News • 14 Jul 2020

Strong social connections, better mental health

The ability to stay connected during COVID-19 has been anything but easy. Our perseverance to retain strong connections with family, friends and colleagues has allowed us to push through. But how do we return to normal with the delayed easing of social restrictions?

A social network, whether in person, online or both, is vital for keeping healthy relationships and a strong sense of connectivity.

Having a close group of friends, a partner, a pet or a trusted member of the family to rely on, socially, is known to combat feelings of anxiety and depression.

Over these past few months, we’ve had to resort to entirely new methods of staying connected—video calls, online games, constant text messaging, etc.

Now with restrictions easing and public areas reopening, we navigate how to rebuild, reengage and reconnect with the community while retaining a strong mental outlook.

The link between connectedness and mental health

Staying connected is important for our mental health.

The feeling of staying connected to others ensures we have companionship and avoid feelings of loneliness.

As we get older or transition into different stages of live—such as leaving school, starting a new job, etc.—we meet new people that test our social and communication skills to develop friendships.

Forming social bonds helps improve emotional connectedness, which leads to more meaningful relationships.

Conclusively, strong social connections offer a range of mental health benefits including increased feelings of happiness, purpose and belonging as well as improving self-esteem and self-worth.

Combatting loneliness

Loneliness has become an increasing symptom of recent isolation protocols.

Feeling sad, distressed or disconnected from the world around you is normal during these times.

Signs that loneliness affects our mental health include abnormal sleep patterns, headaches, physical pains, depression, lack of energy, loss of appetite and more.

However, loneliness can be overcome by staying in contact with friends and loved ones—whether physically or digitally.

If you’re in a situation where you’re removed from relatives or friends, consider adopting a pet to provide companionship.

Getting involved in the community—such as local sports, skill building, studying or volunteering—are also great ways of combatting loneliness.

Coming out of social isolation

In the majority of Australia, the toughest part of COVID-19 is behind us.

Social isolation and quarantine regulations are, for the most part, a thing of the past and we can start socialising normally again.

While video calling and online gaming sessions will remain a staple of social interaction for years to come, there’s still nothing better than catching up with friends over a long lunch or a drink at the bar.

For most, coming out of isolation will be a breeze and reform back into society as if nothing changed.

For others, the act of leaving your safe and comfortable space after several months and reengaging with the community can be daunting.

Releasing yourself from the ‘quarantine state of mind’ and returning to normality won’t be easy for everyone.

If you’re having anxious thoughts about life after isolation, allowing yourself enough time and energy to acclimate back into society might be the trick.

Start with catching up with one or two close friends at a location that you’re very familiar and comfortable with.

While you may be feeling uneasy about socially contributing back to society, what’s more important is that you’re looking out for your own social needs and fulfilling them in a way that’s typical for you.

Reengaging the community

Social connections not only improve your personal mental health and wellbeing, the benefits also extend to the broader society.

As groups of people spend time together, they forge happy, productive communities that give back to society.

So, as restaurants, cafes, clubs and bars are reopening—with additional social distancing regulations—it’s important for these local businesses that you try and support them.

Gather a group of friends and feel good about giving back to a community of hard workers who’ve been devasted by this pandemic.

If we come together as a connected community and reignite the damaged community spirit, it will bring us a society together and form even stronger bonds with one another.

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