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Want to live longer? Get social.

Want to live longer? Get social.

Want to live longer? Get social.

Relationships with friends, family and coworkers are a source of happiness, joy (and yes, sometimes stress and frustrations). But, when it comes to your health, the good far outweighs the bad.

Research has found, time and time again, that social connections (or lack thereof) have a serious impact on your health:

When you feel lonely, your body becomes more stressed. That stress triggers inflammation and starts a chain reaction impacting your heart and gut health, insulin production, immune system and more.

Healthy relationships matter

Surrounding yourself with people won’t keep you from feeling lonely. What matters most is finding the people (or person) who enable you to be and feel like yourself; people who see and hear you and are truly interested in the ideas, insight and things you bring to the friendship.

It’s the quality of relationships, not the quantity.

Science backs up these findings, as well:

  • Midlife women in highly satisfying marriages or marital-type relationships have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Disappointing or negative interactions are linked to poorer health
  • Couples in hostile marital spats have reduced immunity

Making meaningful connections

So, if you’re lonely, what can you do to help foster social connections? Breaking out of a cycle of loneliness can be particularly difficult if you already feel isolated.

People who are lonely are more likely to perceive threatening or negative thoughts, feelings and associations when interacting with others. Trying to establish those connections can become stressful, which is why many who feel isolated wind up staying that way.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take if you’re battling loneliness, especially in these stressful times. John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago suggests four steps to help you EASE into connections with others.

1. Extend yourself
The only way to make connections is to put yourself out there. But, there’s no need to rush into it or get into situations that make you overly stressed or emotional. Instead, find a volunteer group, a small setting or familiar environment where you feel more safe reaching out to others. There are many online groups and classes being offered right now.

Volunteering is a great way to establish connections, because you’re interacting with people and also receiving positive feedback and gratitude from others – something that also helps combat loneliness.

2. Have an action plan
Instead of jumping into a new situation or goal, make a plan that’s realistic. Write down what you want to do and when you want to do it. For example, maybe one day you’ll research volunteer groups in your area. The next day, you can call and find out ways to help.

3. Seek collectives
Don’t try anything and everything just to get out the door and meet other people. Instead, focus on things that matter to you. Find groups, places and people that have similar interests, activities, background or values. If you like to work-out, try an online yoga class. Book lovers can join a virtual book club put on by a local bookstore. Love cooking? Sign up for a cooking class.

4. Expect the best
Be positive before, during and after your interactions. Positivity can help balance the tendency to assume the worst during conversations. The key is to know that things don’t have to be perfect for them to go well.

Not feeling lonely? Reach out to others.

Strengthening relationships, meeting new people and forging connections is good for everyone. The health benefits of connecting with others are just as strong for those that invite new faces into their already established friendships as it is for those that are seeking new connections.

So, the next time you’re planning a virtual hang out, invite someone new.

If you’re feeling lonely, anxious or depressed, it’s important to talk to your primary care provider. Together, we’ll discuss your symptoms and medical history to come up with a plan that’s right for you.

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Eileen West, MD
Eileen West, MD about 12 hrs ago

The scenario plays out like this… you’re sitting at home watching reruns of Friends when your vision blurs. Minutes later your head feels like it's set in a vice, and someone is cranking the lever. With your head throbbing, the nausea kicks in. After making a bathroom stop (goodbye lunch), you climb into bed and pull the covers over your face, lying still in the dark. Can you relate? This is called migraine, and sadly this illness is all too common. ● Approximately 39 million people in the US and 1 billion people worldwide have migraines ● Most people with migraine have 1 to 2 attacks per month which can extend from 4 hours to 3 days ● 36 billion is spent each year on healthcare and loss of productivity due to migraines Add onto those staggering stats this surprise—WOMEN are at greatest risk. Studies show that 8 out of 10 people with migraine are females. While research isn’t fully conclusive as to why, the data points to women’s hormone levels changing. ➡️ If you are battling migraines, please know that you do not need to suffer alone. At Eileen West, MD, and Associates, we are here to help you find the right treatment to prevent migraines and make them less painful. You have a life to lead. We’re here to help you on that journey and provide exceptional care. ⭐️ June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month. Share your migraine questions below… We’d love to help. #youdeservebetter #msmedicine #fairfaxphysician #conciergemedicine #lifestylemedicine #doctorsofinstagram #femalephysician #womenshealth #fairfaxdoctor #fairfax #fairfaxva #fxva #dc #washington #loveVA #fairfaxcounty #virginia #northernvirginia #nova #dcarea #dmv #va #nham

Eileen West, MD
Eileen West, MDabout 2 days ago

IT’S SELF-CARE SUNDAY. We’re back this week to focus on the importance of self-care and giving you tips on how to practically care for the physical, mental, emotional, & social parts of you. Today’s self-care tip is simple but necessary: Find Ways To Relax Our American society prides itself on doing, doing, doing. Here’s the truth - busy doesn’t equal beneficial. We need a balance of work, play, and rest. Your mind, body, and emotions need periods of relaxation in order to refuel. Here are 10 Ways You Can Relax: ● Meditate ● Do Yoga ● Get a massage ● Take a nature walk or hike ● Journal ● Swim ● Listen to calming music ● Sit in the sun ● Color ● Read a book Self-care isn’t selfish, it is essential. Your brain and body need downtime. Do yourself a favor & RELAX. ➡️ What is your favorite way to relax? Tell us in the comments. #youdeservebetter #msmedicine #fairfaxphysician #conciergemedicine #lifestylemedicine #doctorsofinstagram #femalephysician #womenshealth #fairfax

Eileen West, MD
Eileen West, MDabout 6 days ago

More than 80% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. Hot flashes can occur during the day or night and have a range of severity. If you fall into the category of moderate to severe, here are 6 tips to help you find relief: 1. Keep the temperature in your home cool. 2. Reduce stress with yoga, tai chi, meditation, biofeedback, acupuncture & massage. 3. Eliminate hot drinks, hot foods, alcohol, caffeine, and cigarette smoking 4. Wear light, breathable clothing during the day and to bed. 5. Sleep with cooling products, including sprays, gels, and a cool-fabric pillow. Use layered bedding that can be easily removed during the night. Cool down with a bedside fan. 6. When a hot flash is starting, try “paced respiration”—slow, deep, abdominal breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe only 5 to 7 times per minute, much more slowly than usual. ➡️ There are some prescription treatments to help with menopausal symptoms. Talk with your primary care doctor to discuss the best path for you. If you currently are seeking a provider, we are here to advocate for your total wellbeing and provide knowledgeable and personal care. Please reach out to schedule an appointment and learn more about how we can help! References: The North American Menopause Society (mnflashes.pdf), Stat from National Library of Medicine #youdeservebetter #msmedicine #fairfaxphysician #conciergemedicine #lifestylemedicine #doctorsofinstagram #femalephysician #womenshealth #fairfaxdoctor #fairfax #fairfaxva #fxva #dc #washington #loveVA #fairfaxcounty #virginia #northernvirginia #nova #dcarea #dmv #va #menopause

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