By Jennifer Eckersley, Canadian Forces Health Services Group –
February is often a challenging month. Winter seems like it is never going to end. Ever. We spend more time indoors which often results in feeling socially isolated from family and friends, which in turn contributes to more of the February blahs.
What is social support?
We are hard-wired for social support and without it our mental health is at risk. We receive support from family, friends, and co-workers who provide us with physical and emotional comfort. The people that are part of our social support network include people we trust, can go to for help, who can provide comfort, and emotional support when we are slipping down the mental health continuum.
Why is social support important?
Social support provides many benefits to our mental health. Social support can protect us from the harmful effects of too much stress and is an essential part of mental fitness. It can provide us with a sense of belonging, increase self-confidence, and when facing difficult situations, support from others helps reduce the symptoms of stress and prevent stress-related illness, including depression.
How healthy is your social support network?
Over time, our social support networks can become stale and need to be refreshed. Parenthood, divorce, moving, change in health, can all have an impact of your support network. If your support network is down to one or two people, perhaps it is time to enlarge your circle. Your health depends on it.
Consider these suggestions to expand and strengthen your supportive network:
- Get involved in a group physical activity. You will meet new people and improve your mental and physical fitness.
- Volunteer your time in your community. Joining a cause, helping others and spending your time doing something positive, is in itself a stress reliever.
- Get in touch with friends from the past. Not all social support needs to be face-to-face. Staying connected via social media is a great way to reach out, although be aware of spending too much time on the internet. There is no replacing human contact in real time and space.
- Be part of someone’s social support. One of the best ways to receive support from others is to offer it yourself. Be aware of the people in your life who may themselves be feeling isolated and disconnected. Pick up the phone, or send a quick email and offer to meet them at the local coffee shop.
Brighten up the month of February by giving and receiving social support.
Interested in learning more about stress management and/or mental fitness? Consider attending Stress: Take Charge or Mental Fitness and Suicide Awareness.
Contact your local Strengthening the Forces, Health Promotion office at 613-996-4315 or www.PSPOttawa.ca/HealthPromotion
This post is also available in: Français (French)