Life is becoming busier. The balance between work, personal responsibilities, family and a social life is often hard to get right. You can feel like you don’t have time to stop for a lunch break or cook dinner, let alone meet up with friends, relax or do something fun.

There are only 24 hours in a day and, when something has to give, that something is often the stuff you need more than ever. But it’s really important to stop and connect with yourself and others, even when it’s busy.

Why be connected to yourself and others?

“Social support is one of the most important factors in having a healthy and happy life,” explains psychologist Dr Marny Lishman. “Being connected to people makes us feel safer, comforted, valued and needed.” These social connections are also proven to be strong protective factors against mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

In fact, the benefits of staying connected with others are amazing. “Being around people we connect with increases the release of oxytocin,” says Lishman. “This has a calming effect which counteracts the stress response. It helps calm our nervous system down and prevents us from releasing stress chemicals into our body.”

Connecting with yourself can be harder, however the benefits can increase your happiness, productivity, purpose in life and physical and mental health and wellbeing.

How to stay connected:

Let go of the ‘stuff’ in your life

“We are often filling our lives up with things we perceive as important, but in the scheme of things they are not,” says Lishman. There may be tasks or activities within your day that aren’t necessary. Lishman’s advice is to: “Stop filling up your time with more ‘things’ and instead, take time out for yourself.”

Prioritise relationships

Have a good look around you. Who’s there? Who makes you feel great? Who are your supporters when times are tough? And who cheers you along when things are going well? When it comes to relationships, it’s often good to focus on quality rather than quantity, especially when you’re feeling pushed for time.

Set yourself a challenge to do something to strengthen your most important relationships every week. That could mean a phone call or even a quick text message or email, and it could mean something bigger like meeting up for a meal, exercising together or enjoying a mutual hobby. It’s important to look after yourself and your family, friends and work colleagues.

Make a plan

If you really want to create more time in your life, you need to be honest about where your time is currently spent. “Write up a schedule to see where you are spending most of your time, and then some of the less important things can be replaced with reconnecting with people,” Lishman suggests.

If you’re still struggling to find time, consider multi-tasking. “Look at the activities you already do and then buddy up with a friend to do them,” says Lishman. “For example, going to the gym, going for a walk, or having dinner with the kids.”

Make new friends

Although it’s often seen as more difficult to make friendships as an adult than during childhood, all hope is not lost. “Create opportunities to establish new positive relationships and try and get into regular contact with groups of people.” Lishman says. Join a local community group, take up a new hobby or volunteer for a cause that’s important to you.

Practise mindfulness

Arguably the most effective way to connect with yourself is through a mindfulness or meditation practice. This helps you stop and really think about who you are, what you’re doing, and just be in the moment. It’s an important stress release avenue as well as a great way to check in with how you’re feeling about yourself and your life.

This article was provided by our workplace mental health and wellbeing Partner, SuperFriend, and reproduced with their permission.