In my 20′s I would often become gripped with fear because of frequent panic attacks, but instead of trying to reach out to people, I’d sprint to my bed and lay there for hours waiting for my anxiety to go away.
But this was a horrible idea given that a lack of social contact, especially in times of high stress, erodes your physical and mental health in a way that makes anxiety stronger.
In fact, you’re more likely to reinforce negative thought processes or even develop brand new fears when you spend too much time alone.
Every time I ran away from the world because of anxiety I gave it power, which allowed it to grow out of control. What changed my situation more than anything was reaching out to other people.
First I started by talking to my girlfriend (now my wife!) and sharing my wacky ideas with her.
Later on I started talking to my mom, my sister, my brother, and even a few friends. Eventually, I ended up speaking with a psychologist who helped tip the scales in my favor.
Strengthening my social support system was a crucial part of getting better.
Some of you might wonder if this is even possible, because isn’t that going to out you as “crazy” or something along those lines?
Listen, the tough guy thing only works in the movies. Everyone has problems of some kind or other, yours just happens to be related to anxiety.
What if a friend came to you during a divorce? What would you say? “Tough cookies amigo, I can’t help you with that!”
No. You’d try to help out, even if that meant simply listening to that person tell their story.
There is at least one person among your friends or family that would certainly do that for you if given the opportunity, right?
There is true power in human connections and it should not be overlooked.
Developing a strong social support system has some clear benefits.
Here are a few:
1. Reduction in negative perceptions. People in your “circle of trust” will hopefully call you out when your ideas are far-fetched.
They can help bring a more realistic view to your anxiety riddled ideas.
2. Increased use of coping skills. If you’re in therapy and/or taking medications having someone there to support and encourage you can serve as an enormous motivating factor when it comes to reaching your goals.
3. It’s good for your health. Isolated people have poorer health outcomes when compared to people linked to others.
The bottom-line is that you’re not alone. Even if you tell yourself that you have zero friends or family there is still someone out there willing to help.
It could be a therapist, a priest, a rabbi, a free help line, whatever, people are out there. The only reason why you would stay alone is because you choose to be.
The hard part is telling someone that you need help, trust me I know, but it can and should be done.
In this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I interviewed Tanya Peterson, author of the novel My Life in a Nutshell, to help me explore the importance of having a strong social support system.
Listen to this week’s podcast and comment below!