Your classmate gets you. Your team-mate gives you a chest-bump. You get a hug from your best friend. They may not realize, but each of them are all helping you reduce stress levels and boost well-being. Research shows that when we’re stressed, we look for support from our friends and family first. Makes sense, right?
We’re social creatures! No surprise, but we feel better when we are valued and supported by our social groups. We get:
- Increased happiness. Good relationships are proven to be a key factor in making us very happy people.
- Better health. Loneliness was associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure in a recent study of older people.
- Longer lives. A nine-year study showed that people with strong social and community ties were two to three times less likely to die.
How we connect makes a difference.
reaching out, gives you:
- concrete help, like when you can’t remember the homework assignment, and your friend reminds you and gives you a tip or two.
- emotional support, like someone noticing and saying, “It looks like you’re having a bad day. Wanna talk?”
- perspective, like being reminded that the kid who just made that mean remark is having a really tough time at home.
- advice, such as, “That teacher likes kids who talk in class. Try speaking up so she knows you’re listening.”
- validation, such as, “The first block test was super hard. Everybody struggled on that one.”
asking for help, gives you:
- comfort, find someone you feel comfortable to be with.
- trust, you need a sense you could tell them anything.
- support, someone who can help you solve problems without criticism.
- respect, a good person who you respect and makes you feel valued.
- understood, someone who listens and takes your concerns seriously.
If you find you actually can’t count on someone you thought, make new friends
- Join. Take a new class or join a group. You’ll meet new people and might learn a new skill too.
- Participate. If you want to make your entry smoother, consider contacting the group’s leader in advance.
- Volunteer. Working together builds bonds, and helping others has its own rewards.
- Reach out. If you’re in a new situation, like starting a new school, you may need to meet lots of people before finding some that suits you.
- Smile. It may sound trite, but smiling is proven to make you happier and opens others up. It really works!
- If extreme shyness or anxiety prevents you from making friends, working with a therapist might help.
If you want to get more out of the relationships you have, consider these steps:
- Make a list of the people you like, and contact them regularly.
- Spend regular time together each day or week—without distractions. Ignore the texts!
- Listen really well. Repeat what you heard to make sure you understood and ask questions.
- Ask for specific help. Even the best of friends can’t read your mind.
- Show appreciation. When you say thanks, say what for. You may think positive thoughts, but sharing them works wonders.
- Move on and out of relationships that make you feel unsafe, lower your self-esteem or draw you into unhealthy habits, like abusing drugs.
If you’re in a troubled relationship, work on it or get out.
- Take responsibility for your part in the problem.
- Stay constructive and propose specific solutions with words like “How ’bout…”
- Consider how you might feel if you were the other person.
- Try to focus on what you like and value about the other person.
- If disagreements get intense, remember to fight fair.
- Don’t make general or exaggerated comments. Avoid words “always” and “never.”
- Don’t accuse. Instead of blaming the other person, focus on how you feel with an “I” statement such as, “I feel ignored when you are texting instead of talking to me.”
- Forgive when you can. Forgiving doesn’t mean you accepting bad behavior. You can ask for an apology. Letting go can be a release for both of you.
It feels good when you know that others may be experiencing similar challenges as you are. Join a support group to:
- Receive concrete suggestions and information that might help.
- Connect with people who might understand how you are feeling.
- Reassure you that you’re not alone.
- Inspire you by seeing others coping with tough times in constructive ways.
While attending a regular group in person will likely be the most helpful, if there’s no group in your area, consider online support or discussion groups. You can learn about support groups from school, guidance counselor, a health care provider, local hospital or community center.
You are not alone.