Stress is a fact of life, but too much can take a toll on both body and mind, causing symptoms such as increased blood pressure, heart conditions, as well as anxiety and depression. The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey released in 2018 listed the top four stress concerns of American adults to be: money, work, the economy, and health-related concerns.
What seems to make all the difference in staying mentally fit when dealing with stress is having a reliable support network in place. With hectic schedules and life demands, it can be hard to make meaningful connections. Follow these tips to strengthen your support circle and reap the emotional rewards of a solid network.
1. Widen your circle.
You don’t need a huge network of family and friends to reap the rewards of social support, but you may find it helpful to look to different relationships, depending on the support you need. It may be the other moms in your book club you can talk to about frustrations with your kids or a coworker who listens when you have challenges at the office. Just be sure to choose confidants you can count on versus those with whom you are in a strained relationship to increase your chances of a positive experience and alleviate stress.
2. Be the initiator.
It’s a huge effort to reach out to others when you’re feeling down, but don’t let that stop you. Make time for your family and your friends, and don’t always expect people to come to you first. Be the first to pick up the phone and let a family member know you are thinking about them. If someone needs help, offer it to them. When people know they can count on you, they’ll be more likely to return the favor. What’s more, a group of researchers in the UK found that men and women who volunteered reported less stress and symptoms of depression when compared to non-volunteers. You’ll never know if it works for you until you try.
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3. Pursue your interests.
If you’re new to an area, you may need to forge new friendships to add to your emotional network. Look to your passions! Do you like to dance, cycle, hike, or read best-sellers? You’re far more likely to form connections with people if you share similar interests. Join a bike club, take dance lessons, or find a local activity that will give you a chance to meet new people who like the things you like.
4. Use tech to stay in touch.
While sitting down for a face-to-face chat with a friend is ideal, it isn’t always an option. Technology makes it possible to keep in touch with loved ones and nurture existing relationships. Schedule a Skype or FaceTime chat or text your best friend who moved to another time zone. Don’t let this be the only way you connect, though. Many studies have been conducted linking too much social media time to depression, social isolation, and poor self-esteem.
5. Consider a support group.
If you’re going through a particularly challenging time in your life such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or managing a chronic illness, you may need to look outside of your current network for help. Find a local support group or group therapy session to meet others going through similar experiences. You may find more relief getting to talk with other people in the same boat as you are than you would from your usual inner circle.
Warning Signs of Stress
Your body sends you alerts when something isn’t right. Look out for these warning signs of stress to avoid a major meltdown.
• Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
• Upset stomach
• Dry mouth
• Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
• Difficulty falling or staying asleep
• Loss of appetite or overeating comfort foods
• Increased frequency of colds
• Lack of concentration or focus
• Memory problems or forget-fulness
• Short temper
Source: American Psychological Association
By Karen Morse