We are social animals; therefore it is not possible for us to live a happy and healthy existence in isolation. We need social support. Often you hear people say, “I don’t need anyone, I’m better off alone.” Isolation is an unhealthy coping skill that does not work for our species and only succeeds in feeding depression.
That doesn’t make it any easier because making friends and influencing people in positive ways can be difficult. If you are not already good at it, and not everyone is, then it is going to take some time and energy to change. Change is possible, and even the most socially awkward and isolated person can learn skills to make friends. Feeling loved from friends and relatives elicits the relaxation response and has stress reducing benefits.
Even those that consider themselves extroverts and find it easy to meet new people and make friendships, sometimes find themselves in ‘toxic relationships’ that can drain you of energy and add to stress levels.
Toxic friends are consistently negative, lack respect, are our worst critic, are always the victim and seem to have a daily tragedy. Often times when we are in toxic friendships it’s easy to identify it but hard to know how to deal with it. Quantity of friends is not better than quality of friends. Trusting relationships are the key to successful support systems.
It may surprise you that it’s not always the people that are closest to you, like parents, partners or best friends that are going to be the most honest and objective with you. They may be too worried about your feelings and opinions to talk with you straight and be objective. Their own emotions often get caught up in the process of working through your issues. It is sometimes helpful to consult with an objective third person.
Finding that other person can take time and effort.
Spending some time before a crisis hits can help enormously. A therapist can be a helpful resource because they are trained to be objective and they don’t load us up with their problems; you can get right to the point and deal with your issue.
Another alternative is a peer or acquaintance that you do not know as well, but is honest and friendly. Relatives, such as aunts, uncles and cousins, who do not live in your home may act as a sounding board and be helpful as well. What you are primarily looking for is someone to provide a psychologically safe environment to express yourself, and to sit with you and your feelings without judging you for being mixed-up, confused, or even awkward. Support groups can help in providing social support because they provide the space and resources for all of the above.
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