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May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

Therapist Jodi Taub, who is also a primary immunodeficiency patient, explains why the social connections we have with partners, friends and family can lift us up in stressful times.

More Than Enough  - National Alliance on Mental Illness

When you’re coping with something difficult, do you find yourself withdrawing and going it alone?

It can be a natural reaction for someone who has a problem, including a chronic health condition. The person doesn’t feel well during a symptom flare and decides just to stay in, hunker down and wait it out. But therapist Jodi Taub, LCSW, encourages patients to think about doing the opposite. Enjoyable, non-taxing distractions – including spending time with special people – can refocus your attention away from symptoms and discomfort.

The right amount of rest is important, of course, but engaging in regular life, including being social, can actually decrease stress and negative thought patterns, she said. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Studies show that social connections are the greatest indicator of improved mental and physical health, she said. In fact, they are as important, if not more, than “self-care.” Learn more about how to connect, rather than disconnect: Significance of Social Connectedness to Mental Health.
  2. Strong bonds, such as in a healthy marriage, appear to positively impact physical health: Learn more about these biological benefits from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
  3. Conversely, the absence of social connections can worsen mental and physical health symptoms, Taub said. Learn how social isolation could make someone “sadder and sicker.”

Another way to connect is to seek help from a mental health counselor or therapist. Getting this kind of care is not a sign that you can’t cope, Taub said. Just the opposite, especially because people who are chronically ill may be more at risk of depression and anxiety than the rest of the population.

“It means that you understand that mental health symptoms can cause more difficulties in managing your physical health,” Taub said. “Seeking help actually reflects on your capacity to cope and manage your mental health.”

Hear more advice from Taub on friendship, dating and keeping relationships strong.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the National Alliance on Mental Illness chose “More Than Enough” as its campaign theme. Here’s why, according to NAMI: “No matter what, you are inherently worthy of more than enough life, love and healing. Showing up, just as you are, for yourself and the people around you is more than enough.”