Adult-ing can be really hard. One thing that makes it easier is having a healthy social circle of people you can rely on in times of stress. As discussed in last week's post, socialization is one major player in the vast array of things effecting our overall mental health. However, I often hear from clients how difficult it is to expand their social circle and increase their supports. After college or high school we kind of run out of the large pool of prospective individuals that we can potentially make into long lasting friendships. After school, we move away, have difficult schedules that don’t seem to match up or just end up with very different life stages or interests. So where do we go from here? Here are some ideas for working on strengthening and expanding your social-circle:

1. Reach out to a Colleague at Work

Once school is over, work becomes the new place to meet people, who you are around often, and build new relationships that can turn into supportive and beneficial friendships. You can start by having lunch with your colleagues, discussing similar challenges or experiences you share at work and similar interests that brought you both to that field. Once you are work buddies you can move to inviting them out for dinner or a community trip (wine tasting, movie night, hiking or beach day). Like all things if you nurture the relationship it should grow and blossom. 

2. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great option for stay-at-home parents, who don’t have the option of meeting people at work. Or the busy-bodies who just love to fill their “free-time” with something to do. Often volunteers come to the same place again and again on the same days so you can see the same people and begin to develop rapport with them. Volunteering also just is a nice way to give back and often makes us feel good about ourselves for being a part of “something bigger” or for helping someone else in need. 

3. Coffee Time with a Friend

Coffee dates are a great way to reconnect with an old friend after work, on the weekend or anytime you have an hour or so free. They can also be a really inexpensive way to just get out of your house and feel connected to another human. If you don’t like coffee, lunch or tea is always a good option. 

4. Call a Loved One Regularly

Time easily can escape us. Setting up a set time to check in with mom, dad, an aunt or a sibling weekly or biweekly can help us to remember to connect with those we love. The consistency in communication will serve to strengthen your relationship and make you feel more comfortable discussing concerns with them should you need support in the future. 

5. Plan an Outing Once a Month

In Covid times I know this can be difficult. So maybe for now it’s a virtual game night if your not comfortable with groups just yet. Outdoors is also a great option, such as an organized hike. There are truly so many beautiful places on Long island to visit my favorites include: Elizabeth Morton Sanctuary, Nissequogue State Park, Montauk Point, Jones Beach (really any beach I’m happy) and Blydenburgh County Park. You can also visit the vineyard, go apple picking (or really any seasonal picking) or go to a drive-in movie. An added bonus is that planning an event gives you something to look forward to, which is always a great mood booster. 

6. Call or Email an Old Friend

Reconnecting with an old friend that you lost touch with can be a good mood booster and possibly open up an avenue to rekindling that friendship. Sometimes we just fall out of touch and a phone call or email can go a long way to bringing back the closeness you once had. 

7. Get a Work-Out Buddy

This helps you two-fold: 1) it is a designated time to spend with a friend, family member or partner which is sure to build your relationship and 2) it makes it more likely that you will exercise consistently which is proven to boost mood and help regulate stress. 

8. Schedule a Weekly Dinner Date

I tell all my adult how have partners, especially married with kids, to schedule in date night. It’s so essential to get that alone time. I do understand weekly may not be in everyone babysitting budget but even biweekly or once a month can go a long way to improving your relationship with your partner. If you are not dating or married a girls night or out night weekly with friends is always a great stress-reliever as well.

9. Join a Gym Class or a Club

Seems silly but if you commit to something weekly like a class or a club, you will see the same people there every week! Even better, they are likely to have similar interests. It’s a good practice of self-care and a good way to expand your social circle.

10. Ask a Friend Over for Dinner

Now this can be an old friend, a colleague you are getting closer with, you can do a double date night with your partners. Whatever works for you. For the parents out there, asking one of your child’s close friend’s parents over for dinner (and a play date) is a great way to again expand that social circle.

What to do When you are too Stressed to Even Begin?

So I know that making friend’s is not as easy as checking off some of those to-do items listed above for everyone. Some people may have social anxiety or low self-esteem or really nagging self-talk that can make them feel really stuck when starting this process. If that sounds like you, please reach out to our office. We would love to help you work through those stressors, anxieties and negative thoughts so you can start building the life you really want. 

Stay Shining,

Jamie Vollmoeller, LCSW

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Stress is an unavoidable, normal bodily reaction to the challenges of daily life. Stress is a sign that you are alive; that you are pushing yourself and have care and concern for the people and situations that surround you.

Stress becomes a problem when the amount and severity of stress exceeds your capacity to cope. Some signs that stress may be taking a negative toll on your body and mind include exhaustion, chest pain, headaches, muscle tension, excessive worry, panic attacks, hopelessness, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, sadness, or engaging excessively in unhealthy behaviors (i.e. drinking/drug use, shopping, overeating, sex, or gambling).

Stress in unavoidable. However, consistent practice of healthy coping skills can reduce the detrimental impact stress can have on your overall well-being. Here are five 5-minute stress busters; 5 simple things you can do in 5 minutes or less to reduce the negative impact of stress in your life.

1. Jump!

Engage in 4 sets of jumping jacks for 45 seconds on, and 15 seconds of rest. Intense cardiovascular exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) while increasing the feel-good endorphins (dopamine and serotonin). Exercise also forces you to be fully engrossed the present moment, giving your mind a welcome reprieve from your current worries.

2. Breathe.

The breathing method known as the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique has been scientifically proven to regulate cortisol, which controls your body’s fight or flight response. Find a comfortable position, and set a timer for five minutes. If you can, close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. By doing so, you are teaching your body to counteract the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system that occurs during stressful situations, which will help you to feel calmer and more at ease.

3. Write.

Writing is extremely therapeutic. Writing down the often big, scary, and chaotic thoughts that accompany stress can result in these thoughts becoming more tangible and less frightening than they were when they only existed in your head. Once you can see the problem more clearly, the solution doesn’t seem so daunting and out of reach. Try writing try a stream of consciousness style of writing, in which you write what is causing you stress for 4 minutes. Next, reread your writing and sort out what you can versus what you cannot control of the what you have written down. Recommit to doing your best towards what is within your control, and crumple up the paper to symbolize letting go of the worries that are out of your control.

4. Be Mindful.

Mindfulness is defined as engaging in a set of practices that anchor you to the present moment. Most stress results not only from the events themselves, but the negative projections into the future about how overbearing or overwhelming the stressor will be once we experience it. Being mindful to stay in the present moment can help you to slow down and clear away unnecessary, self-induced stress. Many of our worries never actually come to fruition. Take five minutes to pay attention to the sights, smells, sounds, touches, and tastes that surround. Repeat the positive affirmation “You are where your feet are” in an effort to remind you that you don’t have to be ten steps ahead of yourself; all you need to be is right here, and right now. 

5. Laugh!

Many of us are guilty of taking ourselves far too seriously. Luckily, we live an era where we have endless entertainment at our fingertips, so why not take advantage of it? Type in your internet search engine, “Funniest animal videos”, “funniest TV bloopers” or “funniest stand-up comedy clips,” and give yourself 5 minutes to watch and laugh. Laughing helps to relieve your body’s stress response, relieve tension by relaxing your muscles, enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart and lungs, and increases endorphin production. It’s no wonder that they say laughter is the best medicine. 

Stress can be crippling, but it doesn’t have to be.

Take preventative measures to manage your stress with these helpful techniques, and you will be able to cope effectively with whatever life throws your way. If you need help managing stress give our office a call, we'd love to help you start living a life you can enjoy!

– Alexandria (Alex) Fairchild, LMSW

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