Making an effort to stay in touch with friends may be a difficult task when feeling depressed or stressed. However, new research finds social connections need to be primed — not neglected — in difficult times.
When dealing with a job loss, money problems or other stresses, it can be tempting to turn inward, becoming overly critical and self-conscious. In times like these, however, leaning on social connections — by either strengthening existing ones or making new ones — is more important than ever.
“The solution to these difficult times is in the heart, in becoming more involved in the lives of other people,” said Bernardo J. Carducci, psychology professor at Indiana University Southeast.
Strengthening existing friendships, volunteering for a nonprofit organization and participating in a hobby-oriented club are just some of the ways to turn one’s focus outward in what Carducci calls a win-win situation.
Carducci said social connections help promote better health and happiness in individuals and can buffer stress. For people looking for jobs, the helping hand can go both ways when they volunteer for a service or nonprofit organization:
- Communities and agencies benefit from the help while the volunteers are able to keep their skills current, contribute to a worthy cause and beef up their resumes by demonstrating teamwork and filling in employment gaps.
- Volunteer work can lead to new friendships and contacts who can be key to finding a new job. “You find a job by knowing somebody, hearing about something ahead of time,” Carducci said. “By the time it goes online, everybody knows about it.”
- It’s possible that volunteer work for an agency or organization could lead to a job at the same organization when the economy improves.
- Volunteering can help people step out of their comfort zone by letting them try something new, such as teaching seminars to community groups — with little risk to the volunteer. “You might find that there’s something different that you might want to do,” Carducci said.
- The work helps volunteers stay focused and optimistic.
Carducci, author of The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk: How to Talk to Anyone Anytime Anywhere About Anything, urges job-seekers to focus on their social connections rather than the Internet because he said friends and contacts can provide important job leads before the jobs are even posted online.
Source: Indiana University