circumstances. But with a little effort and perhaps some support, there are ways to create and maintain healthy social relationships and connect to others, regardless of our personal situation or the world around us.

By Kimberly Blaker

Depression in Seniors

How do you know if you or your loved one may have depression? Depression in older adults may be difficult to recognize because older people may have different symptoms than younger people. For some older adults with depression, sadness is not their main symptom. They could instead be feeling more of a numbness or a lack of interest in activities. They may not be as willing to talk about their feelings.

The following is a list of common symptoms. Still, because people experience depression differently, there may be symptoms that are not on this list.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness, or having trouble sitting still
  • Loss of interest in once pleasurable activities, including sex
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, waking up too early in the morning, or oversleeping
  • Eating more or less than usual, usually with unplanned weight gain or loss
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

If you have several of these signs and symptoms and they last for more than two weeks, talk with your doctor. These could be signs of depression or another health condition. Don’t ignore the warning signs. If left untreated, serious depression may lead to death by suicide.

Treatment, particularly a combination of psychotherapy and medications, has been shown to be effective for older adults. Treatment choices differ for each person, and sometimes multiple treatments must be tried in order to find one that works. It is important to keep trying to find something that does. Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can help save lives.

Depression is common in people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Dementia can cause some of the same symptoms as depression, and depression can be an early warning sign of possible dementia.

For more information visit National Institutes of Health at nia.nih.gov

Supporting Kids’ Mental Well-being

From the basics, like how to talk to your kids about mental health and keeping a routine, to more serious topics like community violence, and race and racism, these resources from On Our Sleeves® will help support you in your understanding of mental health concerns and teach you how to talk about mental health and wellness in an easy to understand manner.

Talking to your kids about mental health can be downright awkward. They may be reluctant or have trouble finding words to speak about what they’re feeling inside. But these are some of the most important conversations you can have with your child. There are ways parents can spot early warning signs and help address their child’s needs.

“While there is still much to learn, we know more now about how to accurately diagnose and effectively treat pediatric mental health concerns,” says Nancy Cunningham, PsyD., Nationwide Children’s Hospital Big Lots Behavioral Health Services. “Early identification and intervention are key to addressing symptoms, promoting a child’s development, and helping a child to live a happier and healthier life.”

If you sense your child is struggling, Cunningham says the first step is to encourage them to talk – and that starts with establishing trust. Starting these difficult conversations with kids at an early age makes it easier as they grow older. Here, she provides tips for approaching difficult topics and initiating a healthy rapport with your child that will last a lifetime.

Model Openness
Share your feelings, challenges, successes and failures with your child in a way that is age appropriate. By doing so, you’ll demonstrate to them that it’s safe to talk about their own feelings and challenges.

Meet Them Where They Are
Quality time with your child is important. However, when you are ready to talk may be different than when your child is ready to talk to you. Plan activities together that you know they enjoy. While you’re together, look for opportunities to talk about their friends, how school is going, or what they’re following on social media.

Let Them Fail
In non-dangerous situations, it’s healthy to allow your child to struggle and fail. If you take away their opportunity to learn from their mistakes, they miss out on the chance to gain confidence and resiliency.

Create a Safe Space
If you suspect your child is struggling, find ways to express your concern without seeming threatening or judgmental. Create a sense of safety by remaining calm and reassuring. Listen with understanding and validate their feelings. Be the kind of parent your child wants to talk to.

Sometimes Being Direct is Best
If you notice warning signs (such as shifts in behavior or personality, changes in sleeping or eating habits or loss of interest in activities) it’s sometimes best to initiate a direct conversation. Ask direct questions in a supportive, thoughtful manner. This conversation is easier if you’ve established a baseline of trust.

Stay Connected to Your Pediatrician
Continue to schedule yearly well visits with your pediatrician. They can be your first line of support. They may be able to detect changes in your child’s behavior, and they are skilled at screening for depression, anxiety and substance abuse. If you have an immediate concern, make sure to reach out to them.

Include Your Child in the Solution
If you’re concerned that your child is struggling, ask how you can help before taking an action. For example, if your child is struggling at school, ask if it would be helpful for you to reach out to their teacher or school counselor. The more you can include your child in the process the better.

Find a Mentor
If your child is not comfortable talking to you, they might be willing to talk to another adult. Providing opportunities for them to open up is the goal. And often that’s easier with someone who’s not their parent!

