Saturday, 23 March 2013

Friends and Family: The Built-in Buffer

Today I will write about the power of friendship and the poison of isolation and how the balance between the two can make or break your mental health.
When someone is feeling down or out of sorts, they tend to develop an affinity for being alone. Unfortunately this is usually the opposite of what they should be trying to do!

It's almost as though they think it will get better if they just wait it out, stay in bed longer, sleep more, sleep-it-off, draw the blinds, and shut out the world... ignore reality.

But the world won't wait and it won't really ever go away. So you have to catch yourselves and pull yourselves out (in very serious situations medication may sometimes be needed but you must consult with your physician).

It can be really hard to find the motivation to do anything let alone get out of bed sometimes. And if you find yourself constantly stretched thin and weary, then perhaps you need to do some self-reflection. This is easiest when writing in your journal.

It helps you to connect with yourself, regain perspective, expose thoughts and desires or fears of recent (or past) events in your life that may be affecting you now... It's a great place to work through confusing life situations or help you with major decisions. (It's even really fun just to doodle sometimes).

Even though the most enticing thing could be to hole up in the basement and vegetate, maybe the better thing to do is pick up your phone and call your friends. Try to organize a small (or large!) social gathering. If you find that you have few or no friends, maybe it's time to join a club or a community center and expand on your interests. Staff at local recreation centers are usually pretty knowledgeable about what is happening in the community. You could even check your local newspapers, or see if the city website has anything going on.

It is hard to make friends, but when you have them, they are an important buffer for protecting your mental health. Family is also very important. All the positive social interactions you experience serve to help maintain a good state of mental health. Facebook has been taking place of real-life interactions and while in some cases this is a good stand-in (long-distance friend/relation-ships, while traveling, etc.), nothing really beats a face-to-face conversation.

 With that, I will leave you with a few small things to help you get motivated and start turning the downward spiral around:

- Try to make time for friends and family
- Join clubs/develop interests and skills
- Meet people (if you are shy, or have social anxiety, I will address these topics at a later date!)
- Write in your journals to self-reflect and re-connect with yourself; get grounded.

Conquer on!

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Other topics you may be interested in:
An engine for change... motivation for self-reflection and self-improvement 

Empowering yourself quickly: while coping with anxiety, job-searching or other life challenges.