Well done! Half way through!
At the end of this week’s article, I’ll be asking you to log back into a survey and tell me what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. I’d love it if you did so that I (and you) can see where this program is making a difference.
Let’s get to this week’s topic: Support.
You will benefit from concentrating in this area if you rated the statements like this in the survey with Strongly Disagree, Disagree or Neutral.
I have people I can call on when I need to
I often do things for other people with no expectation of return
I rarely feel lonely
I like to help other people
You will notice that support goes both ways- we need to be able to ask for (and accept) support and provide support. I believe that support is so important that it is one of the pillars of my RISE model (Resolve, Identity, Support, Everyday).
Whether we like it or not, we are geared to be social creatures. Even when we go to work, we are participating in a social, rather than just an economic, relationship. Despite our Western ideals of being independent, we rely on each other in crucial ways to add the colour to our lives.
People who are managing stressors quite well or have even survived quite severe adversity, often have one thing in common- they have someone or a group of people that they can turn to in a time of need. Even if they don’t discuss what is happening for them, having other people around helps to reduce stressor responses. At best, it can distract us from our troubles, give us an outlet for discussing what’s going on or engage us in a well-needed belly laugh during a difficult time.
I’ve had people approach me after workshops and talk about loneliness as their most enduring issue, which I find really sad. There are, however, so many more opportunities that are available to us now to increase our social networks. This does come with a caveat, however. We need to be really aware just how contagious moods are: we very easily ‘catch’ the moods of others, whether that be through face to face contact or through social media such as Facebook.
NewScientist magazine ran a really interesting story on this in 2009 (January edition) and there’s been research since. Here are their tips on managing your social network:
• Choose your friends carefully
• Choose which of your existing friends you spend the most time with
• Join a club whose members you want to emulate (eg cooking, running) and socialise with them
• If you are with people whose emotional state or behaviours you could do without, try to avoid the natural inclination to mimic their facial expressions and postures
• Be aware at all times of your susceptibility to social influence- and remember that being a social animal is mostly a good thing
I like the very practical aspect of this: spend more time with people who are doing the things you want to see in your own life, spend less time with people who don’t. I’ve certainly taken this on board in my life and noted the changes. (By the way, if you are a user of Facebook, learn how to block the feeds of people you don’t want to see).
One of my favourite findings, and one that I hinted at last week, is that doing things for other people builds our resilience. Hooray! So instead of getting stuck in your own head, try getting out there and doing something for someone else. This can be the much lauded Random Act of Kindness, but can also be a not-so-random act of kindness. It can be small (a genuine “how are you?”), or larger (an ongoing commitment to a charity). If you don’t believe me, just try it.
Exercise: Increase your network: If you find yourself lonely, you need to seek out people who have similar hobbies to you. This can be done online or through evening classes. If you are shy, just try talking to one person. When you find that doing so did not cause you to implode or collapse, you will probably feel more likely to talk to them again or someone else.
Exercise: Improve your network: Look at your network of friends and acquaintances. Who adds value to your life? Who makes you feel drained and emotionally wrung out? Start to increase the time you spend with the uplifting influence and less time (or less emotional energy) on those that don’t.*
Exercise: Do something for someone else. Go on. Give it a go. Do as many things as you can in the week and revel in the feeling of boosted self esteem and happiness.
*”How?” I hear you cry… If you are trying to spend less time with this person, just become increasingly unavailable. If this is not an option, you’ll need to learn to set, and stick to, boundaries. A very simple one to protect yourself is to observe the behaviour without engaging in the emotions. I can recommend Emotional Vampires and Emotional Vampires at work by Albert Bernstein in learning to manage difficult people.
STOP PRESS: I'd love it if you could check-in, do this brief survey and let me know how you're going:
Take care and stay steadfast…
Ingrid and the team.