A Little Help from My Friends-
How Relationships Impact Health
You will only ever be as healthy as your relationships
The quality of your relationships will absolutely determine the quality of your health. You probably already intuitively understand the truth in this, but it's important you understand this on an even deeper level. Your relationships, good and bad, are having a profound effect on your ability to get and stay healthy.
We were created to be social beings, to rely on others, and be relied on by them. This has become MOST apparent in the last few years of lockdowns and forced separation. In the US, rates of depression, anxiety, suicide and drug use are higher than they've been in our lifetime before. Certainly this is due to many factors, but we cannot deny the role that lack of positive social interaction is playing.
In this episode we're going to address:
- who is in your circle and how they are influencing you
- the behavioral, psychosocial and physiological effects of those relationships on your health
- how to deal with stressful or toxic relationships
- how to find your cheer squad and surround yourself with supportive people
If you want to get and stay healthy, live longer, be happier, and have less stress you MUST address the relationships in your life that affect you the most. I hope this episode opens your eyes a bit to not only how those relationships are influencing you, but also how YOU are showing up and affecting others. Remember relationships are reciprocal - sometimes if we want different results, it's on us to show up differently.
If you have any questions or want more resources, post in the community and I'll be happy to share because I'm sure you won't be the only one!
Full transcription available at the bottom of this post
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When it comes to getting healthy, the quality of your relationships matters just as much as the quality of your food or the quality of your exercise. If you want lasting results and lasting health, we have to address the whole you and that includes the relationships in your life. Today, we're going to talk about the four most important things you need to address in your relationships, and how they impact your health and weight loss journey. Let's go
Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life in the process. Hey, I'm Tara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I'm on a mission to help you take back control of your mind health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health. Find food freedom, and finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back. You my friend are powerful, and the world needs you to start showing up in a bigger way. It's time to get unstuck and start moving forward. So let's pop in those earbuds, tie up those shoes. Let's walk and talk.
The last couple years have been weird to say the least. But one glaring issue that has risen to the surface during this time of lockdowns has been the importance of social connection on your health. You already know. I don't have to tell you that rates of depression and rates of antidepressants and anti anxiety drugs have shot through the roof during these years of lockdowns. In fact, one study has even found that satisfaction with relationships at midlife is a better predictor of longevity than cholesterol levels. So what's happening in your brain, and your relationships and how you see them is a better predictor of longevity than your cholesterol levels, what's happening in your body. Another study from 1979 showed that the risk of death for men and women with the fewest social ties was more than twice as high as those with the most social ties, that is a huge impact, not just on your health, but again, on your longevity. Just like with food, it's quality over quantity. So that's the first thing we're going to address, who is in your circle. When you think about your circle of friends, think beyond just your immediate friends, your spouse, but think about including your doctors, your coaches, your therapists, your coworkers, the professional people in your life, the professional people that you ask advice from, think about classmates, church members, gym buddies, neighbors, consider everyone that's in your circle, you might have heard before kind of the sphere of influence.
So you've got the people that are in the close circle. And then you've got kind of the next ring of people and the next ring of people in the next ring of people. If you think about it like that, go out several rings to people that are very close all the way to people who have some sort of influence over you, or in your life, but maybe don't You don't talk to you or see or even know in person. And I did mention doctors on purpose. If you're someone like me, my doctors and the professional people that I go to for advice and help. They are in one of my closer spheres of influence, right, they are closer in my circle, I have very good relationships and open relationships with them. And so I want to bring that up. Because having a healthy, open, honest and trusting relationship with your doctor or health professional is just as important as having that relationship with your best friend. If you do not feel about your doctor that I trust them that they listen to me that they understand me that they take time to help me if you don't feel those things, you might need to choose a new doctor. And I'm not here to be mean to doctors. But the way the medical system is set up a lot of doctors who might want to have that relationship with you don't get to have that relationship with you. So it's up to you to seek that out and to find the people who can have that with you. Does that make sense? It's really on you. You are your own best advocate.
The other thing I want you to consider when you're thinking about who's in your circle and who's in your kind of sphere of influence. Is people a little further out what are the podcasts you listen to who are the news anchors that you Listen to who are the pastors that you listen to? Who are the people on social that you follow the influences that you give your time and energy and emotional, and emotions to What are you watching in media? What are you filling your brain with all of these things are part of that sphere of influence over you. So when I talk about relationships, I am going to a lot talk about just the people that are really close to you and and how to manage that. But I want you to consider the bigger picture as well, who is influencing you. And that does not mean like, who is an influencer. That means who is allowed space in your brain, who is influencing your emotions, your thoughts, your actions, your beliefs, those people are important to take a look at, if they are not influencing you in a way that you want to go, then you might want to think about not giving them space in your head anymore. For example, if you follow an influencer, who just annoys you, but for some reason you keep watching, maybe it's time to get rid of that, right? You want to be very protective of your energy, very protective of your emotions, very protective of what you allow to come into your brain, be aware and be protective. So it's not just again, about people that are close to you. It's about anyone literally in the world, whether you know them or not, who has influence over you, I want you to really pay attention to who these people are, what they are saying and what is the real effect that they're having on you.
