The holidays have a way of intensifying everything, so though people may want to avoid family gatherings, isolation can also be bad for the heart and mind.
One study concluded that men who survive heart attacks and live alone have twice the average death rate. Another study found that people who did not talk to their doctors and rarely contacted friends or family were more likely to die in the nine years after a heart attack, regardless of their physical condition.
It's not so much living alone, or the size of your social circle, as the absence of relatives and friends to provide solace, advice, and help, according to the article from the Harvard University Gazette. So see the family and friends, and then manage the stress by following these tips from The University of Alabama at Birmingham:
- Slip away from gatherings if you begin to feel stressed
- Take breaks to relax whenever possible.
- Exercise regularly, even if it's just a brisk walk.
- Avoid overeating and excessive drinking.
- Accept family members and friends for the way they are.
- Delegate chores and responsibility.
- Set a budget and stick to it.
- Remember that you're not alone.
Communication is essential. Every one wants a happy holiday season, but we need to stop and remind ourselves of our priorities. If the feeling of loneliness and depression don't go away with the holiday season, you may need help from a professional.
Research so far finds that talk therapy lifts depression and anxiety and along with follow-up care it helps people take better care of themselves, cutting down the damage depression does to the heart.
Doctors who see heart patients, say the experts, "should be better prepared to ask their patients about stress, low mood, and isolation." If the doctor does not do this, then patients who feel down and out should let the doctor know.