The first time I experienced loneliness was when I spent a college semester abroad in Eastern Europe. Not only was I learning a new language, but I was living alone for the first time in my life. Although I was surrounded by people every day, the barrier of a foreign language felt like a wall separating me from everyone else.

The Centers for Disease Control defines loneliness as the feeling of being alone regardless of your amount of social contact. And the experience of loneliness is likely more widespread than you think. A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine indicates that over one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and another study found as many as 80 percent of those under 18 report being lonely at least sometimes.

The holidays are a particularly lonely time for many people, whether it’s because they have suffered the loss a loved one, are isolated from others because of their physical condition or have responsibilities keeping them away from family and friends. And this year, with a worldwide pandemic underway, many of the rest of us are warmly remembering the holiday gatherings of recent years while we come up with new ways to celebrate at home.

Whether you are spending the holidays with your immediate family or on your own, consider these tips to curb loneliness:

Many experts are starting to agree that spending quality virtual time with friends and loved ones can curb loneliness. With this in mind, you can help fight loneliness by making it a priority to call or video chat with your loved ones and friends. Remember that they’re probably eager for a connection, too. Engage with each other creatively by playing games like charades or trivia — or demonstrate your favorite new holiday recipe!

Find ways to support others from your home. Volunteering — even if it’s making phone calls or delivering home-cooked meals — can impart a sense of belonging.

A 2018 study by Cigna found that having a good balance of sleep, work, time with family and friends and “me time” is connected to being less lonely. Plan your days so you have structure focusing on these priorities. Executing on your plan will also provide moments of accomplishment to boost your mood.

God designed us to be social beings, and science has shown that high-quality relationships help us live longer, healthier lives. This includes a relationship with Him. When you’re feeling lonely, take action on the following message found in 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” This verse is especially profound because it is both a command and a promise from a loving God — who promises you are never alone.

Written By Kirsten Cutler