With the United States slowly reopening, many are longing to physically be in the presence of family and friends, and are fatigued with virtual “gatherings” (ourselves included!). The very thought of even a small physically-distanced in-person gathering brings joy! After all, these summer months typically abound with backyard barbecues, family reunions, and pool parties.
Research has shown that these types of interactions are not only fun, but healthy too – helping people stay healthier both mentally and physically. They contribute to what’s known as “social wellness”. Fittingly, July is Social Wellness Month.
Many people with diabetes, parents and children with diabetes spent last weekend engaged in social wellness by participating in the Virtual Friends for Life conference. Normally in Orlando every July, this meeting is so unique and so important for the many families that attend. At the meeting people wear a green bracelet when they have diabetes and an orange one if they do not. Tami used to serve on the Children with Diabetes board and we’ve both attended the conference several times and guarantee that it is a magical event. Especially when you see young children making “friends for life” with other kids, just like them, sporting their green bracelet, living with diabetes. While a virtual format does not allow for the connections that are made in person, there were many opportunities to have fun, dance, learn and “meet up” in the virtual hallway. People were doing their best to stay connected.
Today’s words are: SOCIAL WELLNESS
What is “social wellness”? Social wellness refers to building positive, supportive, healthy relationships that can offer support during challenging times. Support comes in many forms. In this blog we share 5 ways to guide your clients to engage in ongoing diabetes support. In case you’re wondering what exactly are hallmarks of a “healthy” relationship, here are signs to consider:
- feeling good about yourself around your friend, family member, or partner
- feeling safe talking about how you feel,
- feeling listened to, and valued, and truly experiencing mutual trust
Social wellness is now receiving greater focus and emphasis from the medical community. It is a critical aspect of overall health. Through research and focus groups that we’ve conducted with people with diabetes, we’ve heard time after time the critical nature of fostering a genuine connection with others with a lived experience. Strong and healthy social connections and networks are associated with the following:
- blood pressure and heart rate that respond better to stress
- a healthier endocrine system
- enhanced immune system’s ability to fight off infection
- a more positive outlook on life
In the quest to help people with diabetes be their healthiest self, here are 2 strategies for improving social wellness that you may want to explore with your clients::
Strategy 1- Make Connections. Come alongside your clients to identify ways to find new social connections, particularly in these socially distanced days. Here’s a few ideas:
- Join an online group focused on an interest or hobby, such as painting, great hiking spots, or an online book club.
- Expand horizons by taking virtual music lessons, using a cooking app to learn how to make new recipes, or finding a recipe that you can prepare on zoom simultaneously with a friend.
- Participate in a neighborhood event, such as a driveway happy hour with neighbors sitting in their own driveways, or walk by “concerts” where musically talented neighbors have mini “concerts” in their front yard or on their balcony.
Strategy 2 – Build Healthy Relationships. Making connections doesn’t mean one has arrived. Relationships require work and nurturing to build strong bonds. Here are a few areas you can explore with your clients:
- Share feelings honestly and respectfully
- Ask for what you need from others
- Be caring and empathetic
- Decide what you are and aren’t willing to do
- When compromise is needed, try to find a compromise that works for all involved
THIS WEEK’S SOLUTION-FOCUSED CHALLENGE
Each week we offer a solution-focused challenge that can help evolve care and education in a solution-focused manner. Here’s this week’s challenge: Consider asking some of the following questions the next time you engage with your clients to help identify their existing resources to move towards social wellness.
- What do you do for fun?
- Who do you enjoy spending time with? What makes that time enjoyable?
- How do you show the people in your life that you care for them?
- What would the closest person to you say is their favorite thing about you?
- What are you most proud of about yourself?
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