By Miranda Massie on October 3, 2018
Recently, I attended an engaging workshop hosted by a colleague on the topic of resilience. Beyond being a “wellness buzzword”, resilience is the capacity in each of us to draw on multiple sources of strengths, social networks and resources to overcome adversities.1 The great thing about resilience and overall mental health is that we can learn skills, tools and strategies that allow us to effect positive changes on our wellbeing.
One such strategy is social connection. UBC has identified social connection as one of the institution’s top five wellbeing priorities going forward. It is also strongly linked to resilience and is one of seven key strategies for building our ability to bounce back and overcome challenges.
Four ways to build social support:2
- Talk to someone. Use this connection to seek help, gain perspective and insight, or just to vent.
- Reach out. Family members, friends, colleagues or professionals can support you in different ways, depending on what you need and what their strengths are.
- Connect with your community. Try being active in a community-based group or organization. Already a part of a community group? You’re already increasing your social support and building resilience!
- Identify five or more meaningful connections in your life. Evidence shows that having five or more meaningful connections indicates a strong social support network. Try making a list of who you would turn to for different kinds of support (friend, resource, fun, mentor, challenger, appreciator, etc.)3
This month, I invite you to reflect on your social networks both at work and in your personal lives. Within these communities lies a wealth of knowledge and support that can be shared in order to strengthen our wellbeing.
Interested in learning more about the power of social connection? Watch this TEDx Talk “Connect or Die: The Surprising Power of Human Relationships” (12 minutes). Or, consider registering for our Building Resilience Workshop (Nov. 1) to discover more contributing factors to our mental health and resilience. Lastly, I’ll leave you with an infographic of top tips for creating a support system from our EFAP provider Morneau Shepell.
Wishing you a wonderful start to the fall.
All my best,
1Youth Resilience and Protective Factors Associated with Suicide in First Nations Communities, 2014.
2Building Resilience Workshop, UBC HR Health, Wellbeing and Benefits, 2017.
3Adapted from Neilson, M. 2012. Complete Workplace Wellness
Photo credit: UBC Brand & Marketing
By Miranda Massie on October 3, 2018
Social connection is not just great for enhancing our overall wellbeing: it can also help boost our physical activity. Grab a friend or family member and find new ways to move this fall.
Week 1: Partner-up
Need a bit of extra motivation? Find a workout buddy and try these great exercises designed for two. FitnessBlender’s Total Body Partner Workout offers information on calories burned and a printable workout sheet.
Week 2: Make it a family affair
Check out these suggestions from Tourism Vancouver to get your family active and moving (includes both indoor and outdoor activities).
Week 3: Maximize your tech
Looking for some friendly competition? Many fitness apps and trackers have options that let you follow your progress or compete against friends or members of your online community using the same fitness technology. Read more about tapping into the power of friends (CNN.com).
Week 4: Stretching for two
Stretch, tone and boost your relaxation with this set of partner yoga stretches (FitnessBlender).
Photo credit: UBC Brand & Marketing
By Melissa Lafrance on October 6, 2015
As the season begins to change, our moods and behaviours can also shift. With the days getting shorter and temperatures colder, we may not be as motivated to be out and about or to maintain vibrant social circles. The following three articles by Shepell, UBC’s EFAP provider, can help support you with beneficial tools to improve or maintain your social wellbeing and support networks.
Most people know that proper nutrition, exercise, and relaxation techniques can reduce stress, but did you know that friendship is just as important? Learn some skills and strategies to improve the quality of your relationships with A friend, indeed: friendship as a source of solace and support.
If you are in a new work environment or in a new neighbourhood, or you feel the need to build your social support network, check out Building and maintaining a social support network.
Managing a social life with a busy schedule can sometimes prove to be demanding. For advice on fitting social time into your schedule, read: Maintaining friendships on a busy schedule.
Posted in Benefits Spotlight, EFAP, Information Update, Mental Health | Tagged assistance, Benefits, community, EFAP, Employee and Family Assistance program, Friendship, social support | Leave a response
By Guest Contributor on August 6, 2014
Previously, we had the expertise of Dr. Geoffrey Soloway as the author of our Mindful Moments column. This new column continues to explore mindfulness through the lens of a new guest contributor, Dr. Thara Vayali.
In the previous post, I reviewed the basics of Resilience: Our capacity to bounce back from burnout. I likened resilience to a barbershop quartet – all parts are equally important, while a lone part is incomplete on its own.
The Four pillars of resilience are:
- Sense of Purpose
- Social Support
In popular media, the focus has shifted from decreasing stress, to focusing on how our perception of stressors can cause us harm. We cannot change our perception without reflective exercises, preventative tools and committed practices.
Last month, we honed in on exercises that, when done regularly, can maintain Foundational Confidence. Revisiting this often can transform the exercise into a way of living.
This month, I’d like to turn the focus to Social Support.
Social support is not the same as socializing – although they can occur at the same time. A true sense of social support is:
- The safety to lean on your friends and family who accept your way of being in the world, however different from their own.
