A Little Help From Our Friends

Check back with Julie Joplin Media every Saturday in May for content about #mentalhealthawareness

By Sally Stevens

Life is hard. This feels like an understatement given the happenings in 2020 and so far in 2021.  Individuals were faced with job loss, sickness, death, hunger, freezing cold; the list could go on and on. The sheer numbers of people experiencing them simultaneously, which is the definition of a pandemic, makes it even more difficult. 

It is not just COVID-19 that has infiltrated every corner of the globe. Loneliness, anxiety, and depression crept in as well. So now what? How does one cope when their whole world is a dumpster fire? What happens when the people who are rocks are suddenly crumbling?

Feeling part of a community is one-way individuals can positively impact their lives. A study conducted by Dr. Steve Cole at UCLA revealed social connections favorably impacted genes by coding for immune function. Relationships can increase a person’s longevity by as much as 50%. According to a CDC study in July 2019, connectedness or feeling of belonging during adolescence reduced issues related to mental health, violence, sexual health, and substance use in adulthood by up to 66%.

Increasing feelings of connectedness during non-pandemic times are complicated for many. During this year of social distancing, the difficulty seemed magnified by 1000%. 

Thankfully, social media and the internet are available to help find a sense of community and belonging. Facebook’s groups are one way people utilize to stay connected. One such group is Anna’s Boudie Babes & Women Self Empowerment Group.

Anna, 24-year-old boudoir photography originally from Joplin, created the group as a safe space to share photos. It has grown to a community of over 9000 women who share not only pictures but advice on things ranging from which foundation offers the best coverage to the best playlist for screaming to on the days when one just needs to let it all out. Here’s an article about her group here: https://juliejoplin.com/body-positivity/annas-boudie-babes-women-self-empowerment-group/

Although a scary word to some, exercise is another excellent and budget-friendly way to release tension and get endorphins flowing. According to a study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Exercise classes are also a great way to make connections while benefiting from physical activity. 

Every Body Fitness, where “every body is beautiful,” is one local gym working to make fitness available to all. They offer a pay-as-you-go model of $5 per class and no membership fees. There are a variety of classes ranging from yoga to burlesque dancing. No matter what a person chooses, instructors can modify moves making them accessible to all. 

Maintaining connections with those we love also plays an integral part in our well-being. In the book, Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond, science journalist Lydia Denworth discusses how friendships can help us to “find purpose and meaning, stay healthy, and live longer.” It is essential to maintain these connections, especially when times are hard. If you don’t have much time or live across the country from your besties, small things such as sharing a funny meme, goofy cat video, or even a heart emoji, let friends know that you are holding space for them in your life and create a long-lasting bond. 

Take time to foster the relationships in your life, virtually, via phone, snail mail; the method isn’t as important as the act itself. Spend some time moving each day, and if you feel you should talk to a professional, don’t hesitate.

 In the coming weeks, I will be sharing tips on finding a mental health professional, coping with grief, and the importance of self-care. No matter what the universe throws at us in the coming years, take a deep breath and remember that you are not alone, and we can get through these tough times with a bit of help from our friends. 

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