Your social life and your relationships with others can have a positive impact on your mental health, but they can also be a source of stress or anxiety. Two of the biggest challenges young people say they’re facing are the fear of being judged, and loneliness. It can be difficult to make friends, but also difficult to navigate those relationships when you do have them. Positive relationships can improve your confidence and wellbeing. Learning how to cultivate positive relationships and to deal with social pressures can help you to look after your mental health, as well as to create the social life you want.
Our tips for looking after your mental health and your social life:
1. Talk to someone
Talking things through with someone with someone you trust can help you to get perspective, to take some time away from the things that are worrying you, and to get ideas for new things you can try to manage what’s worrying you. Sometimes just saying it out loud can help you to process what you’re feeling. Thinking about your relationships and how you behave in social situations can help you to make more informed, positive choices. If you don’t feel you can talk to friends or family, you could talk to your GP, a counsellor, a staff member from college or university, or one of the helplines below.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
Your life is completely unique to you alone. Comparing yourself to others can cause feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety and stress. It can also cause you to make choices that are motivated by what’s right for someone else, not for you. We often don’t know the full picture of what’s going on in someone else’s life, so any comparison that you’re making isn’t based on what reality is like for that person. Have a listen of this podcast about body image.
3. Take time for yourself
Having time alone where you’re not working or studying gives you a break from pressures and allows you to switch off. If you’re someone who struggles to be on your own, practice being on your own for short periods of time, and fill that time with positive and relaxing activities, rather than checking off your to-do list. Try going for walks, or listening to a whole album without doing anything else. Practicing being on your own can build your resilience.
4. Do things because you want to do them
Think about the things you’re invited to do and events you’re invited to go to. You should only go to them if you want to, not because you feel like you have to. But pushing yourself out of your bubble is important too, so think about who is making you feel like you have to do something – are their motivations good? Do you feel safe? If the answers are yes, then it might be something worth trying. Trying new things and meeting new people can broaden our opportunities and introduce us to new hobbies and friends that we might otherwise have never met. If you fill your time with activities you enjoy, you’re bound to meet like-minded people who also enjoy those activities. Find local hobby-based groups, societies or clubs and try them out to see if you like them.
It can be easier to prioritise your social life either because it’s important to you, or because you feel pressure to do so.It will benefit you and your wellbeing to balance your social activities with other equally important aspects of your life. Make sure you give yourself enough time to sleep well, eat well, be productive, and be alone.
6. Let go of unhealthy relationships
It’s important to be able to recognize when a relationship is unhealthy. You don’t have to hold onto relationships that aren’t serving you. If someone is making you feel more negative emotions than positive ones, and you don’t feel safe talking to them about it, it could be time to walk away. Brook offer advice and support for all kinds of circumstances. Nedra Tawwab shares helpful insights and advice. Take a look at this guide to investing in your relationships.
7. Find creative ways to keep in touch with people you miss
We’re all getting better at doing things remotely, use those skills to find creative ways of connecting with people you don’t get to see that often in person.
8. Doing good does you good
Kindness can help reduce stress and improve our emotional wellbeing. We all have so much going on in our lives, not just on an individual level, but at a national and global level too. This can mean that we push kindness to one side in favour of what’s urgent or trending right now. But if we take the time to be kind to other people, this can have a hugely positive impact on our wellbeing. Start with a commitment to showing kindness in your words and your actions, and thinking about random acts of kindness you can do for those around you.
9. Practice gratitude
Practicing gratitude can lower stress levels, increase feelings of happiness, and help you sleep better. Each day, write down one or two things that you’re grateful for from that day, like your health, family, or friends, or something you’ve done that you’re proud of. This can help you to recognise and appreciate the people and things you have, and after a few days it can start to reshape how you feel about things. Celebrate your own achievements, even the ones you might think are the smallest ones – sometimes they feel like the hardest.
10. Practice empathy
Not everyone likes to socialize in the same way. If you think outside of yourself and your own preferences it can help you to give people space and be supportive of their needs, which are probably different to yours. If you have a friend that doesn’t always text you back or is reluctant to come along to social events, it could be because they don’t enjoy socializing in the same ways that you do, and that’s ok.
11. Celebrate yourself
You might feel like there’s a lack of people around who you want to be friends with – this won’t always be the case, but if it is right now, take some time to celebrate yourself. Knowing what you want in a friendship or relationship is a good thing. Celebrate your little, everyday successes and what you feel able to do. Honour who you are and what makes you different to those around you. If you’re experiencing loneliness, use it to spark some helpful thoughts – ask yourself, what do I have compared to what I would value having? This can help you to work towards the quality of friendship and relationship that you really want.