Close Relationships Can Buffer the Negative Effects of Stress in a Crisis

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Tips for managing your stress during the coronavirus pandemic

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How apropos that April is Stress Awareness Month while everyone on the planet is dealing with some sort of stress during this pandemic. “Now, more than ever, we need to embrace and nurture a coming together of the global community,” states Dr. Marlene Freeman, associate director of  the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health.

Research shows that friendships benefit your mental, emotional, and physical health. Dr. David Spiegel, renowned psychiatrist at Stanford University, believes being connected to others is key to managing our stress responses.

In an article appearing in American Psychologist (September 2017), titled “Interpersonal Mechanisms Linking Close Relationships to Health,” researchers Paula Pietromonaco, PhD, and Nancy Collins, PhD, draw this conclusion: “Close relationships can protect and promote health in various ways. In times of stress, relationships can buffer us from its negative effects, while in non-stressful times, relationships can foster positive emotions, personal growth, and health-promoting behaviors.”

Even if you are isolating, use technology, such as videoconferencing, to maintain close relationships. Receiving and giving support to your friends is very therapeutic during times of stress. Share your stories. Listen, affirm, validate, and encourage. Offer reassurance and give your friends the opportunity to feel safe so they can vent, cry, grieve, express anger or frustration – and they will do the same for you. Your close friendships can buffer the negative effects of stress and have the power to heal the hurt we are all suffering from in this pandemic.

Other ways you can manage your stress are to:

  • Meditate and quiet your mind.
  • Make a purposeful effort to incorporate gratitude into your daily life. Make a list of things for which you are grateful or write appreciation letters to family, friends, or those who have touched your life.
  • Exercise to clear your mind. If possible, go outside to get some fresh air daily. Maintain social distancing while taking a walk or riding your bike.
  • Savor the day. Pay attention to the pleasant things around you. See moments of joy or humor and share them with others while asking them to reciprocate.
  • Maintain your routine.
  • Take care of your health. Eat healthy foods and get enough sleep.
  • Set reasonable expectations.
  • Search for new purpose and fulfill your inner needs. Engage in activities and hobbies that enrich your life.
  • Take one day at a time.

Maintaining close friendships during this pandemic and reminding one another of these tips will help us all cope better with the stress.  We will get through this—TOGETHER!   And, when we are on the other side of this, we all will want to hug a little longer, laugh a little harder, and love a little deeper with the new appreciation for the gift of connection and our family and friends!

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