By ‘connect’ we mean maintaining our relationships with others. As human beings, we are hardwired to be social beings, which means that our relationships with others are extremely important. As a carer, it can be challenging to maintain your relationships with others and research suggests that it is common for carers to feel isolated and alone.
Maintaining connections with loved ones, friends, work colleagues and even our pets is essential for our emotional and physical health. ‘Connecting’ doesn’t always have to be particularly deep and meaningful – it can be as simple as saying hi to someone as you walk past them, or stopping for a quick chat to someone in a café or shop.
And – while connecting doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful – it is also important that we talk to our friends and family when we are having a challenging time. As a carer it is normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed from time to time – the challenge is that for most of us, this is when we withdraw and pull back from our social relationships. It is essential for our emotional and physical wellbeing that we remain connected to our social relationships – especially during difficult times, as challenging as it can seem.
Ideas on how to connect:
Let your friends and family know when you are having a challenging time. There may be nothing that they can do to help, but remaining connected to them will go some way to reducing the sense of isolation, which makes stressful situations even more challenging.
Do something every day to stay connected with the people around you. Set time aside to phone your friends and family members and make sure you catch up regularly.
Smile! Smile at the strangers you pass or interact with during the day and you will increase your chances of a reciprocal smile which gives a good feeling of connectedness.
Take random video messages, or Snap Chats and send them to your friends and loved ones and ask them to do the same.
Connect with your workmates. Get to know people at work and share in the challenging times as well as the good times.
Go out of your way to meet new people. It might be as simple as saying hello to someone in the gym or joining a new sports team.
Join a group or club that revolves around something you enjoy and take the opportunity to connect with new people who have a common interest.
Alternate your usual exercise regime for exercise that can be done with or around others; perhaps you could go for a walk with a friend, or you could participate in an exercise class that allows you to at least be around other people.
Say hello and introduce yourself to your neighbours. Knowing the face that lives next door can be reassuring as well as a potential opportunity to give and receive help. Make a point of saying good morning to everybody when you arrive at work, rather than slinking in and out silently every day.
Don’t be scared to ask for help from those around you. Often our friends would love the opportunity to help, particularly when they can see that you are struggling.
Continued learning increases our sense of connection and engagement in life. To remain connected in this area consider:
Studying – this could be studying something that could help you in your career, or studying something completely different for the fun of it;
– Putting your hand up for new responsibilities at work;
– Learning an instrument or taking up cooking classes (while at home);
– Learning a new sport;
– Learning a language.
Questionnaire – CONNECT
The questionnaire is designed to be a quick self-assessments in relation to connection. It is not designed to be diagnostic but will give you a simple indication of your strengths and opportunities for change.
(1 always or almost always, 10 never or almost never)
|I enjoy a laugh or light-hearted conversation with someone every day?|
|I enjoy spending time with my friends or work colleagues?|
|I feel cared for by my family and/ or friends?|
|I regularly catch up with my family and friends?|
|I find it easy to communicate with the people around me?|
|I am confident that I am able to resolve disagreements with others?|
|I trust that my family or friends are there for me when I need them?|
|I enjoy what I do and rarely feel that it’s the ‘same old/ same old?’|
|I regularly reach out to my family/ family and check-in to see if they are ok?|
|I enjoy learning about new activities?|
|I have a plan for my future and a ‘map’ of how I am going to get there?|
If you scored:
11-36 Awesome!! You are doing really well in terms of your relationships with others and feeling connected to life. Look for any high scores to specific items for an opportunity to improve, otherwise, keep up connections with others and look to the other 5 A Day pillars for opportunities to improve your wellbeing.
37-60 Well done!! You are doing lots of things well in terms of your connections AND there are some opportunities here to improve. Remember that feeling connected is absolutely critical for our emotional wellbeing, particularly during the tough times. Review the ConnectingmTips and identify simple steps you can take to strengthen this pillar.
61 + It’s time to reach out to others! Review your responses and consider how long you have been feeling this way. Are you feeling disconnected from your work, which means you have started to withdraw from others and lose interest in learning new things? If so, look for opportunities to reframe your ole, change roles, or get engaged in other meaningful activities. Are you withdrawing from those around you in general and starting to feel quite isolated? If so, look for opportunities to create more connections. It can be easy when you are a carer to think that you don’t have time but remember that connecting with others doesn’t need to take long AND is extremely important. Our relationships with others give us the support and care that all of us need. Review the Connecting Tips and identify simple steps you can take to strengthen this pillar.