Social Support: Getting and Staying Connected
May is Mental Health Month. One way to maintain your mental health is to remain connected to friends, family and anyone else that provide support in your life.
Make a short list of friends and family members who are supportive and positive. Include a list of people you feel the need to stay in touch with regularly such as parents, a 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 scheduled thatís reasonable for you. Try to reach out to make at least one emotional connection a day, but plan realistically. In case of long distance consider using web-based ways of keeping in touch, like Skype or Facebook.
Share what is 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 Ė for an example a sympathetic ear, helping solve a problem, a fresh perspective, new ideas or a god laugh. Donít hesitate to ask for the kind of help you like. Ask what other people think about your situation, and show them you value their opinion what you need Ė for example a sympathetic ear, help solving a problem, a fresh perspective, new ideas.
When you talk, also listen. Ask about someone elseís day, or follow up on the topic of a previous conversation. Showing sincere interest in another personís life builds relationships and listening to other peopleís concerns can often shed a new light on your own challenges. Offer help or advice if asked Ė listen and respond.
Make social plans. Create opportunities to strengthen your relationships with fun things that both of you and your friend or relative will enjoy. Looking forward to special activities boosts 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 Ė and supportĖin good times and bad. Even if you feel that you are so busy you donítí have time to keep up with family and friend you already have, it doesnít take time to make new friends. If youíre shy and hesitant about meeting new people, just a few questions can get a conversation going. Think about the neighbors you pass regularly, co-worker, people in your exercise class, a cousin youíve lost touch with, or those who you volunteer in the same organization you do. If you donít already have people you can talk with regularly about whatís on your mind, itís worth the effort to build connections for your emotional health.
An increasingly popular way of connecting with other is through social media. It should not replace face-to-face interactions; it can be a useful tool for keeping in touch with others.
If you find yourself anxious or timid about social interaction, you may want to consider talking to a therapist or counselor top build your confidence in social situations.
For more information visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net.