The power of connection

March 1, 2022

By Rebecca Small, Wellness Coordinator

The power of connection

For free mental health support and more info, contact the Centre for Growth & Harmony at 780.644.6155

Lately, I've been finding myself thinking about the power of connection and talking with others. If the past two years have taught me anything, it’s that social connection, shared experiences, and being seen are so important when we’re going through hard things.

As someone who is British-born and bred, it’s safe to say that I am not a natural born talker. The culture of having a stiff upper lip, the old saying of Keep Calm and Carry On and the expectations to always be fine make it challenging for people to reach out to others.

I have learned over time, however, that just because people aren’t talking about struggles, it doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing them. I’ve also learned that suffering in silence isn’t always necessary or beneficial. More often than not, we are not alone in our experiences, and through talking with others, we can find the help and support that we deserve.

We often hear of people fighting a silent battle behind closed doors, and it’s common for that to be considered a marker of strength. I think that can certainly be true - carrying any kind of emotional weight, trauma, or mental health struggle is not easy. It can be tiring any lonely, and it takes a lot of strength to walk that path alone. But I wonder what would happen if we instead celebrated people for reaching out and giving a voice to their (and maybe many others) experiences. Could we prevent people from feeling like they need to carry the hard things alone?

What could it look like if we approached mental health with more openness and compassion, not just in our personal lives, but in our professional and academic worlds, too? For a lot of us, reaching out to others might be something new and that can be difficult. There may be a lot of questions that we ask ourselves; who can I trust? Will I be judged? Will this negatively affect my relationship or job? Will I experience a huge wave of emotions? What if I’m dismissed or my feelings and experiences are minimized?

I have definitely cycled through every one of those thoughts when I’ve needed to share something hard with another human, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

Here are a few questions to think about that might help you share hard things and/or support others during difficult times:

  • What qualities make a person feel ‘safe’ to me? Do I also have those qualities?
  • What would I need if I shared something difficult with someone? Just a listening ear? Advice? Practical solutions? Referral to formal supports?
  • What are my boundaries? What am I comfortable sharing about myself? How much can I support others right now? Can I recognize when a conversation becomes triggering?
  • How can I let others know that I am available and able to listen or hold space?
  • What can I do to break the stigma of asking for help? Can I share from experience or lead by example? Can I check in on people in my life? Can I let someone know that I need some support?