Reconnecting with Social Networks

Extensive research over decades clearly indicates that the key to long term happiness and a sense of physical and emotional wellbeing is to have significant and meaningful relationships. This could be with one’s family, friends or colleagues. However, with the onset of the pandemic, it became difficult to interact in our previously familiar ways with family and friends.

Physical distancing became critically important and in some ways will continue to be part of the methods we will need to use to contain the spread of the Covid -19 virus.  To ensure distancing meant that we had to be isolated, keeping ourselves away from meeting with extended family & friends. All of our social events, celebrations and gatherings were on hold. Many of us have worked remotely, missing out on the social interactions with colleagues. This may have helped contain the spread of the corona virus but it has underlined the fact that we actually feel our best when we are with people. That staying away from people makes us lose our zest and zing for life.

Being away from friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances can result in:

  • Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Violence at home
  • Losing tempers with loved ones  
  • Feelings of depression
  • Helplessness
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

If this period is bringing up tough experiences for you, please know that it is understandable. Humans are social beings. Social support is central to physical and psychological health. It isn’t the number of relationships we have that help us cope with crisis, but the positive experiences we get from these relationships.

With the social distancing required in recent months there could be a lot that is missing – sense of love and belonging, meaningful activities, usual ways to de-stress etc. Especially if you’re someone who is older or have a history of anxiety, depression or a violent relationship at home, this could be particularly hard. Also, spending too much time with family when there are frequent arguments or conflicts can also be frustrating.

In these difficult times, we require social closeness more than ever before. Although we are using the term ‘social distancing’, let’s think of this period as something that requires physical distancing – to be physically away from people but still, emotionally close.  

How?

Tip1. Identify your most meaningful and supportive connections so you have adequate support when you need it.

Not all the people we know are equally important for our sense of wellbeing. It maybe the time to pause and identify from where our most meaningful support comes. For eg. If you were to chat over coffee, perhaps this person would be alright, but to go uninvited to have a meal, you could only go to the this or that person’s homes.  If you needed someone to come with you to go and get some legal work, whom would you trust to go to? it may not necessarily be the person I can chat with over coffee. So you see the are layers of trust, and layers of ease with which we interact with people. Identify your layers, so you have sufficient people in the situations and times you need.

Tip 2. Identify the reasons you may not be accessing the support that there is around you.

Perhaps you are shy, or you are anxious interacting with others. Or perhaps you  don’t like to reach out, afraid to be seen as someone who is needy?   

Building social connections, relationships and being comfortable doing so is a skill, it can be learned, and like all skills learning gets easier with practice. 

The first step is identifying the reason for your hesitation, then get what you need to help you overcome it. The wellness and value of accessing support is well worth the effort required.

Start small. Any positive interaction – even as little as a smiling ‘good morning’ is worth something. To make the most of interactions, consider showing genuine interest in others and how they’re coping – offering help where you can, asking what would help others, or just listening to them would make the cut. Sharing positive news, bringing up old memories can be a ‘feel-good’ for many people at this time. An activity that could help is organizing old photo and video albums.. 

Tip 3.  Social connections get stronger when you both give and ask for support.

Research shows that all relationships work best when they are equal. This means there is an equal investment from both sides. To help us connect better, we must be willing to both give and get support. 

Find ways to be a friend to people that are important to you. Listen to them, remember special days, do things together this can even just be taking a walk together, cultivate a hobby and share notes, and definitely be there for them in their time of need. Giving makes asking for help that much easier.

Tip 4. Use technology when we cannot meet in person and to strengthen ties to over come physical distances.

What we have learned during the pandemic is that we can use technology to stay in touch. Technology itself has evolved to allow us to connect with others in easy and new ways.

Dinners, counselling sessions, book club meetings, happy hours, dates, movie nights, karaoke, workouts, and game nights – schedule them all online. Of course, they fall short compared to being around people physically. But at this point, they’d still do us good. Research says that being able to look at other’s facial expressions can help with feelings of loneliness and depression.  Currently there are apps that allow us to watch movies and play games together, while we’re still apart.

Since technology is more at our disposal than it has ever been before, let’s make it work for us!

Soothe self when others are unavailable.

Chances are that despite all the planning there will be evenings when we’re still alone, wondering when it will all end. It’s important to accept that loneliness is something we will experience. At these times, even imagining a warm hug from a loved one can calm us down. Spraying your favourite scent and getting into a comfortable spot under the blanket, drinking a warm beverage, taking a shower, lighting candles, journaling your feelings are some ways to comfort yourself in the moment.

These tips are starting points to begin planning your own ways to connect with what will create increased wellness for you… equipping you to stay well and happy even in these unpredictable times.

With social support being so important, if you are having difficulty building or accessing this kind of social support, or are experiencing the negative emotions of loneliness, or lack the energy to live life with zest, or the situation you are in at home is upsetting, our counsellors would be happy to help over an online session. Do reach out to us. 

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