Posts Tagged ‘social support’

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

    One way to better cope with stress is to rely on your social support network, aka friends and supportive community. But what if you don’t have an awesome support network to turn to? You can create one. While that is not as easy as clicking on a book on Amazon and downloading it to your Kindle,  and it will take time, it can be done!

Photo from TShirts by Victoria on https://www.etsy.com/

    1. First off, learn to support, encourage and validate yourself! And then practice self-care, support, encouragement and validation of yourself daily. People that are seeking emotionally healthy friends and peers tend to be drawn to others that have similar attitudes.Keep in mind validation is not affirmation nor cheer leading. (Affirmation and cheer leading can be helpful. However, if we do not also validate ourselves, we may not believe our affirmations and cheer leading and affirmations may actually end up making us feel more anxious if we don’t acknowledge our feelings and thoughts first.)

      Validation is the acceptance of yourself as you are, it involves self talk or recognition that what you are feeling or thinking makes sense and is understandable and logical given your experience in the world.For example, a self validation statement would be, “I am nervous about giving this speech. I haven’t given many speeches before and doing something new can be anxiety provoking.”

      An invalidating self statement might be: “I shouldn’t be nervous about giving this speech. What a loser that I can’t even give a speech without being nervous. Get it together!” Affirmation would be: “I am awesome. I can give  a great speech.” Cheer leading would be “I can do it. C’mon, self, you got this!”

2. Practice gratitude, writing gratitude lists, looking for what you have and appreciating it helps you feel better. Writing gratitude lists and practicing thinking in a grateful mindset helps train your mind to focus on what is positive and working in your life versus training your mind to look for what you do not have or focusing on fears.

Focusing on gratitude is not the same as requiring yourself to always be positive nor is it denial of pain, fear or things that are perceived as negative.

Gratitude allows us to notice that while there may be sadness or loss or fears, there are also things in your life to be grateful for. Thinking of these thinks, counting our blessings and remembering that even when we lose something we still have other things to appreciate helps keep us stable and feeling motivated. And this type of attitude will attract supportive people to you


3. Work with a psychotherapist/counselor to help you learn to be more validating and to connect with other people if you have trouble on your own. Psychotherapists are trained to be validating and encouraging. Telling you to be validating and encouraging of yourself sounds easy, but for many people it is not! It takes retraining, especially if what you learned from people growing up was to be self-critical, judgemental or shaming.

4. Be a joiner! If you have access to any support group, attend meetings and get to know other people in the group. For some people, this means attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, or Alanon meetings or joining a support group for people with loved ones with Alzheimer’s Disorder. It can also mean checking out Meetups.com for people with simple similar interests like hiking, or reading, speaking French or folk dancing. If you belong to a church or religious group, get involved. A great way to meet positive supportive people is to volunteer with a charity that interests you.

E.K  Bernshaw has these tips as well in his post How To Attract Emotionally Healthy People.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

The Big C (TV series)

The Big C (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I noticed that I had a new blog follower, The Editor, aka Marie Ennis O’Connor, who writes Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer. As I am a big fan of health-related blogs and the show  The Big C, I checked out her blog and found an amazing treasure-house of wisdom, compassion and support for cancer survivors, friend and families.

Her My Story page made me think of the wellness aspect of cancer and of all serious illnesses. Ms. O’Connor talks about how support is needed long after the cancer is gone. People often do not realize that long after we lose a loved one, the funeral is over or people have beat an illness or recovered from an injury or trauma, there can be lasting psychological effects. I recall a friend telling me years ago that she needed more support many months later after her father died, not just during the funeral. People did not want to talk to her about her father’s death, however. It made them uncomfortable and many did not understand her pain and grief many months afterwards. Luckily she had a few close friends that had lost parents to and she could share and find support with them.

Social support is an important part of stress management. Having people we can turn to when we are having a hard time is important to our well-being. The blogosphere is one way that survivors can share and find social support among people who have similar experiences. If you have had breast cancer or know someone who has, read her blog. it can inspire you and may comfort you. And maybe even give you a new social support network.

Check out these posts from Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer:

• A great post about the social hierarchy of suffering,Is there a hierarchy among cancer survivors?
• Go to this link for a collection of great blog posts about the Psychology of Cancer.

• Go to this link for a a great guest post about one woman’s story and the importance of early detection and being assertive with medical personnel.

And check out Showtime’s The Big C if you want to watch a somewhat humorous take on a woman going through her own fictionalized story of cancer.

Note: I do not get any advertizing dollars or any other compensation from Showtime for plugging the show, The Big C. If I did I could likely retire. I just like the show and I think watching it gives people insight into some of the issues cancer survivors struggle with.

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Happy Valentines Day
Image by blmurch via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapists, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
Valentine’s Day is a day when couples give each other cards, flowers and candies to show their love. It’s also a day that many of my singles bemoan their lack of a romantic partner.

