Is Your Social Circle Stressing You Out?

With the ever-increasing pace of our lives, we all need a way to escape. Many of us work to build a supportive friend group to cope with our hectic schedules and plethora of obligations. But what happens when your social circle becomes part of the problem?

There will always be people in your life that contribute to your elevated tension levels. We usually imagine these people as bosses or co-workers, clients, or other people that we do not come into social contact with. However, certain types of friends also contribute to elevated stress levels. People or groups that demand too much of your time can make your busy schedule seem fuller, especially when these groups use tactics such as guilt to persuade you to take on responsibilities. Other friends may appear to be in constant competition with you, and it can be easy to take their need for comparisons (and winning) to heart when spending time with each other. Other friends and social groups may appear judgmental of your choices, and let you feel the full force of their negative opinion about your choices. These negative groups often get pushed out of your life as you find social circles with fewer expectations and higher levels of support.
What if your usual social group isn't always negative? Social research actually shows that having undeterminable interactions in your friend group can actually be worse! Relationships where the interactions are sometimes supportive and positive, and other times antagonistic and negative can cause more stress than relationships that are consistently negative. When you know your relationship with a person is usually negative, you can mentally prepare for your interactions. When you never know what to expect, you can find yourself overwhelmed by the negativity, or even worried about meeting up before you even spend time with that person or group!
It seems like everyone has a friend or two that can't help but be a negative, so why should you worry about it? Relationship conflicts and stress impact more than just you good time on a lazy Saturday. This stress has an obvious negative impact on your health. It can affect blood pressure and contribute to heart disease or number of other problems. You can experience effects such as increased mood swings, increased or decreased appetites, headaches, insomnia, and more!
If your social circle is stressing you out, you need to reconsider your friendships and your social obligations. Minimizing or eliminating negative relationships from your life can help you to reduce stress, improve your outlook and your health, and move forward into better relationships and social circles.
Here are a few tips to considering your social circles:
Make a list of every friendship in your life. Think about all of the people you interact with regularly, people you see on Facebook and your holiday card list, people you work with, and even your romantic partners.
Examine your list. Highlight or circle the names of the people on your list who are supportive, or who make you happy. These are people that you obviously will want to keep in your life. You might even consider spending more time with them, or talking to them more often if this is possible.
Evaluate the names that are left on your list. Be honest about the relationship you have with that person, and try to determine whether you benefit from the relationship or if it is simply draining. Some things to consider are: How much work on your end is required to maintain a good relationship with this person? Are you holding on the relationship out of habit? Is the friendship competitive in a negative way? Does this person bring out the worst in you? How much do you trust this friend? Are you receiving as much as you give to this relationship? If you truly put in the effort that this relationship deserved, whether more or less, would it benefit your life and self?
As you go through your list, note the names that you deem as positive relationships. You might consider making a special note beside the names of the people who you feel you could have a more positive relationship with, given more time and energy. Think about ways that you could go about improving the relationships you have marked.
If you have discovered individuals with whom you are unable to create a beneficial relationship, consider ways to remove them from your social life. Avoid making any unnecessary plans with these people. Consider other ways that they may stress you out. Removing them as a stressful association may be as simple as removing them from your Facebook network, or as difficult as changing your schedule. One way that will naturally weed these individuals out is spend more time with your positive friends. You may still see your "negative friends" by chance, but they will not affect your mental state so often.


Nancy Travers, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, specializes in all types of relationships; dating, existing relationships, family relationships, and relationships with friends and business relationships. She also helps her clients overcome anxiety and depression through talk therapy as well as through hypnosis. What sets her apart from many other counselors is that she has counseled in the gay/lesbian community for over 10 years. She also has experience counseling families with elder care issues. Nancy has been in practice for over 15 years and can provide you with the tools you need to approach dating and relationships with confidence. Visit her website at http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com.

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