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On the weekend I was watching a daytime talk show and I heard a psychologist talk about the instinct “tend-and-befriend” that focuses on the desire to build connections and nurture others under stressful situations.

Dr. Shelley Taylor, a professor at UCLA who, along with her colleagues, developed the “tend-and-befriend” theory of stress response, challenges the notice that the individualistic, aggressive “fight or flight” model applies to us all (The Tending Instinct: Women, Men and the Biology of Our Relationships; Henry Holt and Company, 2002). 

This isn’t surprising to me that seeking social support and helping others is a great form of stress relief, and it’s also vital to our own health and well-being.  As a Pastor and a Spiritual Director, who has been supporting people through all kinds of stressful situations, I often recommend people spend time with friends and loved ones.  I urge them to find ways to care for others. I know how important connection is for people and how therapeutic helping others can be. 

I have witnessed the transformations that happens when people join a class, or attend a workshop and make connections.  I have seen miracles happen when people join an activity that focuses on caring for others and how that caring can trigger courage and create hope in individuals.

Whether you are overwhelmed by your own stress or the unprecedented global health crisis, one of the ways to find hope is to connect, not to escape or withdraw.  There are endless ways to improve our mental well-being and an abundance of tools to support you.  This time may represent an excellent and rare opportunity for you to invest in yourself and develop some skills that will help you for the rest of your life.

I hope this Fall we’ll be part of your plan to build resiliency and find hope on the journey!