Feeling Lonely? You’re Not Alone. Fifteen Ideas to Build Your Network

Friendship is a sheltering tree. ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge


As you’ve probably gathered, this month is devoted to taking care of ourselves and each other.

From unpacking the elusive concept of “self-care” to talking about why you should laugh as often as possible, this month is dedicated to making all of us stronger, healthier, happier activists.

Why focus the ENTIRE month of February on our mental health? Because you and I both know that the past two years have been one heckuva slog.

And it’s taking a toll.

In 2018, 69% of Americans said that considering the future of our nation caused significant stress. Sixty-two percent said that the current political climate caused them significant stress. Fifty-six percent said that this is the lowest point in our nation’s history – at least that they can remember.

Guys, we’re stressed out.

So today we’re talking about one of the most important tools for a resilient resister’s tool chest: a strong support network.

Having at least a few core people in your corner does wonders for your ability to withstand stress, anxiety, and depression. In fact, research suggests that “the single most powerful predictor of human resilience is interpersonal support.”

People who have stronger social support networks respond better to stressful situations, and emotional distress while folks who don’t suffer from all kinds of mental – and physical – ailments.

But here’s the kicker… Social isolation itself is one of the biggest health challenges that we face.

It’s hard – even in a so-called “connected” world – for many of us to foster and maintain close relationships that we can rely on.

If you’re having a hard time maintaining or building a strong network, you’re not alone! Over half of Americans don’t have a friend they believe they could rely upon in times of stress and struggle.

So. What can we do to strengthen our relationships and build new ones?

Well, if you Google it, you’ll see all sorts cheerful articles telling you to “get out there and build your network!” coupled with a few plucky action items like “answer your phone!” and “join a club!”

But it’s hard to muster the energy to build a network when you’re already stressed, depressed, and anxious, isn’t it?

Can we just be honest about how much courage and energy it takes to be vulnerable, to be the first one to introduce yourself, to put yourself out there?

Because it does.

So honor those feelings – of exhaustion, of anxiety, of shyness – to help get them out of your way. Because you already know that having a support network will help you get out of, or stay out of, a funk. Now you just have to take a few steps to build or reinforce your network.

Taking those steps is easier when you have actionable, concrete goals rather than vague ideas that don’t give you any sense of accomplishment.

For example, “Have a face-to-face meeting with at least one person per week” is better than “Get together with people more often.”

“Introduce myself to one new person at a meeting” is better than “meet new people at meetings.”

I’ve created a nifty – and free! – worksheet for you to use to help brainstorm different social network building strategies – and space to make sure you’ve set out three real action items to meet your goals. There’s a page for building family relationships, rekindling friendships, deepening existing friendships, creating new friendships, and helping foster friendships within your groups.

You can download it by clicking HERE.

But to get your creative juices flowing, here are 15 ideas to build your network … capped off with a bonus strategy that works for even the most introverted among us!

  1. Join the outreach committee – or create one – for your Democratic club or activist organization. Set a deadline for yourself to contact your club organizers about being part of that committee.
  2. Help set up or break down meeting space at the next meeting – it gives you something physical to do while you’re connecting with other people in a smaller group setting. (Way less pressure!)
  3. Install yourself as a greeter by the table with name tags. Make sure new people know where to sit, and ask them to sign in.
  4. If you’re a group leader, beginning at your next meeting leave time before or after meetings for people to just talk and get to know one another. Encourage them to socialize.
  5. If you’re a group leader, challenge members to bring one or more friends to meetings, beginning with the next meeting you have. Share this post on Facebook to make sure they understand the importance of fostering connections.
  6. If you’re not the meeting leader, send this post to them and ask them to set aside time before or after meetings for socializing. Offer to bring cookies, or brownies, or muffins – whatever food makes sense for the gathering.
  7. If you’re an attendee, go to meetings 10 minutes early and make a point of introducing yourself to one new person per meeting. Put that phone away!
  8. Make a point of finding one person who seems new to your meetings, and introduce them around. (You’ll reconnect with other people, you’ll probably make deeper connections with some folks that you’ve met already, AND you’ll be helping someone else in the process. It’s a triple whammy!)
  9. Find a local campaign that needs help; look at their event schedule to see if they’re hosting a canvass, postcard party, or phone bank. Each of those is a GREAT way to get to know campaign leadership and fellow volunteers.
  10. Take ten minutes (set your timer!) and quickly flip through your emails, texts and facebook messages. Then check your contacts. Who have you not connected with recently? Send a text – or better yet, call! – and let them know you’re thinking of them.
  11. Research potential speakers for group meetings and call them to talk about their work.
  12. Some regional and national political organizations need help; volunteering with those kinds of organizations may be electronic, but often the volunteer base is close-knit and communicates a lot via slack or e-mail.
  13. Start a monthly get-together featuring a guest speaker. Make part of it social. Ask attendees to bring at least one guest.
  14. Host a potluck dinner donation party, where everyone brings a dish – and the money that you’d otherwise spend buying dinner at a restaurant goes into a kitty for whatever organization you want to benefit. Ask your guests to bring a friend!
  15. Meet friends face-to-face. These meetings do not need a focus, an end-point or an action item! The action item is camaraderie and personal growth. It’s not a waste of time to get together with friends for a coffee and kvetching session. It’s healthy.
And finally – the bonus strategy!

