by Kathy Welch
Feelings of isolation and loneliness can sometimes accompany living with health challenges. Thus, having good relationships with family and friends is vital to maintaining the positive outlook necessary to make the best of your situation.
Whatever your relationship status or living arrangements, if you have health challenges accompanied by mobility issues, days of not feeling your best, the need to keep medical appointments or undergo treatments, or the occasional hospitalization, you can face isolation, which can spiral into other unwanted consequences such as anger or depression. Keeping these negative emotions at bay goes a long way towards improving your physical condition. Having friends that offer support, provide diversion, or share a laugh relieves the isolation that generates the other negative emotions that get in the way of your optimum functioning.
So how do you re-kindle friendships that health challenges may have impacted? We are social beings. Technology has given us myriad opportunities to communicate via e-mail, texting, social media, and other means, but regardless of one’s health status, as a society we have become more isolated. We no longer interact in ways that bring real connections with one another. Perhaps your first step might be as simple as picking up the telephone and connecting with someone you used to talk with daily. That person will probably be delighted to hear from you. If possible, arrange a get-together such as meeting for lunch or coffee or perhaps a visit in your home. Don’t worry about what your home looks like. Visitors are coming to see you, not your house.
When a goose is sick or wounded, another will drop out of the V-formation to protect it until it heals.
At one point or another, conversation may focus on challenges you may have. Share only as much as you are comfortable sharing and bear in mind that some people are a bit uncomfortable with such subjects. That’s okay. There will be plenty of other meaningful things to talk about. You and your identity are not wrapped up in your challenges. Other friends will be more than happy to listen to concerns you may want to share, and you will soon know who these individuals are. Scripture tells us to bear one another’s burdens, and you can give thanks to have those people in your life. You also never know what an inspiration you may be to others. In that sense you may be bearing that person’s burden.
Above all, laugh together. Science has revealed that laughter benefits the body in many ways, including releasing the feel-good hormone endorphin. It is also a great tension reliever. Scripture puts it more simply, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Recalling shared humorous events from the past or just playing a silly game lightens the load and takes the focus away from whatever challenge you are facing.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is another bit of scripture that tells us “A friend loves at all times.” Those times would include both the good and not so good days that everyone has. Also be reminded that the friendship street runs in both directions. Being a friend will also warm your heart as much as having a friend.
© 2013 Kathy Welch