During your service the military may have provided most (or all) of your friendships and social connections. Many of those bonds can become very strong. When you are not doing too well it is easy to drift away from, avoid or fall out with, people who could be supportive and helpful. Being isolated for too long is not good for you. If you're feeling cut off from other people, this topic will help you restore your connections with family and friends, or make new connections that you will come to value over time.
How do social connections with other people help?
Did you know that social support is a great antidote to stress.
The support of family and friends can help you to:
- Feel understood and cared for.
- Feel like you fit in somewhere and belong.
- Feel needed and wanted.
- Feel like you are NOT alone or isolated from people you need and who need you.
- Build up your confidence that you can handle the challenges you are facing.
- Pool ideas when you are facing a difficult situation.
Applying a 4-step process to building support
Having healthy social connections with family, friends, and others helps us to get through all of the ups and downs of life. Unfortunately, in times of difficulty when we most need support, we often neglect the importance of these connections. You can take simple steps to rebuild your social connections.
You will start by drawing-up and then reviewing your Social Connections Map to help identify who you are currently connected to and who else you would like to be connected to. You will then develop a plan with specific details for making new, or renewing old, connections.
Develop your Social Connections Map:
Who is currently in your support network? These will be people you can easily contact, even if they do not live close by. You may be able to access loved ones and friends through telephone, email, Internet networks, and instant messaging.
Write your name in the centre of the circle, and then write in the names of people, professionals, or organisations that are part of your network. Add more lines as needed. Remember you can choose people who live close to you now or whom you can contact by phone or online.
Review your Social Connections Map:
Decide upon the type of support you want. Think about what you need most right now from the people around you. Ask yourself some of these questions to help pinpoint what type of support you should ask for. Do I want someone who can:
- Give me advice?
- Give me something that will be helpful?
- Give me affection?
- Reassure me?
- Help me do something?
- Just listen and try to understand?
- Encourage me?
- Help me feel valued and appreciated?
Decide which person(s) could help provide the type of support you want right now.
Develop a Social Connections Plan:
Rate how satisfied you are at the moment with your social connections, and then decide what the most important social connections are for you during the next two weeks. Enter details of:
- Those you want to meet with.
- How or where you will meet them.
- When you will meet them.
If you are not much more satisfied with your social connections than when you started this topic, you can choose to recycle through the steps.
Did you know that Volunteering gives a strong sense of positive contribution and is a good way of meeting people.
If you've started to broaden your social connections, well done! You've taken an important step in adjusting to civilian life. By restructuring your life to include a number of regular social connections, your general wellbeing will be greatly enhanced. If you have made little progress in expanding your social connections, and you do not feel hopeful of doing so, please consider seeking further support.
How can I get further help?
Talk to your local medical doctor or other mental health professional. They can help you to decide what assistance you need and arrange appropriate care.