Human babies need caregivers because they are born helpless. This first bond between caregiver and baby develops our attachment system, which is linked to our nervous system. We learn as babies and then toddlers how to get our needs met through others. As we grow into teenagers, we look to our peers and similar others to form our identity. As adults, we learn how to work with society. In this way, humans are related to wolves, both humans and wolves survive and thrive better in a pack.
When we feel anxious or depressed, our first instinct might be to isolate ourselves. We might want to hide because we feel emotionally taxed, and we don’t feel like we can handle much more. When we are anxious or fearful, it might feel scary to go outside or interact with others. Sometimes our emotions are so big, that it seems logical to let them dictate our actions.
Depression says, “you aren’t good enough.” “you can try, but you will probably fail.” When we listen to these thoughts, we feel heavy and lose our motivation. Speaking to others about these thoughts helps us to get another perspective. Going out and enjoying the company of others is a way to connect. When we connect, we feel less heavy, and we take our negative thoughts less seriously. It might be challenging to reach out to others when you are depressed. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, make a plan and set a date to meet people. Likewise, make sure that you don’t back out of the plan.
Anxiety and PTSD
Anxiety and PTSD might say, “you aren’t safe,” “you can’t trust others.” Avoiding other people and situations only feed the fear and make it bigger. Overcoming anxiety means you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone so that you can see that people can be trusted and that you are safe. Of course, some situations are truly not safe. If you have high levels of anxiety, it might be challenging to trust which situations are safe and to trust your judgement. This is when friends and family can help you decide if your fears are valid safety concerns or fears based on anxiety.
When we isolate ourselves, we only have our perspective as a source of information. We might tend to ruminate and focus on what is not working rather than what is working. We might abuse ourselves with negative self-talk, self-blame and invalidation of our emotions. When we don’t feel comfortable with others, we might turn to self-harm, develop bad eating habits or use substances to manage strong emotions.
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