Why should you reconsider your relationship with stress and how can you incorporate social connections and healthy activities?
1 Additionally, America is recognized as one of the most stressed countries in the world. Stress levels among the population are 20 percentage points higher compared to the global average.
And while stress levels were high already, the global events throughout the last two years have only exacerbated that reality. 67% of adults in America report increased stress since the start of 2020. These stressors include things like job loss, separation from family, inflation, and the future of the world as a whole.
The American Psychological Association now refers to stress as a “national mental health crisis.” Stress causes lasting effects that, according to the APA, “could yield serious health consequences for years to come.”2 The longer people go without second-guessing or seeking help for their stress levels, the worse those lasting impacts become.
Thankfully, there are ways to lower stress and combat its effects. The first step is recognizing that the problem exists. This April marks Stress Awareness Month, a perfect time to consider how stress affects your life. Mental Health Month follows in May and encourages people to look at the role of mental health in general.
Building social connections and participating in healthy activities are important to your mental health. Both of these things have numerous benefits and a positive impact on your stress levels and overall well-being. Why should you reconsider your relationship with stress and how can you incorporate social connections and healthy activities?
What Are the Effects of Stress on the Body?
Stress causes a wide variety of both physical and psychological effects. These range from mildly uncomfortable to significantly distressing.3 Some of the effects of stress on the body include:
- Social withdrawal
- Guilt, nervousness, or worry
- Reduced productivity
- Short temper or mood swings
- Frustration or irritation
- Excessive defensiveness
- Frequent headaches
- Lightheadedness, faintness, or dizziness
- Neck aches, back pain, or muscle spasms
- Sudden panic attacks
- Difficulties breathing
- Chest pain or heart palpitations
- Increased substance use
The longer you live in a state of stress, the worse the effects will be. Learning to practice social connection and incorporate physical activity into your life will make a noticeable difference. How can you start this process?
Why Is Social Connection Good for Our Mental Health?
Did you know that having strong social connections can strengthen our immune system, help us recover from disease, and lengthen our life? Yes, social connections are good for our overall physical health, but mentally, they can also lower rates of anxiety and depression.
As social beings, humans need valuable connections. It brings a sense of support and comfort to us and eliminates loneliness that can lead to mental health issues. According to Mental Health America, over 71% of people turn to their friends and family in times of stress, meaning just over 25% have no one to confide in.4 Loneliness is a key symptom of depression and it is one of the leading reasons people seek mental health counseling.
Building Social Connections in Your Life
Stress and mental health difficulties tend to be isolating experiences. In recovery, social connections play a key role. Group therapy offers clients insights and helps clients see they are not alone in their mental health struggles. It also helps to ease the sense of social isolation and presents an opportunity to practice re-engaging with others.
It isn’t always easy to reintegrate into social situations but these skills make an incredible difference. You no longer have to deal with your challenges in silence. Instead, you can surround yourself with a wide variety of people who understand exactly what you’re going through. This reduces the overwhelming, despairing feeling that you must face life alone.
At Lifeskills South Florida, in addition to our group therapy, we help our clients find continued support in sober and mental health recovery with daily meditation groups, Friday community meetings, and Sunday community meals. Clients are also encouraged to join relapse prevention groups, self-help support groups, and community meetings such as 12-Step, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous.
Why is Physical Activity Good for Mental Health?
Social interaction plays a key role in improving mental health, but adding healthy activities and hobbies is also important. Research shows that exercise and recreation improve mental well-being by reducing anxiety, and depression and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. It has also been shown to increase self-esteem and reduce social isolation.
The American Institute of Stress revealed that 30% of US adults consume food for comfort when dealing with stress.2 However, turning to food only offers temporary relief and does nothing to create lasting change. Incorporating physical activity is a far more effective method of dealing with stress that offers long-term benefits. These benefits include:
- Prevent heart disease and high blood pressure
- Lower your risk for stroke, osteoporosis, colon cancer, and diabetes
- Improve your sleep
- Increase your energy
- Decrease some kinds of pain
- Boost your immune system
- Help with weight management
- Decreases stress, anger, and tension
- Offers a greater sense of well-being
- Relieves pent-up muscle tension
- Stimulates feel-good hormones
- Burns off stress hormones
- Increases blood flow to the brain
These are only some of the countless benefits that physical activity offers. You’ll notice some immediate improvements when you first start and the positive effects will only expand as you continue getting outside and moving.
How to Get Active
Getting active doesn’t have to be stressful, overly strenuous, or boring. There are hundreds of ways to get your body moving a little bit every day. Adding some fun activities into your week such as walking, swimming, biking, or even enjoying yoga outside in nature is good for you physically and mentally. Recreational sports leagues also offer great ways to combine both physical activity and social connection!
We’re more than familiar with the benefits of physical activity here at Lifeskills South Florida. Our facility is proud to remain on the cutting edge of health and wellness in treating those with mental health issues, addictions, and dual diagnosis. In addition to our integrated wellness activities, we have created the Metabolic Fitness clinical pathway, designed to reduce the risk of cardiometabolic syndrome. As one of our clinicians shared, “Exercise and recreation are important for our clients because as a vital part of the treatment model, it is key to long-term wellness and successful outcomes.”
We also take a holistic approach to treatment by providing clients multiple opportunities to be active. Yoga is a key part of recreation at Lifeskills. Group yoga classes are part of the client’s daily schedule. Our certified yoga instructor, Buffy Rouse, pairs the philosophy of mindfulness with breathing and movement to help calm the brain and body. Our certified personal trainer, Heather Wright, also offers physical fitness classes to our clients 3 days a week.
Additional Help is Always Available
Social interaction and fun activities as part of a healthy lifestyle can provide substantial benefits to those living with chronic mental health conditions. However, at-home remedies can only do so much. Sometimes professional treatment is necessary when mental health conditions are more severe.
Thankfully, Lifeskills South Florida can help. If you or someone you love needs help with a mental health disorder or co-occurring substance use disorder, please call us or complete our contact form today for more information. Our admissions specialists are waiting to help you find the program that’s right for you. You never need to handle your mental health alone again!