Tending to Relationships - Depression Therapy - The Psychology Group - Fort Lauderdale

How to Tend To Relationships: A ‘To-Do’ List

By Dr. Toni Falcone

Many people view socializing as a pleasure or something to do when their to-do list is complete. As our world advances, so do the expectations we place on how much or how quickly things should get done.

It may feel as if there is just no energy to put towards maintaining relationships. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal commented, “Millennials are playing catch up in the game of life.” While the focus of this article was on generational differences in financial stability, the idea of playing “catch up” in life really struck me. Living in an “I need to catch up” mentality means taking on more responsibility, embracing more of the already overwhelming demands, and making sacrifices in areas that are perceived as extras. This leads to feeling like there is less time to tend to relationships and doing so is less important than completing other tasks.

Loneliness

The impact of overlooking our relationships extends far beyond what is seen on the surface. The topic of loneliness has come up frequently over the last year, and research from 2018 indicates that people are reporting feeling lonely at an increasing rate. The idea of loneliness in the elderly population has been discussed for quite a while. There are even robots to replace social engagement and reduce feelings of loneliness.

Though we have been aware that loneliness is unhealthy and damaging to our elders, feelings of loneliness are also increasing across all generations. Surprisingly, in the 2018 study respondents ages, 18-22 reported the highest degree of loneliness. There are significant negative consequences of loneliness, which indicates a lack of meaningful connection to others. Loneliness negatively impacts work performance, exacerbates symptoms of depression, and has significant effects on our physical health. The need to tend to relationships is, even more, pressing now than ever before.

Ages, 18-22 reported the highest degree of loneliness.

The first relationship: Our Self

Often, the first relationship we lose sight of when life gets busy is our relationship with our self. Tending to the relationship with our self is crucial to being successful in meeting life’s demands. Reconnecting with our identity, interests, and values is essential to building a satisfying life. Because it creates the building blocks for developing relationships with others.

Ways to tend to our relationship with our self:

  • Taking time out for reflection
  • Treating ourselves with kindness and compassion
  • Connecting to our values and realigning our behaviors with our values
  • Commitment to self-care

Taking care of yourself is an essential step in preparing to be able to effectively tend to relationships with others. You cannot give to other relationships when you are feeling depleted. As the flight attendants always remind passengers, put the mask on yourself before helping others. Tending to relationships starts here.

Foster a sense of community & belonging

A sense of community and acceptance is important in reducing feelings of loneliness. Community can be found in many places, such as within a religious group, a sports team, an interest group, or within your neighborhood. Think about where you feel understood, or where you feel you can be the most authentic. Where do you feel a sense of belonging or fitting in with a group of people? Tending to this means finding time to spend contributing to groups that foster a sense of community. This can be done through attending events, keeping up with hot topics and trends in that area, volunteerism, donating, or advocating for a cause that is important to you.

Family & Friends

Our relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and romantic partners bring value and satisfaction to our lives.  Take a moment and reflect on the people who are in your life at the moment. Then ask yourself, what can you do to connect with important relationships you currently have in a meaningful way? Now be honest, how often are you actively putting effort into tending to these relationships? For many, the answer is simply, not enough.

Family relationships are often taken for granted until a major event happens. For many, a sense of belonging is found within the family relationships. Make an effort to connect with family members, even just to say hello. Tending to family relationships can bring up positive memories and enjoyable stories that don’t commonly cross your mind. Finding creative ways to connect and enhance family relationships can include looking through photographs or albums, planning a family trip or reunion, developing a family ritual, or establishing a routine for ongoing contact.

Friends. Though people commonly have many “friends” on social media platforms, many adults report having significantly fewer meaningful friendships. In childhood and early adulthood, it is often easier to make friends. There are less life demands, more time, and more energy to connect with peers and more availability of peers to develop friendships with.

As we enter and progress through adulthood, it is common for the time once spent with friends to be placed elsewhere, and for the number of meaningful friendships to dwindle down. Sociologists state that the primary factors in making new friends include proximity and availability of interactions, repeated and unplanned interactions, and a setting that allows for people to be authentic and let their guard down.  This makes sense when we think about why it seems easier to make friends during our school years. As an adult, you may have to put effort into placing yourself in settings that allow for those factors to exist. It is absolutely possible, and even exciting to create new friendships at every stage of life.

In addition to making new friends, there are likely many friendships that you already have but just need a little tending to. Think about the people with whom you were the closest at different times of your life. Then, reconnect with positive influences and healthy relationships from your past. Similar to family relationships, tending to relationships with friends from the past is a great opportunity to reminisce, share stories, and laugh at old photographs. Reflect on the people in your life who are or could be friends. Ask yourself, are you putting effort into maintaining and enhancing these relationships? If not, start with a phone call! Reaching out can go a long way. If you feel dissatisfied with the quality or quantity of friendships in your life, actively seek opportunity to connect to others in a meaningful way.

Coworkers

Tending to our relationships with coworkers can be easily forgotten when the demands at work are high and time is limited. Several research studies have shown that feeling connected to colleagues and accepted within the workplace has a positive effect on work performance, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.

A work environment that allows for collaboration and team building often results in the highest level of career enjoyment. Conversely, a heavily competitive work environment, unapproachable supervisor, or unrealistic work demands have negative effects that often extend beyond the workday. Those who work in an environment of animosity and unrealistic demand with little room for satisfying relationships to develop have higher levels of stress, lower productivity, and often feel unfulfilled and drained at the end of the workday.

In the past, working adults spent the majority of their time in office environments and around coworkers. The opportunity for “water cooler conversation” is limited with advances in technology that allows more people to work remotely. As a result, there may be increased feelings of isolation, less interpersonal interaction, and a need to actively create an opportunity for meaningful connection with coworkers.