This is my secret weapon.

Seriously. I’ve used this method countless times to combat feelings of shyness or intimidation. It’s a super simple can-be-used-anywhere strategy that works in person or online, and happens to be second nature for lots of women.

Are you ready?

[whispers]

I take care of people.

That’s it. That’s the secret.

I overcome my own nervousness by actively looking for opportunities to help other people be more comfortable.

By playing the hostess, I give myself an activity and a goal that’s not all about me. It settles my nerves by giving me an external focus and job to do. So introducing myself to someone who’s all alone at the coffee station becomes less about me meeting them – and more about making them feel welcome.

Try it out the next time you’re at a meeting or a party. Play the hostess, and see if it makes it easier for you to mingle.

So there you have it! Fifteen ideas to help you build your network and one super strategy to use in situations where you feel nervous, anxious or intimidated. I hope they help you foster new relationships and nurture the ones that you already have.

Because you deserve to be surrounded with people who support you and the work that you do.

Let’s get to work!


Tuesday: (Missouri subscribers) Help Moms!

Today, women (and men) from across Missouri are attending the annual Missouri lobby day with Moms Demand Action. They’ll be speaking with legislators about common sense gun reform, and encouraging lawmakers to pass reasonable gun reform legislation that will protect us all.

Even if you weren’t able to go to Jefferson City today, please call your legislators to voice your support for common sense gun legislation. Numbers matter! So get out your phone.

This will take 5 minutes – tops!

Start by finding your legislators; enter your address here: http://www.senate.mo.gov/LegisLookup/default.aspx/leg_lookup.aspx

Then click the links for their names to be taken to the page that has their office telephone number. Give them a call, and say:

“Hi, my name is ___ and I’m one of Senator/Representative______’s constituents. I wasn’t able to come to the Moms Demand Action legislative lobby day today, but wanted to call to express my support for common sense gun reform. What is _____ doing right now to promote common sense gun legislation – and what can I do to help?”

See? Simple. I just called mine. Your turn!

Wednesday: Fight the Real National Emergency

No snark, folks. This is serious. Trump’s declaration of a national emergency – in the absence of one – is his latest big step toward authoritarianism.

Now, I’ve seen lots of folks say that the National Emergencies Act allows the President to authorize funding, that it’s Congress’s mistake that it gave that power away without being more clear, and performing all other kinds of mental gymnastics to keep from the stark realization that we have a President who wants to rule by edict and a GOP that’s completely fine with that as long as they get more money.

The fact is, what he’s done is unconstitutional. It cannot – it MUST NOT – stand, and it’s up to us to keep the pressure on while states Attorneys General fight it in court.

Some Democratic lawmakers have already vowed to introduce a bill that would rescind the emergency declaration. Today, please call your Congresscritter and ask them to support that legislation, and let them know how concerned you are with the President’s refusal to recognize separate branches of government.

Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because I’m extremely concerned that the President is acting without congressional approval, and is stealing billions of dollars that was supposed to be used for other projects to build a wall that experts say won’t do what he says it will. I’ve heard that some democratic lawmakers are going to file legislation that will overturn his National Emergency designation. Is Congress(wo)man ____ planning to support that legislation? Will he/she cosponsor?

Thursday: Tell Your Legislators: Stop Enabling War Crimes In Yemen

The civil war in Yemen has been described as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are supporting different sides of the conflict. The United States has been selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and providing intelligence. The humanitarian situation in Yemen is horrifying. It truly is. And the U.S. is complicit.

Last year the Senate voted to end U.S. support – using the War Powers Resolution for the very first time to end involvement in a war. You can see where your Senators landed by clicking HERE.

Unfortunately, the House never took the bill up. So we have to do this all over again.

In the Senate, the resolution is S.J.Res. 7; in the House, it’s H.J.Res. 37.

Call your Senators and your Representative, and ask them to cosponsor this legislation.

Friday: Who Knew Searching the Internet Could Plant a Tree?

Introducing Ecosia – a search engine that uses at least 80% of its profits from ad revenue to plant trees. That’s right! Users just go about our business as usual, and the revenue that’s generated from ad clicks and online purchases are used in a way that benefits the whole world.

I love their little personal tree counter, where I can see my impact. And I love their privacy policy – they don’t sell user data to advertisers or create profiles based on searches. You can read more about their privacy policy here.

It’s really easy to install Ecosia as your search engine – just head over to http://www.ecosia.org and follow their prompts. Then just go about your regular daily web life. Such a brilliant, simple way to pitch in!


P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S: Yes! Some of you have asked if I write for a living, and the answer is “I sure do!” Visit www.mhornish.com to learn more.

P.P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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