We are not hard-wired to go it alone. Plain and simple. When we are born, we are completely dependent upon another person for our survival. We need that primary attachment figure for feeding, sleeping, changing our pee pee and poo poo, bathing, learning how to talk, and walk. We also need that person to comfort and soothe us when we are in emotional distress. The baby will cry out to be soothed and held by this figure. If this primary attachment figure responds reliably to the call of the baby, he/she will learn that they can be relied upon for comfort and build a sense of safety. The baby will not only build a sense of safety with that parent, but they will build a sense of safety within themselves and within the world at large. This will later translate into a confidence that will allow the child to freely explore the world and build healthy relationships.
If, however, the primary attachment figure does not reliably answer the call for comfort, the child will not feel safe, which can show up in adulthood as anxiety, depression, and difficulty in relationships. We not only need others to survive but to thrive as well. We have a core human need to feel securely attached to another, to feel a sense of belonging.
When we get older, our primary attachment figure often becomes replaced by our romantic partners and friends. Studies show that those who have strong social connections experience less stress, and are able to manage the stress more effectively than those who do not have safe and secure bonds. They also live longer. That’s motivation enough for me.
So when covid hit, while most people isolated and disconnected, I reached out. Don’t get me wrong here. The introverted part of me was only to happy to curl up in my bed with Netflix and popcorn, or read a book, but I also knew the outcomes of disconnecting for too long. The basis of mental health struggles are a sense of disconnection from ourselves and from others. With that knowledge, I reached out to friends. While two of my best friends live in the U.S., we decided to schedule monthly zoom calls, during which we took turns to unload and share our struggles, and to receive comfort from each other. I felt like I came alive during those calls. With my two best mommy friends, we would bundle up in winter gear, sit outside by the fire with blankets, and share those same experiences. We vented, laughed, supported, and ate a few bags of chips, popcorn and chocolate. I would come back into the house afterwards and say to my husband, “I just love them so much. I am so lucky and grateful to have met them. What a gift to meet such close friends in your forties.” To which he would smile and reply, “I know. You tell me this every time you get together.” I didn’t stop there. I also reached out to my three best friends from high school, who hadn’t been all together in close to twenty-five years. We sat in the backyard with the fire burning, talking about old times and our current lives. And in an incredible stroke of luck, I moved two doors down from one of them just when covid started. The reconnection felt amazing. Not only did I get my old friends back, but one of their teenage daughters has formed a close bond with my toddler. What a gift.
We need each other to survive and thrive. So reach out to your old friends, or find connections in new ones. Here are a few ways to find social connection:
- Get involved in a club or organization
- Volunteer for a cause you believe in
- Join a bookclub
- Join a walking club
- Biking club
- Plan a social gathering (jam party anyone?)
- Coffee with a friend
- Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile
- Yoga class or group exercise class
- Writing class
- Cooking class
- Introduce yourself to a mom at drop off or pick up
- Photography class
- Running club
- Book a concert or a play
Reaching out and connecting with old friends and new ones saved me during covid. These friends continue to fill my bucket and bring light into my life. I know it can be easy to just lay on the couch or in bed watching shows, and it can seem hard to make that effort. But it’s worth it, and you deserve it.
Lots of love,