Apologize When You’re Wrong
Parents are going to mess up. Getting it right more than not is the goal. When you do overreact or make a mistake, admit you were wrong and apologize. Not only will your children appreciate your truthfulness, it gives them permission to make mistakes too.

Practice What You Preach
If you’re really feeling stuck, seek help from the guidance of a therapist, physician or spiritual director for yourself. A trusted third party can provide a new perspective into your child’s behavior. It will also send a great message to your child that it’s okay to reach out for help.

Stop the Stigma
Children pick up on their parents’ attitudes. You may be perpetuating the stigma of mental illness without knowing it. Try to talk about emotional issues in a non-judgmental manner – the way you might talk about a physical illness.

If you notice any of these signs, talk with your child(ren) about their experience to get a better understanding. It also might be time to talk with their pediatrician, someone at their school or a mental health professional. There are scientifically proven and effective treatments for children who experience anxiety disorders.

On Our Sleeves® is a trademark of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. To learn more visit: onoursleeves.org/mental-health

Wellness Resources

Beyond Healing
Dealing with stress, depression, grief, family, relationships, identity, career, spiritual, or health issues? Struggling with mental or emotional health issues?  Interested in alternative healing modalities? Or do you just want to learn and grow in certain areas of your life?  We can help you!

Beyond Healing is a holistic counseling, wellness, and personal growth center where over 60 licensed professional counselors and certified wellness practitioners provide a warm, safe, accepting environment for individuals and families to heal and overcome from the obstacles that life has brought their way, and to flourish! Our goal is to help you to succeed in ALL areas of your life!

Our licensed counselors are approved providers with many insurance panels including BCBS Illinois, Cigna, Aetna, United Health Care, and others. We also have a sliding fee scale for those who qualify and are self-pay. Offices are in Homer Glen, Frankfort, and Chicago (Beverly) areas and we also do telehealth. We specialize in children, adolescents, adults, couples, families and group therapy. Call 708-737-7968 for appointments. We want to see you grow and thrive! www.beyondhealingcounseling.com  LEARN MORE

Timberline Knolls “Making a Real-Life Difference”
Located in Lemont, Illinois, on a picturesque 43 acres, Timberline Knolls is a leading residential treatment center providing individualized care for women and adolescent girls (ages 12 and up) who are struggling with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood disorders and other mental health concerns. Each woman or girl who receives care at our facility follows a personalized treatment plan that is created specifically for them.

Our compassionate and highly-trained team members work to provide a confidential, welcoming environment where residents can receive comprehensive care that meets their unique needs. Our treatment approach includes: dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), family systems, recovery principles, expressive therapies, and spirituality in a trauma-informed environment.

The TK Academy, our on-campus school, is available for residents who wish to continue their educational goals. Outpatient services including a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) and an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), with supportive housing, are available in nearby Orland Park, Illinois, for adult women as a step down or direct admit. We are in network with most major insurance companies. For residents seeking faith-based treatment we also offer The Grace Program.

There are many questions when seeking treatment, we can help. For more information, call us today at 877-257-9611 or visit www.timberlineknolls.com. We are on Facebook, LinkedIn (Timberline Knolls), Twitter – @TimberlineToday and Instagram – @timberlinetoday. Timberline Knolls is located at 40 Timberline Drive in Lemont, IL, 60439.  LEARN MORE

Jade Orchid Wellness
“How does Chiropractic help with mental health? Chronic pain can also increase mental health dysfunction. With a chiropractic adjustment there is a “feel good” sensation with the pop or cavitation. This is the alignment of the spine which can improve function both physically and mentally. Many chiropractors also help in the area of nutrition as well as supplementation which is better for the body as a whole.

Chiropractic, along with nutrition counseling and acupuncture, have been known to decrease depression and anxiety. In conjunction with other mediums including psychology systems such as biofeedback, chiropractic has been used as well to improve results.

At Jade Orchid Wellness, we use Chiropractic, Acupuncture, and other holistic mediums to help the body and mind reach its full potential. Our doctor, Dr. Doris Fregoso, has worked in the world of personal injury with the patients walking out in better mental health than before the injury.”

