One of the most significant contributors to positive mental health is having a strong support system and meaningful emotional connections with others. With that said, lacking social connections and feeling alone in the middle of mental health challenges can be detrimental. During this time of social distancing and increased isolation, it can be challenging to feel connected to those around us.
In this article, we will discuss why prioritizing social support is so important to our mental well-being, as well as strategies for expanding and nurturing our support network.
What is Social Support and Why is it So Important?
Having social support refers to being able to reach out for comfort or help from others during times of need. There are various forms of social support, from listening and offering advice to providing physical help with a specific task. Our support network may include friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, people in a shared worship community, etc.
Numerous studies have found a significant connection between social support and enhanced mental health. Having a strong support system can help an individual better cope with stress and help to mitigate the impact of emotional distress. Social support can also play a role in reducing physical health problems that occur as a result of prolonged stress.
Many individuals have experienced ongoing stress and varying degrees of anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information about anxiety and to take an anxiety screening test, visit Mind Diagnostics.
In these challenging times, it is even more imperative to prioritize social connection. Let’s look at some strategies for staying connected with the people in your life, as well as expanding your support network.
5 Tips for Maintaining and Building Connection During COVID-19
Lean into the support you already have by asking for what you need
Make a list of the people in your life and assess the ways in which you could ask for support from those in your circle. Maybe it’s identifying someone to join you for weekly walks due to feeling isolated during these times, or maybe it’s finding someone to help you move houses.
Most of the time, people are willing to help; however, they are not mind-readers. Don’t be afraid to directly communicate what you need and trust that those who care about you will respond positively.
Be intentional about remaining in touch
To maintain supportive relationships, it is important to remain in consistent communication with those in your life. Whether it’s meeting in person (in a way that’s COVID-safe) or a virtual call, carve out a regular time for connecting with friends. During this time, let others into the challenges you are facing, but also make sure you are available and actively listen as they share with you as well. For a relationship to be healthy, it is imperative to have reciprocity, balance, and a sense of give and take.
Engage in activities you are interested in to meet new people
While it is more challenging as of recently, there are still opportunities to meet new people during the pandemic. Look into opportunities to connect virtually with those who share your interests, perhaps through an online book club or discussion group.
Brainstorm community activities that you might try once you feel safe or comfortable doing so, such as going to the gym for fitness classes or volunteer work. Engaging in the community provides avenues to cultivate friendships with others who share similar interests and values.
Building close, supportive relationships takes time. Trust and intimacy are not formed overnight. Be patient in the process of getting to know new people and expanding your support network. It is also important to make sure that you’re honoring other’s boundaries along the way.
Recognize when you might need more structured mental health support
If you are continuing to experience mental health challenges that are impacting your daily functioning, consider reaching out for professional help. Incorporating mental health professionals into your support network is beneficial, as they can help you to address your mental health symptoms and develop healthy coping skills.
Social connection plays an extremely important role in maintaining positive mental health. During these stressful times, think about how you might nurture your relationships as well as build new connections. You may find that social support has a direct impact on your ability to manage stress and keep moving forward with a positive outlook.