Adult-ing can be really hard. One thing that makes it easier is having a healthy social circle of people you can rely on in times of stress. As discussed in last week’s post, socialization is one major player in the vast array of things effecting our overall mental health. However, I often hear from clients how difficult it is to expand their social circle and increase their supports. After college or high school we kind of run out of the large pool of prospective individuals that we can potentially make into long lasting friendships. After school, we move away, have difficult schedules that don’t seem to match up or just end up with very different life stages or interests. So where do we go from here? Here are some ideas for working on strengthening and expanding your social-circle:
1. Reach out to a Colleague at Work
Once school is over, work becomes the new place to meet people, who you are around often, and build new relationships that can turn into supportive and beneficial friendships. You can start by having lunch with your colleagues, discussing similar challenges or experiences you share at work and similar interests that brought you both to that field. Once you are work buddies you can move to inviting them out for dinner or a community trip (wine tasting, movie night, hiking or beach day). Like all things if you nurture the relationship it should grow and blossom.
Volunteering is a great option for stay-at-home parents, who don’t have the option of meeting people at work. Or the busy-bodies who just love to fill their “free-time” with something to do. Often volunteers come to the same place again and again on the same days so you can see the same people and begin to develop rapport with them. Volunteering also just is a nice way to give back and often makes us feel good about ourselves for being a part of “something bigger” or for helping someone else in need.
3. Coffee Time with a Friend
Coffee dates are a great way to reconnect with an old friend after work, on the weekend or anytime you have an hour or so free. They can also be a really inexpensive way to just get out of your house and feel connected to another human. If you don’t like coffee, lunch or tea is always a good option.
4. Call a Loved One Regularly
Time easily can escape us. Setting up a set time to check in with mom, dad, an aunt or a sibling weekly or biweekly can help us to remember to connect with those we love. The consistency in communication will serve to strengthen your relationship and make you feel more comfortable discussing concerns with them should you need support in the future.
5. Plan an Outing Once a Month
In Covid times I know this can be difficult. So maybe for now it’s a virtual game night if your not comfortable with groups just yet. Outdoors is also a great option, such as an organized hike. There are truly so many beautiful places on Long island to visit my favorites include: Elizabeth Morton Sanctuary, Nissequogue State Park, Montauk Point, Jones Beach (really any beach I’m happy) and Blydenburgh County Park. You can also visit the vineyard, go apple picking (or really any seasonal picking) or go to a drive-in movie. An added bonus is that planning an event gives you something to look forward to, which is always a great mood booster.
6. Call or Email an Old Friend
Reconnecting with an old friend that you lost touch with can be a good mood booster and possibly open up an avenue to rekindling that friendship. Sometimes we just fall out of touch and a phone call or email can go a long way to bringing back the closeness you once had.
7. Get a Work-Out Buddy
This helps you two-fold: 1) it is a designated time to spend with a friend, family member or partner which is sure to build your relationship and 2) it makes it more likely that you will exercise consistently which is proven to boost mood and help regulate stress.
8. Schedule a Weekly Dinner Date
I tell all my adult how have partners, especially married with kids, to schedule in date night. It’s so essential to get that alone time. I do understand weekly may not be in everyone babysitting budget but even biweekly or once a month can go a long way to improving your relationship with your partner. If you are not dating or married a girls night or out night weekly with friends is always a great stress-reliever as well.
9. Join a Gym Class or a Club
Seems silly but if you commit to something weekly like a class or a club, you will see the same people there every week! Even better, they are likely to have similar interests. It’s a good practice of self-care and a good way to expand your social circle.
10. Ask a Friend Over for Dinner
Now this can be an old friend, a colleague you are getting closer with, you can do a double date night with your partners. Whatever works for you. For the parents out there, asking one of your child’s close friend’s parents over for dinner (and a play date) is a great way to again expand that social circle.
What to do When you are too Stressed to Even Begin?
So I know that making friend’s is not as easy as checking off some of those to-do items listed above for everyone. Some people may have social anxiety or low self-esteem or really nagging self-talk that can make them feel really stuck when starting this process. If that sounds like you, please reach out to our office. We would love to help you work through those stressors, anxieties and negative thoughts so you can start building the life you really want.