Stress is unavoidable, which is why knowing how to cope with it is vital for your overall health and well-being. In addition to self-care activities, like journaling and exercising, numerous studies support the importance of having a strong social support network to get you through tough times. In light of the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves today, it's become even more vital to strengthen these relationships.
Your social support network is made up of family, friends, and peers. However, a social support network is different from a support group, which is typically composed of a group of people going through the same struggles and conducted like a structured meeting. These groups are also usually run by a mental health professional or a lay leader.
Although both groups can play a massive role in times of stress, you typically develop and strengthen your social support network when you're not under pressure. These are relationships with people you respect, and you develop and nurture these relationships in various ways, from a quick coffee break with a coworker to a phone call to your parents.
Risks of isolation
As technology became more advanced and modern society increasingly revolved around productivity, isolation became a natural by-product. However, studies say that loneliness and prolonged social isolation lead to a greater risk of poor mental and cardiovascular health. Other health problems are also found to stem from social isolation.
As an antidote, experts recommend building close relationships. These relationships offer incredible benefits, including improving your ability to cope with stress, promoting good mental health, decreasing cardiovascular risks, and enhancing confidence.
Grow your social support network
As kids, gaining friends seemed easy. We gravitated towards those in our neighborhood or school. However, as adults, cultivating friendships and relationships takes conscious effort. We've outlined some ideas for you to grow and nurture your social support network.
Take a class
Take a cue from your childhood and join various online classes or groups. You're sure to find someone who shares the majority of your interests, whether it's conquering the trail as an adaptive athlete or exploring the great outdoors. If you belong to an amputee support group, ask the members for ideas. There are also lots of classes online, from learning a new language to improv acting.
Pick a cause that's important to you and join. The people you will meet will surely share a lot of your values.
Join a gym or a house of worship
Incorporating physical fitness and spiritual wellness are great ways to help you cope with stress. You can get to know people while you exercise or before and after worship.
Social networking helps you stay connected with family and friends, even those you haven't seen in a long time. But many websites help people get through tough times, whether it's a chronic illness or the loss of a loved one. However, be sure to stick to reputable sites and take precautions before arranging to meet in person.
Another alternative is to identify a hobby you enjoy and find online communities to discuss with like-minded people. If you're into skincare, there's a robust skincare and beauty community on Instagram. If you're into gaming, there are various social media groups on Facebook or game forums.
Give and take
A successful relationship requires your active participation. It's essential to try to stay in touch. Organize Zoom calls, reciprocate invitations, and return their messages. These simple acts let the people in your life know that you care.
Be a good listener. Listen when they're speaking and be mindful when reading and responding to their messages. This way, you'll find out what's important to them.
However, don't overdo it. Avoid overwhelming family and friends with calls and messages. Save those for high-demand times when you need their constant presence.
Most importantly, let them know that you appreciate them and their efforts. Take time to express your gratitude and let them know how important they are to you. And always give back and be available for them when they need your support.
Remember that building your social support network should help reduce your stress level, not add to it. Watch out for people and situations that drain your energy. If, for example, a friend is always negative and critical, it's best to avoid spending too much time around them.Contrary to popular belief, investing time and effort in building a social support network is not a waste. These close ties significantly impact your health and overall well-being. So, start making friends and strengthen the ones that you already have.