Located at 309 S. Main Street, Lombard, IL 60148. Call 331-307-7989. www.jadeorchidwellness.com  LEARN MORE

Villa St. Benedict “The Heart of the Community”
Villa St. Benedict is at the height of its beauty when the seasons are changing. As the winter months are here, we start to embrace this majestic time of year. This beautiful 47-acre campus is part of the original parcel of 500 acres purchased and still occupied by the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart since 1912. The heart of the community is the Sacred Heart Chapel.

Villa St. Benedict continues to be a unique senior community offering independent living, assisted living, and memory care with a mission statement based on the Benedictine tradition of hospitality.

As a continuing care community, our staff works tirelessly to provide excellent services. We work with the same respect and compassion you would receive from a member of your family. With a wide array of apartment sizes and villa homes, we have a perfect fit for your chosen lifestyle.

Living fully, living well – that’s comfort in VSB’s community! Villa St. Benedict is located at 1920 Maple Avenue in Lisle. Call a sales counselor at 630-852-0345 to arrange a tour or find out more by visiting www.villastben.orgLEARN MORE

Recovery International ~ Teen Mental Wellness
Power Your Mind: Tools to Build Resilience is a new workbook for teens that uses graphic novel panels to illustrate healthy ways of coping with stressful everyday situations. Power Your Mind can be used as a self-guided tool or as part of a group workshop. It provides ways for dealing with situations such as a running late for an event, insecurity about belonging to a group, or fearful anticipation in uncertain circumstances.  The workbook teaches cognitive-behavioral techniques. You will learn more than 100 “tools” to help calm you when you get worked up about an average, common situation. For more information about this new youth program, email info@poweryourmind.org or visit www.poweryourmind.org.

For 85 years, Recovery International has been helping adults achieve better mental health using a peer-led, 4-step method and tools. Power Your Mind adapts this evidence-based program for young adults. For more information about Recovery International visit www.recoveryinternational.orgLEARN MORE

Counseling With Maggie, PLLC “Reclaim Your Life”
You’ve been feeling stuck for a while now. Your body is either in high alert or shut down, and your work and relationships are suffering. The cruelty you experienced in the past makes it hard to trust others and, worse yet, hard to trust yourself.

With the right tools to process and heal, you can release the tensions held in your thoughts, emotions, and body and become more fully and joyfully present to create the life you want. If you are ready to take the next step, call Maggie Reynolds, LCPC for a FREE 15 minute phone consultation at 773-234-6515. www.counselingwithmaggie.com  LEARN MORE


New Year’s Goal: How to Practice Self-Care for Better Mental Health

Happy New Year! It’s a time of big resolutions and new beginnings. It’s also the perfect opportunity to get better at taking care of our mental health. Let’s talk about three ways to start on the right foot this year by prioritizing your mental health!

Put Boundaries in Place
Boundaries help protect you from feeling taken advantage of or disrespected. Establishing limitations protects your mental health by giving you a sense of control over your life. Therefore, learning to say “no” is a valuable life skill. It helps you maintain self-worth by empowering you to make choices that align with your values. When we say “yes” to every request, we’re more likely to feel overwhelmed and stressed out. By saying “no” mindfully with conviction and respect, you make time for the things that matter without overwhelming guilt and negativity.

When creating emotional boundaries, use your personal values as a guide. Recognize that these limits vary and can be flexible, depending on the situation and the people involved. Set aside social expectations and listen to yourself. Conserve your emotional energy to prevent resentment.

No. 2: Increase Self-Awareness
Increasing self-awareness means being more conscious of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. When you’re more self-aware, you can catch early signs of stress or anxiety and address them before they become more significant problems.

One way to be more self-aware is to keep a journal. This can help you track your moods, symptoms and triggers. It can also be a place to reflect on your daily life. Journaling helps keep you in perspective as it boosts your self-identity and fosters self-growth.

See a Counselor or Therapist
As you become more self-aware, you start to recognize issues that reduce your quality of life. It may be a problem that interferes with your life each day or something that causes so much shame or embarrassment that you make it a point to avoid others. These issues may have made you develop unhealthy habits or make life changes that have negatively impacted your personal and professional relationships.

Therapy can help with anxiety, depression, grief and loss, life transitions, family dynamics, parenting support and more. Spending time with a professional allows you to explore your feelings and unresolved experiences without judgment. Together, you can identify the obstacles, insecurities, and harmful habits keeping you from achieving optimal mental health. 

No matter what steps you choose to take this year regarding your mental health, know that you’re not alone. Millions of people struggle with the same issues, and support is available.

By Communicare


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