I recently asked a good friend and fellow professional counselor to guest blog. I am excited that she took me up on it. The good news she sent me a couple of articles so you’ll probably hear from her again soon!
Overcoming Social Isolation
We know the value and appreciation of lifelong friendships. We know the comfort and enjoyment that a trusted friend can bring. However, social support is a vague idea for many of my clients. When the ever-common question of social support comes up, whether family or friends, all too often my clients states they don’t have anyone. Social support is so important and vital to everyday life; so why are so many left with an inadequate social support, feeling isolated and alone?
Social isolation can be caused by many different faucets, some natural due to circumstances like moving, a new job or other life changes. Other reasons can be caused by interpersonal conflict, this can include having a difficult temperament, aggressive responses, poor problem solving skills, lack of empathy, poor judgement and poor conversations skills. Some of these interpersonal conflicts can stem from early childhood, trauma or self-isolation.
Some symptoms that social isolation can cause are internal distress, depression, low-self-esteem. An individual can become overly sensitive to peer comments, lack confidence and become withdrawn from any meaningful social contact. Often when there is no social support it becomes difficult to move forward or set goals, leaving individuals feeling “stuck” in their current situation.
What can you do? If you don’t know where to find social activities look online in your area, community centers, or the local chamber of commerce may give you some ideas. Join groups that do things you are interested in, go to festivals, volunteer, join a church. Relationships take time to develop, finding like-minded people with similar interests may take time as well; you may decide that the neighborhood garden is not your style but volunteering at the Jazz Fest is fun, or joining the Y is great exercise but joining your local softball team gets you outside. There may be times when peer support is more helpful, if you recently lost a loved one- a grief support group may be more beneficial or if you are a survivor of cancer find a local cancer support group.
If interpersonal conflict is an issue, look at your communication style. Ways to improve your communication are to introduce yourself, listen and wait to talk, ask questions, give others a chance to speak, make suggestions, show interest, give praises and try to see the other persons point of view. Sometimes a little extra help is needed to develop interpersonal communication skills, or maybe you feel anxious in the social arena, consider seeing a counselor to assist you.
Amanda is a Professional Counselor at Rice Counseling Services, part of the Upside Counseling Group. She also volunteers at the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing where she designed and facilitates a group program for survivor parents of domestic violence. Amanda graduated from Central Michigan University with a Master in Professional Counseling and continues studying domestic violence, trauma, neuro-counseling and strength based advocacy.