- Those who stand beside you through an experience, without judgment, pity, advice or advocacy.
- Individuals who enable you to grow and change at your own pace.
- Listening and participating in vulnerable conversations/moments.
- Space for laughter and lightness about habits and patterns.
Social support is how humanity demonstrates love. Love is an act of seeing and hearing someone in the way they are, in the moment.
The Biology of Social Support
The hormone Oxytocin, often associated with birth and breastfeeding, is released in our bodies when we feel seen and heard. Specifically, oxytocin facilitates social bonding and trust.
When the chronic stress hormone cortisol rises, our bodies naturally secrete more oxytocin as a counterbalance to stress. Cortisol induces oxytocin release, and oxytocin dampens the negative effects of cortisol. It is a beautiful two-step process. Our physiology urges us to find social support, which increases the release of more oxytocin.
When oxytocin is released in the bloodstream, it improves social communication (eye contact, nonverbal cues and self-disclosure), decreases anxiety, and acts as an analgesic.
It seems like a magic answer for anyone suffering from social anxiety, loneliness or pain.
But is the solution to take oxytocin supplements so that you don’t need to face the vulnerability of social bonding? No. When building resilience pillars, it is wisest to work with sustainable and preventative habits.
Being brave, facing fear of rejection, dealing with disappointment, cultivating safe bonding moments and participating in playful events are how we can spark the appropriate cortisol-oxytocin dialogue in our bodies.
When it comes to relying on support pillars, there are generally two types of people:
- Those who rely heavily on others to advise and bear the burden, and
- Those who isolate themselves in the hopes that detachment will eradicate stress.
Neither of these strategies are effective nor sustainable for building resilience. Social support is a necessary part of resilience, built on top of your foundational confidence and sense of self.
Daily Resiliency Practice – Choose Your Own Adventure:
Step 1: Awareness
In one conversation per day, take note of these four things:
- How long between when one person finishes speaking and the other begins?
- How do you respond when the conversation turns to ask of your experience?
- How often do you deflect when personal questions arise?
- How often do you begin sentences with “Me too, I…”, or relay your similarities?
Having a conversation usurped by mirror stories can feel hollow and incomplete, despite the intentions to connect. An act of listening that is followed immediately by sharing a personal story, is a micro-theft of someone else’s emotional space.
In the same breath, while conversing with an attentive listener initially feels supportive, if the vulnerability is not eventually mutual it can erode a connection.
A true sense of social support is reciprocal; an act of giving and receiving over time.
Step 2: Honesty
Ask yourself: Do I tend to fill space in conversation, or do I pull away?
Step 3: Change
Choose the following tool that suits you best:
Outsource: Can you draw out someone else’s perspective? List five concepts you are curious about and create an open-ended question for each. Broadly: How do you …, why do you think…, or what was it like for you when…? If you are curious about a concept, you are more likely to authentically ask and listen. Ask one open-ended question to three people today, and resist the urge to add your perspective to their answer.
Metabolize: Can you become empathic? Empathy includes suspending your agreement or disagreement unless you are asked to contribute. Listen without linking to your own experience. The speaker’s words are true and accurate for their life, so allow yourself to metabolize what has been spoken. Three times today, take five seconds between wanting to speak and speaking.
Assess: Are there signals that indicate supportive dynamics for you? To be able to respond honestly about personal questions a conversation must feel safe for you. Take note if you prefer:
- intimate/quiet interaction
- large/anonymous expression
- specific facial expressions or body language
- open or direct questioning
In one conversation today, observe three aspects of the dynamic that either work or don’t work for you. Building a support network starts with knowing what kind of support you want.
Contribute: Can you become proactive? When someone is investing in a connection, they would like you to invest too. Switch from being a passive conversationalist by taking a stand for something. Instead of asking questions, make a statement. In one conversation today, start three statements with “I think/feel/want/like”.
There is no need to build a support network with everyone we know, but if we begin to honestly identify our habits of interacting socially, we will reach out to and become supportive for those with whom we feel safe.
In a nutshell:
- Practice phrases that comfortably invite others to speak freely with you.
- Let other people’s words have breathing room.
- Identify the interactions you feel safe in and invest in those dynamics.
- Offer your perspective in a conversation.
Keep working on foundational confidence, and layer it with strong personal connections. Cultivate resilience day by day.
This exercise is the second part of the Barber Shop Quartet of resilience. In the next months, I will offer exercises to complete the quartet, so that your bounce-back capabilities are built with sustainable tools over time.
Thara Vayali is a Naturopathic Doctor & Yoga Teacher in Vancouver and is also a UBC alumnus. She is obsessed with intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. She is the creator of Change Natural Medicine: Budget conscious, membership based health consulting.
Posted in A Thoughtful Mind, Guest Contributor, Mental Health, Physical Health, Spot Light | Tagged burnout, confidence, mental health, mindfulness practice, Oxytocin, resiliency, social support, Stress | Leave a response