In the era of COVID-19, The Corona, or simply ‘Rona, we’re being asked to maintain our social distance and stay home as much as possible. For a lot of us, this means minimal face-to-face, physical, or as fulfilling interaction with some of those who matter most to us. We’re left wondering when we might be able to hug our moms, hold new babies, host those impending summer barbecues, catch a movie, or do secret handshakes with best friends; and really with no solid timeline in mind.
Remember those eight dimensions of wellness we talked about previously? Social ties play a huge role in, well, the social dimension; but also, have an impact on our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. We’ve gathered current thoughts on how social relationships can have both positive and negative effects on our wellness, as well as ways we may be able to support our social dimension when we’re supposed to be keeping our distance.
It’s believed that there are three ways that social relationships can impact our health: behavioral, psychosocial, and physiological
Our relationships with others – whether that be a volunteer community, church, significant other, or best friend(s) – can be associated with more positive health behaviors throughout our lives. We tend to feel a sense of social responsibility for both ourselves and those who are part of our social circle and feel the need to protect our health and our relationships because of this. This can motivate individuals to create healthy habits, and to hold each other accountable for maintaining these healthy habits. When spending time in isolation, or closed off from our social circles, it can be easy to revert back to unhealthy habits. We might not feel like exercising daily because we usually go to fitness classes with our friends; or we might be prone to getting takeout or eating poorly when we feel lonely. We may be feeling pretty lonely right about now. Without realizing it, our relationships with those who matter most to us influence our behaviors daily which in turn can support our very own well-being! Pretty cool; but we should also be mindful about how changes to, or decreases in, our socialization can have the opposite effect.
Many of us may be most familiar with the emotional and/or psychosocial effects of feeling lonely, or not having the social lives we’re used to. When we feel real social support, we have a sense that we are loved, cared for, and listened to. It might be hard right now to feel supported when we can’t socialize in our typical ways, or in the ways we’re most comfortable. Having a strong sense of social support can reduce the impact of stress (if the wrath of ‘Rona isn’t stressful, I don’t know what is). It can also provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life (hello spiritual dimension!). Most of you reading this are probably aware of how you likely feel WAY better when you are able to connect with your loved ones. Despite this, we need to be aware of how the change in our social lives is impacting our psychosocial being, and in turn the behaviors we partake in during this time of ‘stay at home’.
Isn’t it crazy to think that sharing a laugh with a friend, embracing in a hug, or venting about your workplace drama can have an almost immediate effect on your physical health? Social support can actually decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones; likely by decreasing the overall impact of stress like stated above. Stress hormones can be good in moderation but can have significant health effects over time. Conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and even early mortality have all been linked to high levels of stress. We all know it isn’t healthy to be stressed out all the time and it turns out that connecting with our friends can be one of the best ways to decrease the effect of stress. Social support can also help boost our immune system. So, in the days of COVID-19, popping Vitamin C, eating your veggies, and getting plenty of sleep may be go-to’s; but let’s not forget about our daily dose of our best friends, moms, or work fam.
Okay, so all that stuff is interesting and good knowledge to have. But what do we do about it now with all that is out of our control? An article I skimmed from the New York Times gave some good pointers on how to maintain our social lives with a global pandemic looming overhead:
Try all of these, try some of these, try none of these; but let’s not lose sight of how this global crisis is affecting our well-being in more ways than one. This is our first glimpse into how interconnected these dimensions are, and how sensitive of a balance it can be to maintain our wellness. We hope you took something of value from this Quick Read! Please let us know your thoughts, or any creative ways you’ve found to help you stay connected. If you want to stay up to date while we continue to tackle the dimensions of wellness, don’t forget to subscribe! Catch us next week with The Spiritual Dimension: Making Sense of it All.
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Elle and Taylor