Building Social Support – It’s Good For Your Health!

People today often struggle to keep up with the demands of daily
life. In fact, a recent national survey finds that one in three people
in America are living with extreme stress.

Stress can come from a heavy workload, daily traffic jams, dealing
with a health problem or injury, taking care of someone who’s ill,
financial worries, relationship troubles, parenting, or major life
transitions like moving or starting a family. Whatever the source,
perhaps you cannot change the things that cause stress but you can
improve how you deal with stress. Social support can help you get
through stressful times by providing a sense of belonging, self-worth
and security.

Here are some tips to help you create, keep and strengthen vital connections in your life.

Connect to Family and Friends

Do
you need to be more connected to others? As with many goals, you’ll be
more successful at building strong connections if you create a workable
plan.

  • Make a short list of friends and family members
    who are supportive and positive. Also include a list of people you feel
    the need to stay in touch with regularly such as parents, close friend
    or adult child who lives far away, or an aging relative who lives
    alone.
  • Make a commitment to yourself to call, email or get together with them
    on a schedule that’s reasonable for you. Try to reach out to make at
    least one emotional connection a day, but plan realistically.
  • Share what’s on your mind honestly and openly.
    Talk about your concerns in a straight-forward way, but try to keep it
    constructive. Try to be direct about what you need – for example a
    sympathetic ear, help solving a problem, a fresh perspective, new ideas
    or a good laugh. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  • When you talk, also listen.
    Check on someone else’s day. Listening to other people’s concerns can
    often shed a new light on your own challenges. Offer help when you can.
    Ask what other people think about your situation, and show them you
    value their opinion – listen and respond.
  • Make social plans.
    Create opportunities to strengthen your relationships with fun things
    that both parties enjoy. Looking forward to special activities boosts
    our spirits, gives us energy and makes us more productive.

You
may find that among people you hardly know, one or more can become
trusted friends you can rely on—and support—in good times and bad. Even
if you feel that you’re so busy you don’t have time to keep up with
family and friends you already have, it doesn’t take much time to make
new friends. If you’re shy and hesitant about meeting new people, just
a few questions can get a conversation going. Think about neighbors you
pass regularly, co-workers, people in your exercise class, a cousin
you’ve lost touch with, or those who volunteer in the same
organizations you do. If you don’t already have people you can talk
with regularly about what’s on your mind, it’s worth the effort to
build connections for your emotional health.

Connect To Your Community

A
great way to feel emotionally strong and resilient in times of stress
is to feel connected to a broad community. Think about the things you
like to do. You can expand your social network by looking into
community organizations that bring people together who share the same
interests. For instance, many communities have local biking, hiking or
walking groups. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do like
learning a new language? Take a class, or join a local group.

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