• Wellness Counseling Suggestion: It’s Not All About You

    I don’t want to give it all away, but a portion of our weekly wellness series in February will focus on the power of relationships – creating them, building them, and maintaining them. Though we can choose to put ourselves first when we start any wellness initiative, we are inextricably linked to others, at all times, and the poignancy with which we feel the lack or presence of social interactions during this pandemic has been brought to the forefront of our minds and hearts. We’ve realized, without question, it’s not just all about us. The individual needs the collective.

    Wellness and Social Connectedness

    Humans are animals, and animals are social creatures. Animals need connection in order to physically (think hunting, protecting, caring for young, procreating) survive. These physical connections promote emotional ones. Emotional ones make us feel content. Feeling content feels… GOOD!

    Here are a few statistics that illustrate what I am talking about. On the planet, there are Blue Zones in which people in certain communities around the world live longer, fuller, healthier lives. Yes, they eat well, and they have access to fresh, local food. But they also spend a lot of time in connection with others, deeply and meaningfully engaging in lifelong familial and social relationships. They make time for friends, and they slow down enough to have full eye contact conversations with others, not glancing down at cell phones or i-watches. Through eye contact, the “mirror neurons” in their brains, those pathways that are associated with empathy and “following” another person’s experience, are strengthened, promoting wellness. If you want to learn more about this, here’s a great TedTalk.

    Conversely, studies have shown that people who divorce and remain alone are much more likely to die at a younger age than those who stay connected or partnered. The rate is higher for men and women, possibly indicating that, as we often see anecdotally, women might find other ways to connect with others, promoting their own self-care and wellness, outside of a married relationship. Either way, finding ways to stay in connection with others is imperative to our long-term health and wellness.

    What Does Socially Connected Wellness Look Like?

    Getting a little personal, I want to tell you about my living situation for the past several months. At the start of December, my parents (with whom I currently live, and that’s another story) decided to bring my 85-year-old grandmother to live with us, concerned about the spike in COVID-19 numbers in her nursing home. Largely alone for the past 9 months due to extremely limited visitation because of the pandemic, my mother could, largely over the phone, hear my grandmother slipping further and further away into the lonely land of dementia. We knew it would be a risk to disrupt my grandmother’s routine and spatial familiarity, but we decided that by moving her to be around us, we would have a chance at protecting her physical health and at bolstering her mental well-being.

    The beginning of our time with her was ROUGH, to put it nicely. She was disoriented, confused, and snarky most days. She was also, sadly, hugely out of practice from being around people. Basic social pleasantries had been limited for her, something that was sad and caused her, along with her dementia, to act in ways that were very much outside of her loving, kind character. However, through the past 6 weeks, we’ve watched the winter in which she has been frozen thaw away, and she has warmed to us through card games, family dinners, and through her cherished evening glass of wine. Each day is a new one, and her brain’s intricacies decide whether it’s better or worse than the one before, but we maintain patience and love, knowing that each day we have with her is a gift of connection. My children, ages 13 and 10, have lived in a four generation household, connecting them to approximately 188 collective years of womanly wisdom, between my grandmother, mom, and I. I hope that these connections root them in who they are and inform who they get to become. And for as long as she is with us, we will watch how our small connections feed my grandmother’s brain and soul, releasing her from a long winter in isolation.

    What Holds You Back from Wellness?

    Maybe social anxiety is standing in the way of you connecting with others, or perhaps you’re feeling depressed, so you isolate, so you don’t connect, and you get trapped in this cycle. Whatever it is that might be impeding your ability to meaningfully connect with others, your wellness is worth it to look more deeply into. Perhaps you want to explore counseling for anxiety to see if it might help OR you want to join a group of likeminded women, ready to focus on themselves, at least for an hour a week in February through our Winter Wellness Series. Whether it’s a small group experience or something a little more one on one, I’m here if you’re ready, offering connection and counseling for a variety of concerns. Reach out!

    About the author:

    Leah Rockwell, LPC, LCPC is a licensed professional counselor in PA and MD, providing counseling services for women through feminist therapy. She’s a lovingly direct counselor and a co-parenting mom of two daughters, determined to make the world a better place for tomorrow’s girls. In former lives, she was a Spanish teacher, a sex education instructor, a wine vendor, and she is pretty sure she was a mermaid.