Relationships and connections are important for wellbeing and stress management. We need people around us, physically or virtually, to have a laugh with, celebrate our successes and support us to bounce back when things get tough.
Sometimes it can be hard to find the time or energy to put into relationships, especially when we are facing challenges or feel isolated, but the benefits are worth it.
Know that what may work for one person may not work for another, so give them a go and see what works for you.
Fact: We need to put effort into existing relationships to keep them strong.
Action: Think about how you could improve your relationships with people you value. Spend time with people; talking and really listening to what they have to say.
Asking the people you see how they’re going and really listening to the answer before jumping on to the next thing. Let them know you’re interested in what they have to say.
Scheduling a regular time to spend with someone in your life – make Thursday night family games night, book in the last Saturday of the month to watch sport with a neighbour or play a round of golf with friends.
Making a point of texting, calling or visiting people you care about every couple of weeks just to check in and see how they’re going.
Putting together a group chat page (eg. Facebook, WhatsApp or Snapchat) with a group of family, friends or workmates.
Calling an old friend to reminisce and chat about the things you used to have in common, like school, sports or mutual friends.
Offering support when you think someone you know might need it. They may say no, but they will know you’ll be there if they need you.
Accepting the advice or help that those in your life have to offer.
Fact: Different relationships provide us with a range of opportunities to feel connected and supported.
Action: Try putting yourself out there to meet new people.
Asking your workmates to go grab lunch together or go to a trivia night
Striking up a conversation with someone you see often but don’t necessarily speak to – ask the barista if they’ve had a busy morning or ask the neighbour across the road to come over for a cuppa.
Finding a local group, club or team to join. Start by looking at the local newspaper or on the community notice boards at the local shops. There are many different groups, clubs and teams out there: think chess, car, book, music, walking, golf, orienteering, bush walking, footy, Rotary or Lions Clubs and Men’s Shed.
Fact: Meaningful relationships don’t just make us feel good, but they are a fundamental need.
Action: While isolation can make it challenging, it’s important to make a conscious decision to connect with others.
Think about things you can do to help other people or let them know you’re thinking about them. Could you make an extra serve of dinner and drop it off to a friend while you’re out for a walk? Could you pull the neighbour’s bins in to give them a hand?
Make a phone call or text a friend, colleague or family member that you haven’t spoken to in a while
Have a chat to a friend using video calls such as Facebook, Skype, Zoom or apps like Google Hangouts. If it’s awkward at first, think about something you have in common or something you could do on the call like watching the same TV show or playing an online game.
Find a group of like-minded people to engage in a mutual hobby, using online clubs and groups
If you live with others, try to spend quality time with them. Why not try board games, making something, playing music or gardening together?
If you live alone, think about the people you do see. Give your neighbour a wave or a yell from afar just to say ‘hi’
I feel like I’ve messed up some of my personal relationships. What do I do?
When we’re feeling stressed or down, many of us will take our problems and frustrations out on those people we feel most comfortable with. Remember, you’re not alone and you’re not the first person so find yourself in this situation. MensLine Australia have guides on repairing and managing relationships.
I don’t feel comfortable reaching out to people. How do I start? Sharing your feelings with people can feel uncomfortable to begin with. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Try talking during an activity such as watching TV, walking or driving together. The activity can provide a welcome distraction. You might also like to ease yourself into making stronger connections with your friends or loved ones by sending text messages or emails with things you might struggle to verbalise.
I’m quite happy being alone. Is that a problem?
Many of us are fine with our own company and don’t need a huge group of friends, or to spend large amounts of time with our extended family. It’s OK to be a loner but it’s still good for your health and wellbeing to have a few people you can confide in and count on. Remember, at different ages and stages of life we will have varying amounts of time to spend on building and maintaining relationships. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling to find time to devote to friends; try to make it a priority but also be realistic about what you can achieve.
If you want to improve your relationships, but none of these tips seem right for you, it might be time to talk to someone and get some more detailed info for you and your situation.