The effects of developing and maintaining positive relationships with coworkers extend beyond the office. Higher levels of job satisfaction and improved performance help to increase self-esteem and improve mood. This contributes to building a satisfying life and allows for more time and energy to be spent tending to all relationships. Reflect on your own relationships with coworkers. Do these relationships bring joy to your work environment? If you feel that your connection with coworkers is lacking, what can you do to feel closer?

For those who work outside of an office or from home, networking with other professionals, joining work field oriented groups, or working from a shared office can help create a sense of coworker community. Tending to coworker relationships can be done through team building activities, out of office socializing, or simply asking a colleague how their day is going.

Romantic Relationships

Our relationship with our partner or spouse is often the first to come to mind when we begin reflecting on tending to relationships. As a relationship progresses and obligations or responsibilities outside of the relationship are pressing, it can be easy to fall into a routine and forget the importance of actively putting effort into enhancing this relationship. The spousal relationship also experiences the greatest impact of external stress, which makes it even more important to actively tend to this relationship on a regular basis.

When we share a home with our partner, they’re often the first person we see after a hard day, the person we share our frustrations with, and at times can take for granted. The most common time to tend to relationships is during times of conflict or crisisTherefore, For some, it is only when the relationship is in conflict that the importance of actively tending to bettering the relationship comes to mind. Reconnecting with your partner and actively tending to this relationship on a regular basis, rather than waiting for problems to arise, results in the highest levels of satisfaction and fulfillment within the relationship.

Reflect on the reasons you chose to be with your spouse or partner. Remember what it was like when you first started dating them. Revisit the conversations from the early stages of the relationship. When was the last time you discussed goals, wants, needs, dreams, or values with your partner? In the early stages of a relationship, we tend to show a lot of curiosity and put effort into getting to know our partner. This brings us closer. As we progress in the relationship, these conversations may diminish. For some, it may have been several years since effort was placed into actively getting to know your partner. Reconnecting with your spouse and spending time really communicating with curiosity can significantly enhance this relationship.

If, when you try to tend to this relationship in a new way, you find it hard to connect or communicate, reach out for support. According to relationship expert, Kristina Fecik it is most helpful to seek out support from couples counseling before significant problems arise. She identified “feeling unheard by your partner when trying to communicate, feeling like you can’t get your point across, or an overall feeling of disconnection occurring on a regular basis” as signs to seek the support of a relationship expert.

Couples therapy isn’t just intended for times of crisis, that’s a common misconception. Learning the skills to improve communication, enhance intimacy, and deepen the connection to your partner results in less relationship stress and a reduction in the frequency and intensity of conflict when stressful situations do arise. By tending to your romantic relationship on a regular basis can prevent feelings of resentment, boredom, or frustration from building and provide a fun outlet for times when external demands become overwhelming.

For those not in a romantic relationship, tending to this area means reflecting on your wants and needs from a partner or relationship. It’s important to realize what you have to offer a partner and adopting healthy and reasonable expectations of a partner, and participating in activities or events that allow for you to meet potential partners. Reduce the stress placed on romantic relationships by tending to other relationships, such as with coworkers, friends, or family.

The NEW to-do list, Tending to our relationships:

A to-do list when tending to ourselves:

Whether it is a few minutes outside in the morning drinking a cup of coffee, or a warm bath before bed; find time to focus on getting in touch with your thoughts, wants, needs, and feelings.

  • Make time each week for reflection
  • Practice self-care
  • Participate in an activity you truly enjoy, just for the sake of enjoying it. Go for a massage or a walk. Go to the beach, play a sport, read a book, or even take a nap. Do something that makes you feel good.
  • Prioritize your mental and physical health
  • This means getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, keeping up with doctors appointments and examinations, and reaching out for support when you need it

A to-do list when tending with our family:

  • Make a list of family members you would like to increase contact with and commit to reaching out to one family member on this list each week
  • Organize a family event
  • Develop a family ritual
  • Express feelings of love and gratitude to family members
  • Remind family members that you care and are there, even if you don’t see or speak to them frequently

A to-do list when tending with our friends:

  • List the friendships you currently have in your life. Make a plan to put effort into each friendship
  • Set aside time for socializing and tending to these relationships
  • Plan something fun with one or more people you know
  • Make a list of things you want to do and share it with your friend group
  • Remain open to making new friends
  • Seek out people with shared interests and find ways to connect

A to-do list when tending with our coworkers:

  • Bring positivity into the workplace
  • Start conversations with coworkers
  • Work on a project together
  • Participate in a team building activity
  • Plan an event or activity outside of the office
  • If you do not work in an office, list as many ways to connect with people in your field as you can think of.
  • Commit to connecting, networking, or engaging in in-person interactions with others in your field
  • Use a collaborative workspace to increase the opportunity for social interaction
  • Address work-related conflict as it arises in a respectful way

A to-do list when tending within romantic relationships:

  • Plan a date night
  • Have fun together!
  • Get to know each other again
  • Seek support from a couples therapist or relationship expert
  • List the benefits of remaining in the relationship
  • Actively focus on the positive aspects of the relationship
  • Show gratitude and appreciation to your partner
  • Try something new

Tending to relationships is important, let this be your reminder. Therefore, by ensuring you add the above actions to your daily “to-do list,” you will improve mental health, combat loneliness, and experience a sense of belonging and connection.

Dr. Toni Falcone - Fort Lauderdale Psychologist - The Psychology Group

Dr. Toni Falcone is a Psychologist at The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale with specialties in anxiety, depression, and eating disorder therapy. Call (954) 488-2933 x5 or email today if this post resonated with you to discuss how her services can help you.

Copyright © 2019 Dr. Toni Falcone, all rights reserved.