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One of the best things you can do to improve your mental health is to spend time with those you love and who care about you.
When you are around people, especially positive ones, it’s almost impossible to sustain a state of anxiety. This is because human nature is to emulate the people around you. It is a basic instinct to help you ‘fit in,’ therefore if you are in the company of someone who is relaxed, calm and in a positive state of mind, you will find yourself mirroring their behaviour.
In this post, I’d like to discuss the importance of strengthening your social circle, how to find a way to spend time with those you love and how we must learn to unplug from social media to benefit our mental well being.
Why should you strengthen your social circle?
When I talk about strengthening our social circle, I don’t mean gaining more friends. It’s not about how many friends you have, it’s more about having the right friends at the right time. At the height of my anxiety, I had five constant people in my life. My best friend, my cousin, my mum, my husband and my son.
My husband struggled with my mental health issues, having never dealt with these kinds of things before, he tended to run away from the situation. But he never wavered in his support of me. It was a comfort, during times when I was convinced that I was a complete failure and unworthy of love, that he refused to give up on me.
My mum, having suffered from depression herself for years, was able to give me support from an experience point of view, but also providing a mothers love and comfort during a time when I felt completely lost.
My cousin had a complete break down several years ago and started to spend more time with me as she spotted the telltale signs in me. She was able to help me see that my anxiety was doing most of the talking. She helped me to see a different point of view and gave me pointers on how to help myself.
My best friend made me get out of the house and walk in nature. Not only is exercise and fresh air great for anxiety, but it also gives us the chance to get thoughts out that we may feel too stifled to voice inside the four walls of our homes.
My son, who I didn’t want to burden with my problems, was very perceptive. He spotted that things weren’t right. He is a very philosophical person and had some great ways of changing my perspective on things.
All these people contributed to my recovery. Not only through just being there for me, but spending time with me, talking to me, making me laugh and teaching me that I’m not a failure and that I am worthy of love. I could wake up in the morning feeling like the world was at an end, but after spending an hour or two with one of these people I would start to feel a little more normal again.
Find a way to spend time with those you love
Many people with anxiety give themselves a never-ending to-do list. It becomes a race against the clock to get everything done, and then they are left exhausted. Social activities fall by the wayside and they spend more time alone.
I used to be a sociable person. Never an extrovert, but outgoing enough for people to invite me everything. But I was often burning the candle at both ends. Managing a busy retail store is hard work on its own, but then I came home to household chores too; I was also trying to start my own business at this point so I often ended up working on that until late in the evening.
Weekends often consisted of binge-drinking sessions with friends, waking up with a massive hangover and starting all over again.
It wasn’t long before I couldn’t sustain this type of behaviour. The anxiety and exhaustion crept in, my IBS became a horrible constant, and I started to turn down the invitations.
Eventually, the invites stopped, which was fine by me (it wasn’t, I felt abandoned, but that’s what I told myself); and I became more introverted than ever. I stopped visiting friends and family and preferred to spend time at home where I knew I was safe to feel like crap.
It’s been a long road, but I have now learned the importance of prioritising my tasks. Instead of worrying that the house is spotless, I know I can find a couple of hours on a Sunday morning to do a bit of cleaning; so I can afford to spend my day off seeing someone that I care about.
One day a week, my best friend and I go to a dance fitness class. The exercise feels great, it’s fun and I get to spend time with her even if we don’t find the time for a cuppa and a catch-up. I make a point of visiting family once a month to catch up. I try to say yes to invites when I can.
My mental health is improving with the time that I spend with these people. They are my people and I know that I am welcome, loved and can be myself with them.
Unplug from social media for your mental health
Social media can be a useful tool for many things. It helps us to keep in contact with people who live far away, we can keep up to date on the latest trends, and find out what’s going on in the world.
However, spending all your time on the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can also have a negative effect. When you see your friends looking perfect, having a great time, and seemingly getting it all ‘right,’ it can lead to feelings of jealousy and failure.
The thing with social media, is people don’t often tend to put the things that are going wrong on there – unless they want attention. So it’s important to remember that the snapshot you see is just that…a moment in time and not the whole story.
Having your eyes glued to a screen is not as good for you as actually interacting with people either. We are social creatures and need contact with actual people to stay mentally well.
So at the very least, make time every day to put the screen away and talk to actual people. But even better, try to make your social media time about arranging to spend time with those you love; instead of using it to talk to them.
- Meeting up with people is vital for your mental health
- Leaning on those that love you and support you is OK when you are struggling
- Make time to see people, even if that means leaving the housework for one day
- Use social media for arranging to meet up with people instead of using it as the tool of your interaction
Do you struggle to keep up with social activities? Do you find your life richer because of the relationships you have? Let us know in the comments.