“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” –John Donne
As a psychologist, I know the importance of being connected to others. It is lonely and isolating to be entirely by oneself. Humans have a natural desire to attach and connect to others. We are not capable of providing or satisfying all our needs alone. We are just “a piece of the continent” and therefore need to join others.
Many are blessed to have close family and friends to turn to for social support and encouragement. However, I commonly see in my practice that many don’t have large families or friends in times of need. This could happen for a multitude of reasons, including dealing with anxiety in social situations, having a hard time relating to others, or simply relocating to a new city.
The good news is that there are ways to build a support system and create a network to help improve both emotional and physical health. I encourage the following methods to help build your squad.
Who can be a part of your support squad?
· Your therapist and doctors
· A mentor or coach in an area that is of interest to you
· Someone in your religious community: volunteers, members of the community, congregants
· A gym buddy or personal trainer
· Classmates or coworkers
· Online gaming friends
· Your hair or nail stylist
How can you find and connect to others?
· Increase exposure by going out and speaking with others
· Say yes to invitations that are given
· Use technology and social media to connect
· Volunteer at nonprofit organizations, schools, churches, etc.
· Join a book or movie club
· Participate and get active in a sports team
· Link with a professional organization or networking group
· Take a local class that is of interest to you
What having a social support squad offers:
· Helps you acquire knowledge and information that can develop both professional and personal growth
· Provides advice and guidance when you’re feeling stuck
· Keeps you on track and accountable for your life goals
· Listens and offers physical comfort (hugs, cuddles)
· Provides encouragement, strength, and support
· Offers a form of distraction to divert you from negative and catastrophic thoughts and feelings
Benefits of building a social network:
· Improves mental health by lessening feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress
· Increases resilience and trust
· Creates higher self-esteem and confidence
· Increases your ability to manage conflicts and navigate daily tasks
· Enhances personal, academic, and professional growth
· Boosts your ability to make decisions and assess situations more clearly
· Allows for greater and faster adjustment to new circumstances and coping with stress
· Increases motivation by allowing encouragement, support, and accountability
Whether we naturally have a solid support system in place or we have to build our own squad, there are ways to decrease feelings of isolation by broadening our network and receiving the positive benefits and health outcomes of being part of a community.
Jennifer Galvan, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Woodland Hills, California. Dr. Galvan has several years of training and experience in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and has been part of many podcasts and seminars around the diverse topics. For more information, visit Dr. Galvan’s website at www.galvanpsychology.com or follow @dr.jennifergalvan on Instagram.
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