Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Cultivating social resilience

6/29/2023 by Kileen Smyth, L.I.C.S.W., M.S.W.


What are we finding as we tiptoe out of COVID-19 mask restraints? Each other. Rediscovering the smile of a colleague or person on the street can be priceless. As we reopen the curtain to each other's faces, dare to take a second look at people.

On May 2, the U.S. surgeon general reported on an ailment linked to increased heart attacks, depression, diabetes and dementia that affects people no matter where they live: loneliness. He identified "loneliness and isolation" as the new pandemic. How timely for all of us to think about and act on solutions. Cultivating social resilience can minimize many mental health challenges, and it's especially helpful in the midst of transition.

How to cultivate social resilience:

Set an intention to reach out in some way to up to five people a day. Do it via phone, text, email or in person.

Observe rather than judge. Be open to new thoughts, feelings and people.

Cultivate self-compassion. You may find yourself extending it to others.

Investigate opportunities to volunteer, learn, grow, or play and follow through on doing one of them.

Accept people as they are. Allow yourself to learn something from everything.

Listen attentively. Let your fears go. Deliberately take in the good for 10–20 seconds at a time.

Restore friendships — dare to reach out to someone you have been missing and spend some quality time.

Embrace imperfection. Recognize when “perfection” is more of a shield and limits authentic connection.

Set a goal each day to express gratitude to someone.

Investigate ideas and ask someone about their hobbies or interests.

Limit your electronics. Dare to talk to someone on the park-and-ride, in your neighborhood or in your family.

Intentionally live from a place of heart and meaning.

Energize openness, be curious, get to know people around you and help where you can.

Nurture a connection with nature, walk in parks with others, join a bike group, eat outdoors and watch the stars.

Connect with someone you treasure at least once a week.

YES — harness the power of your "micro yes" — the smallest possible thing you can do without triggering an overwhelming feeling. Keep doing it and build your social resiliency.

Here are some online resources you may find helpful:

Strengthening your social resilience can enhance your happiness and add meaning to life.

Kileen Smyth, L.I.C.S.W., M.S.W., is a clinical social worker and therapist for Integrated Behavioral Health at Mayo Family Clinic Northwest. She provides individual and group therapy for patients dealing with anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, insomnia and an array of other family and life transition challenges. She also facilitates group supervision, helps educate colleagues and enjoys the opportunity to network with mental health colleagues throughout the Rochester community.