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Building Connection during Chaos by Hillary Pappas, MA LMFT

Connecting with others can be difficult enough, but with the added stressors of school, work, holidays, and planning family trips, we are more likely to disengage as our mental, physical, and emotional health are being taxed. Students are being faced with finals, adults are trying to finalize work projects and taking on additional hours to afford holiday gifts, and families are focusing on the “perfect” holiday gathering. Even with connection in mind, the stress makes it difficult to reach this feeling.

Over time barriers to creating connections can take a significant toll on our mental health and overall relationship satisfaction. This cycle can lead to a pattern of burnout and loneliness. Brene Brown describes the connection as “the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued-when they give and receive without judgment.” Over time, building connection is shown to decrease arguments and resentment, and can enhance happiness, fosters positive relationships between parents and children, and increases overall life satisfaction.

How does one prevent burnout and feel connected with others, especially family? To start off, remember the WHY. Why are you feeling this way and why is finding a connection important to you? Only you can answer these questions. Then ask yourself when the last time you felt “seen, heard and valued” was without judgment. This can guide you in finding those that fill your cup and fill others’ cups.

Once you have explored the why, when, and who it is time to determine the how. The connection looks and feels different for each person. There is importance in being aware of how you feel connected with, but also how the ones you care for feel connected with as well. Here are some tips to enhance connection with those that are important to you:

  • Sit and be present with another person
  • Plan at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time to play or be silly
  • Find common interests and complete together, such as hiking, photography, dancing, playing instruments, starting a new show
  • Learn about someone else’s interests (without judgment), such as music, TV shows, hobbies
  • Write a gratitude note for someone you are appreciative for and send in the mail
  • Plan a video or phone call with an activity
  • Cook a meal together
  • Have a new experience
  • Reflect on old pictures either alone or with someone
  • Go on a rainbow walk with someone (finding all of the colors of the rainbow in nature)
  • Volunteer your time
  • Be vulnerable and tell someone how you feel
  • Get creative

Overall there are many, many ways to enhance connection during this time of chaos. Remembering that the chaos does not have to be in control, but you can be by creating authentic connections. The goal is to recognize when you are needing it, make small attempts to connect and continue this over time.