Whatever you happen to be worried about—money, politics, your family—those truckloads of stress are taking a toll on your health … unless you’re getting emotional support from your friends and loved ones.
According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, the average stress level for those who say they have no one to rely on for emotional support is 6.2 out of 10, compared to an average stress level of 4.8 among those who have some level of emotional support in their lives.
The study also revealed the clear connection between emotional support and mental health—close to half of respondents who lacked emotional support from family members, friends and colleagues felt sad or depressed within the past month. Left unchecked, feelings of depression can lead to a host of health problems, including an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes and compromised immune systems.
Thankfully, there are some simple and effective steps you can take to get the support you need:
Start by letting your family members and friends know how you’re doing, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed with worry. Those whom are closest to us might unintentionally overlook the kind of stress-inducing problems that build up over time—kind of like how you don’t notice gradual change in someone or something you see on the regular. Discussing your concerns on a regular basis helps keep small problems from becoming perilous obstacles.
Simply spending time with friends can do wonders for your overall health and wellness. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America reports that people with regular social ties are significantly less likely to demonstrate cognitive decline when compared to those who are lonely. A study at the University of Michigan reveals that socializing for just 10 minutes significantly boosts brain functioning.
Finding a reliable, safe source of emotional support can be challenging, but thanks to the wide variety of online support groups, message boards and chat rooms, it doesn’t have to be. If you’re feeling stressed out about a particular medical condition, your weight, family issues or worries at home, chances are good that you’ll be able to find an online community filled with others who can provide first-hand experience and advice to help you navigate your particular situation.
Chronic stress can lead to serious, long-term health consequences, but by simply spending a bit more time with supportive peers, you can enjoy the benefits that come with having reliable emotional support in your life.