This past spring I was invited to speak at the Find Your Voice Conference in Sandy, Utah. It was such a pleasure to gather with other women and share ideas for reconnecting. The pandemic and other worldwide events have done us no favors in the social realms. Many of us are feeling lost. No matter our situation, we can reconnect, which is essential to our well-being. We’re just meant to be together.
My Journey with Mental Illness
The summer of 2007 I began a very difficult mental-health journey that lasted about a year and a half. There were a variety of contributing factors, and our extended family has an extensive history with mental illness. Collectively, we have experienced and know firsthand about anxiety, ADD, autism, depression, OCD—and probably stuff I don’t even know about.
But that summer I spiraled out of control and was so sick I could hardly function. And I needed to function. I had a loving husband and a three-year-old son who needed me. I needed me.
I finally sought prescription medication since years of holistic treatments had not helped me. I also received professional counseling, did all my homework assignments, and changed my life. It wasn’t easy, but fast forward to today and I am a happy woman enjoying my mid-life.
My sole purpose in sharing anything about myself or my family is to help someone else. Several ladies approached me after I spoke at the conference and wanted to know more. They were asking on behalf of others and for themselves. It was wonderful to connect with them and provide a bit of hope.
One of the things we talked about was “sounding the alarm bell” when we need help. It’s absolutely necessary, and we must be willing to let others in and be on the lookout for those who need us.
Feeling Lost? Get Help.
I showed my trusty sheep bell, which used to be worn on a ewe’s collar. Years ago our family had a sheep farm, and bells like it were placed on a few of the sheep to warn us of danger in the herd. Sometimes a sheep would get its head stuck in a fence, and I’d have to give it a push so it could escape. Other times, a sheep would be on its back in a ditch and couldn’t right itself without my help. How did I know they needed help? Sometimes I saw them in danger. Other times, I heard the bell.
If I heard it apart from the rest of the herd, I knew a sheep was stranded. If I heard it clanging frantically, I knew a predator was in the flock. Either way, it alerted me to danger!
At the FYV conference, we ladies promised each other we’d sound the alarm bell when needed. I specifically asked everyone to remember the bell. Get help if you need it. Don’t be afraid.
Markers to Guide Our Way
Fortunately, there are metaphoric bells and actual markers, like trail markers, that can help us find our way if we’re lost. They come in many forms. They include, but are not limited to: religious or spiritual beliefs, core friends and groups, community leaders, mentors, etc.
They do NOT include strangers on the Internet or on social media, individuals or groups who would cause us harm, or relationships that are toxic and problematic. You must decide for yourself what influences to allow in your life. Choose well.
Find your guides and make them part of your foundation, your moral compass. Lock them in and do not let go.
Creative Ways to Reconnect with Others
After you’ve found your trusted connections, reach out to them! Don’t wait for them to always reach out to you.
Here are a few easy ideas to get started:
- Share a good book. Maybe you join a book club. Or maybe you just trade books with a friend or family member. Jot down a few notes in the book as you read along. Learn from each other.
- Teach or learn a new skill. What have you always wanted to learn? See if a friend could teach you. Then offer to reciprocate by sharing one of your skills. Put the word out and you might be surprised who is interested.
- Brainstorm ideas. What would your friends like to do? Usually friends have matching interests, at least in part. Toss out a bunch of ideas and see what you have in common. Make plans to attend some events, classes, or just visit.
- Release butterflies or ladybugs. You can purchase caterpillars or ladybugs online or at farm-supply stores.
- Get pampered. Manis and pedis are fabulous at salons or you can DIY with supplies on hand. Add in some facials, and have a great time.
- Exercise together. Several women at the conference suggested this. Happy endorphins plus good company equal an incredible bond. Go for it!
- Swap plant starts. Have a green thumb? Or want to have one? Match up with someone who loves plants. Most enthusiasts are happy to share starts and teach you growing tips.
If you don’t have time to stop in for a visit, you can drop off fun things and nurture friendship. Just try to also drop by for a visit occasionally, too. The list below is mostly self-explanatory. I would add that porch pinata ideas are the brainchild of Leisha McDaniel. Click her name to see her on social media or search #porchpinata. She pops right up!
Some quick explanations for above: the front-door fun can be anything seasonal, as in decorating the porch area or just targeting the front door. Next, borrow someone’s pot and fill it with soup. Someone once did this for me, and it was the best!
When taking food to someone, I suggest offering them a small menu of choices so they know what you CAN cook, and you’ll find out what they like. I ask for allergy concerns, etc. before I offer a menu.
Birthday celebrations for residents at care centers are super easy to do. Ask someone in charge what they accept for residents. Supply enough for everyone. We have simply wrapped up a bag of popcorn and tied on a note, for example. Drop off and supply enough for nurses to distribute to each resident throughout the year on their birthday.
I’m skipping some shown above, but you can probably figure them out. I suggest that everyone do a simple friendship survey, asking friends about their favorite things. Get to know them better, and use it to guide your shopping for gifts. I’ve done these surveys, just sent them out in texts, and have loved the responses. Feel free to copy/paste and use my sample here, personalizing it as you wish:
Your Favorite Things
- Treat or Food?
- Hobby (old or new)?
- Way to relax (your favorite way)?
- Something you’ve always wanted to do or try but haven’t.
- Anything else that’s a favorite?
Lastly, get some window markers and leave random notes. I do this on our bathroom mirrors too. It’s super cute and unexpected.
Find Your Voice
Be authentically you as you reach out to others. In this way, you’ll find truly meaningful connections. It’s good to be nice to everyone, of course. But 2,000 followers on Facebook doesn’t mean you have any close friends. We all know that. Enjoy those few, meaningful connections and stay close.
Thanks for being here and reading this far. I truly wish you success and joy in your journey. All the best!
My social media and email links are below. I’d love to stay in touch! Or simply leave a comment for this post and tell me what you would add. I’m sure you have great ideas!