Connectedness: Relationships Strengthen Resilience

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How connected are you? Many people value their self-reliance – the ability to solve and manage problems on their own. While self-reliance and grit are important qualities, relationships are one of the key principles of resilience.

What is Connectedness?

In its Suicide Prevention Strategic Direction published in 2011, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines connectedness as “the degree to which a person or group is socially close, interrelated, or shares resources with other persons or groups.” Connectedness can include relationships with friends, a spouse or other family members, as well as professional relationships and community ties. No matter what type of relationship is involved, the connection created can have significant positive effects on a person’s well-being. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Network (2019), “positive and supportive social relationships and community connections can help buffer the effects of risk factors in people’s lives.”

Is There a Connectedness Crisis?

In today’s world, it appears like we are more connected than ever – at least with technology. Social media and mobile communication seem to make it easier to stay close to others. However, a 2018  survey by global health company Cigna of more than 20,000 U.S. adults showed increasing levels of loneliness despite the ability to stay in touch. Some of the key takeaways from the survey were:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they are isolated from others.
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people or feel like there are people they can talk to.
  • Only around half of Americans have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family.
  • Generation Z is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.

It’s important to find a balance between healthy use of social media, maintenance of in-person social connection and opportunities to create new relationships. Check out this article from the NavyNavStress blog for tips to help you reset your relationship with social media and your relationship with yourself.

Building Community Connectedness

In addition to unit cohesion and finding meaning in the mission, belonging to a social group can increase a person’s sense of personal value and feelings of connectedness with others. It also gives people access to a larger source of support. According to the CDC (2011), these effects indicate that people who belong to social groups may be more capable of healthy coping in stressful situations. Additionally, group members can notice when someone is struggling with a problem and offer support to that individual. Stronger ties to community organizations may also benefit people by providing better access to formal helping resources outside of the group itself.

A social group may be a formal organization, like a faith-based study group or a petty officer association. They can also be informal, like coworkers who grab lunch together or gym buddies who work out together a few times a week. What’s most important is that the social group is positive and supportive for its members.

For Sailors and their families, two resources to find opportunities for social connection are the Fleet and Family Support Program (FFSP) and the Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program.  FFSPs support individual and family readiness through a full array of programs and resources which help Navy families to be resilient, well-informed and adaptable to the Navy environment. MWR offers diverse programs with something to interest almost everyone, and the offerings are great opportunities to meet others who share similar interests.

Connecting with a Spouse or Significant Other

A romantic relationship is the closest form of social connectedness for many people. Conversely, the loss of a romantic partner can cause significant loneliness and stress. Navy life can be tough on romantic relationships. Unpredictable schedules, time apart and other factors can make it difficult to sustain and grow romantic partnerships. There are many resources to help, though. One of the most productive options to consider is to attend some form of counseling, and the Navy has several options for Sailors and their loved ones to reclaim their connection. Those resources include non-medical counseling through Military and Family Life Counseling, Navy Counseling, Advocacy and Prevention services  at Fleet and Family Support Centers (FFSCs); Navy chaplains and medical counseling available through a Military Treatment Facility.

Building Connection 1 Small ACT at a Time

Caring is at the heart of connectedness. When interacting with others, remember that 1 Small ACT can make a difference. Like U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook or follow @NavStress on Twitter for information from the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign. For additional resources, messages and materials, download the FY-19 1 Small ACT Toolkit.

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