Instead of making Valentine’s Day a day to sulk about and envy romantic couples, friends of mine and I decided to make it a day for giving to others. We bought a bunch of pink carnations and a friend and drove around the city, looking for lonely people to give flowers to. We gave some to an old woman on a park bench, to single moms with strollers, to a workman repairing the street, to a homeless man. Giving away the flowers made us feel good and hopefully brightened the day of some people that may not have had anyone else showering them with affection.

Valentine’s Day is a day that reminds us to share our affection for all the loves in our lives, including parents, children, friends and pets!  Why? Because there are health benefits to forming social bonds and sharing affection. According to Sherry Rauh of WebMD Health News in her article “10 Surprising Health Benefits of Love, some of the benefits include lower blood pressure, fewer colds, and better stress management. Read on for an excerpt of Sherry’s article:

Humans are wired for connection, and when we cultivate good relationships, the rewards are immense. But we’re not necessarily talking about spine-tingling romance.

“There’s no evidence that the intense, passionate stage of a new romance is beneficial to health,” says Harry Reis, PhD, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships. “People who fall in love say it feels wonderful and agonizing at the same time.” All those ups and downs can be a source of stress.

It takes a calmer, more stable form of love to yield clear health benefits. “There is very nice evidence that people who participate in satisfying, long-term relationships fare better on a whole variety of health measures,” Reis tells WebMD.

Most of the research in this area centers on marriage, but Reis believes many of the perks extend to other close relationships — for example, with a partner, parent, or friend. The key is to “feel connected to other people, feel respected and valued by other people, and feel a sense of belonging,” he says. Here are 10 research-backed ways that love and health are linked:

1. Fewer Doctor’s Visits

The Health and Human Services Department reviewed a bounty of studies on marriage and health. One of the report’s most striking findings is that married people have fewer doctor’s visits and shorter average hospital stays.

“Nobody quite knows why loving relationships are good for health,” Reis says. “The best logic for this is that human beings have been crafted by evolution to live in closely knit social groups. When that is not happening, the biological systems … get overwhelmed.”

2. Less Depression & Substance Abuse

According to the Health and Human Services report, getting married and staying married reduces depression in both men and women. This finding is not surprising, Reis says, because social isolation is clearly linked to higher rates of depression. What’s interesting is that marriage also contributes to a decline in heavy drinking and drug abuse, especially among young adults.

3. Lower Blood Pressure

A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure. That’s the conclusion of a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Researchers found happily married people had the best blood pressure, followed by singles. Unhappily married participants fared the worst.

“It’s marital quality and not the fact of marriage that makes a difference,” Reis tells WebMD. This supports the idea that other positive relationships can have similar benefits. In fact, singles with a strong social network also did well in the blood pressure study, though not as well as happily married people.

4. Less Anxiety

When it comes to anxiety, a loving, stable relationship is superior to new romance. Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook used functional MRI (fMRI) scans to look at the brains of people in love. They compared passionate new couples with strongly connected long-term couples. Both groups showed activation in a part of the brain associated with intense love.

5. Natural Pain Control

The fMRI study reveals another big perk for long-term couples — more activation in the part of the brain that keeps pain under control. A CDC report complements this finding. In a study of more than 127,000 adults, married people were less likely to complain of headaches and back pain.

6. Better Stress Management

If love helps people cope with pain, what about other types of stress? Aron says there is evidence of a link between social support and stress management. “If you’re facing a stressor and you’ve got the support of someone who loves you, you can cope better,” he tells WebMD.

7. Fewer Colds

We’ve seen that loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression — a fact that may give the immune system a boost. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses. The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, compared people who were happy and calm with those who appeared anxious, hostile, or depressed.

8. Faster Healing

The power of a positive relationship may make flesh wounds heal faster. Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center gave married couples blister wounds. The wounds healed nearly twice as fast in spouses who interacted warmly compared with those who demonstrated a lot of hostility toward each other. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

9. Longer Life

A growing body of research indicates that married people live longer. One of the largest studies examines the effect of marriage on mortality during an eight-year period in the 1990s. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, researchers found that people who had never been married were 58% more likely to die than married people.

Marriage protects against death by warding off feelings of isolation. “Loneliness is associated with all-cause mortality — dying for any reason,” Reis says. In other words, married people live longer because they feel loved and connected.

10. Happier Life

It may seem obvious that one of love’s greatest benefits is joy. But research is just beginning to reveal how strong this link can be. A study in the Journal of Family Psychology shows happiness depends more on the quality of family relationships than on the level of income. And so we have scientific evidence that, at least in some ways, the power of love trumps the power of money.

Nurture Your Relationships

To foster a loving relationship that yields concrete benefits, Aron offers four tips:

  • If you are depressed or anxious, get treatment.
  • Brush up on communication skills and learn to handle conflict.
  • Do things that are challenging and exciting with your loved one on a regular basis.
  • Celebrate each other’s successes.

To read the entire article at WebMD, click here.

For a bit of history of Valentine’s Day check out this site, History Made Everyday, here.

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