January 1st - Crista Maracic
In general, we humans are social animals. We naturally seek out bonds with other humans – for support, assistance, company and fun. People are wired for the company of other people.
While those who have recently experienced an episode of psychosis or another serious mental health issue might want to take a break from socializing for a bit, it’s important not to let that break last too long. Research shows the importance of maintaining healthy social connections for ALL people, and how positive social interaction can improve our mental and physical well-being.
So how can you maintain or build social connections after having an experience with a major mental health issue?
- Talk. It’s important that you talk openly and honestly with the people already in your life. You may want to share your specific diagnosis—or not. That depends on your personal levels of comfort and trust. But even if you don’t want to get into specifics, it’s important to acknowledge to others that you’ve been having a difficult time lately and needed to take a step back from things while you’ve been managing it. And, if there are people in your life who have been particularly supportive or “there” for you while you’ve been dealing with your mental health issues, say so. Acknowledge them. Thank them. Let them know you’ve appreciated their support and it’s meant something to you.
- Get out. As tempting as it may be to stay home, especially in bad weather, getting out into the world is an important part of getting better. You don’t have to run a marathon or hike a mountain (unless you want to!), but it’s important to get out of the house. Go for walks, feed the pigeons, check in on an elderly neighbor or chat with the guy at your corner store. You’re not going to meet anyone or brush up on your conversation skills on your couch.
- Try new things. Once you’re up and out, do something that actually interests you. Have you always been interested in art but never explored it? Look up local art classes you might take. Want to do some exercise but you hate the gym? Look into rock climbing, yoga, Muay Thai, boxing, Pilates or running clubs. Whatever you’re into, look for venues that encourage meeting and interacting with new people.
- Make it a priority. Maintaining social connections is as important to the recovery process as medication and therapy, so you need to treat it that way. If your social circle isn’t what it used to be, devote some time and effort into building a new one. Set aside time every week for meeting new people and socializing with others. Look into options like MeetUp.com, NYCSocial.com, NYCService.org and ZogSports.com, all of which offer a wide variety of local events that bring people together for shared interests. Join a team, volunteer, learn a skill – whatever you do, just make sure you do it with other people!
It’s not easy getting back out there again, but it is important. For more ideas and options, talk to your treatment team about what might be right for you.