Okay, so point number two that we need to think about when we think about relationships and how it affects our health is that we truly weren't created to be social beings, this is not an accident. It is in our own best interest and for our own health, and we were created to rely on others and be relied on by others. This is how we were made. So it's best to just not fight that just accept that as the truth of being a human. People with strong social connections recover more quickly from illnesses, they live longer, they're at lower risk for disease, there's three main ways that relationships benefit us. First is behavioral, second is psychosocial. And third is physiological. So behavioral, like what we're doing choices, we make psychosocial like our relationships and our interactions with people. And then physiological what's happening in our body. So talking about behavioral health behavior accounts for 40%. of premature death, I actually think it's higher than that. But the study, say 40%, what that means is 40% of premature deaths. So you died of something where maybe you didn't necessarily need to die of that you could have made it to old age, but you died of this instead, 40% of premature deaths are due to choices that the individual makes. Let me give you an example. If a choice that you make is smoking for many years, there's a pretty good chance you are going to die of lung cancer at a much younger age than if you hadn't smoked and you'd had live a healthy life and well into old age. Does that make sense? So 40%, again, I think it's way higher than this, of premature deaths are due to choices that we are making. If you have positive relationships in your life, those relationships are going to promote positive health behaviors, aka you will live longer because you're making better choices. I mean, it's so simple, but it's just a concept that I don't think we think about very often.
So clearly, people who are influencing you to make good choices are going to help you live longer than people who are influencing you to make bad choices. Again, it's so obvious and so simple, but we overlook the obvious, I think so often all the time. Okay, so let's talk about psychosocial. So we're talking about like support and mental health and personal control over our lives. So positive social support relationships, help us reduce stress, enhance our mental health and give us a sense of purpose. And meaning. If you have been someone who has felt felt very stuck or purposeless in your life, then you know the importance of feeling purpose and you know, the importance of having relationships groups or whatever that foster that feeling of being supported in your purpose. Does this make sense? Positive relationships increase our own sense of personal control. Personal control is the idea that you believe that you can control the outcomes in your life, that it's determined by your actions. Now, I personally would take that a step further. and knowing that for me as a Christian woman, positive relationships with others who are also followers of Christ, that helps me believe that I have control over my life because I have given that control over to God, God ultimately has control over my life. That is a spiritual component to the cycle, psychosocial component. I know maybe not everyone who listens to this podcast, is a follower of Christ like I am, that's okay. What I'm talking about is a universal concept. And that's universal idea that you have autonomy in your life, you are able to make choices and control the direction of your life. Personally, I believe I want all of my choices to be guided by what God would have me do and what his direction for my life is. But I'm still making the choices, I'm making the choice to follow God, I am making the choices to be obedient, I still have autonomy over my life, I still feel like I am in control of the directions that makes sense. So whether or not you are Christian doesn't matter. The point is having positive relationships are fostering that sense in you, that you have control over where your life's going, I mean, give you like, the opposite of that.
So you get an understanding, the opposite of that would be, let's say you're in an abusive relationship and an abusive marriage, and your husband mentally and or physically abusing you, makes you feel very stuck, like you are not in control of your life, that you do not have personal autonomy, you are not in control of where you're going and how you're getting there in your life, do you see the difference? So positive relationships are helping me feel like I have autonomy in that way. abusive and toxic relationships are making me feel very stuck and very small, and very much like I don't have control over my own life, do you see the difference? Okay, the other thing to think about is just the positive social support. So like support groups are great. Maybe your group of friends acts as a support group, but this group of people who lifts you up and provides emotional support. If you have that in your life, you are more likely to experience good mental health and good physical health, those two things are always tied together.
Now let's talk about the physiological aspects. So what's going on in your body, because now we're tying it to that, right. So this has to do a lot with the prolonged stress response in your body. So positive supportive relationships result in less stress and less disease caused by stress, like immune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, endocrine disorders, that's like your hormone system. So what we're really talking about physiologically is the stress the physical stress reaction to the mental stress that's happening because of your lack of positive relationships. Or it could just be the overpowering powering really toxic relationship that seems to overpower anything else that's positive. If you're been there, then you know what I'm talking about. All relationships are not positive, some relationships are toxic, and as a result, stressful, again, to your mind and to your body. If you are in one of those toxic, stressful relationships, you are more likely to experience disease and physical pain. So I'm talking about mental stress manifesting as physical disease and physical pain, that is depression. That is anxiety. That's what those are. So it's not just like, Oh, I'm stressed out you are having a physiological a body response to those feelings. So again, I'm going to reiterate again for the 100th time, positive relationships, equal positive mental health, positive physical response, stressful, toxic relationships, equals increased stress response, increased diseases linked to stress, diseases, like the development and progression of cardiovascular disease, recurrent myocardial infarction. So that's like, heart murmurs and things, heart diseases, atherosclerosis sclerosis, so the hardening of your arteries, autonomic dysregulation, so anything that your body is unconsciously in charge of starts to go haywire, nervous disorders, high blood pressure, cancer, and delayed cancer recovery, slower wound healing, increased inflammation and weakened immune system, all of that from stress, stress from unhealthy toxic relationships. Do you see how this is like a never ending cycle? I'm in a bad relationship. It's stressing me out it's making me sick. Now I'm more stressed out because I'm sick makes my relationship worse. Now I'm more stressed out. Now I'm sicker. Now I'm more stressed out now my relationship is worse. Do you see the what how this we get into this cycle and we can't get out. If we can change the relationship we can change the rest of the cycle.
And that leads me to point number three. How do we change the these relationships? How do we understand how to move from where we are to where we want to be? Your social circle is defining whether you are conscious of it or not, it is defining who you are. And it will either help or hinder any behavior change that you are trying to make. So if you are trying to lose weight by changing these behaviors and trying to walk more, or eat a salad a day or not eat this or eat more of that, or focus on sleep, or whatever it is you're trying to do, your relationships are either going to help that process or they are going to hinder that process. I don't want to be mean and accuse people of purposely sabotaging you. Most of the time sabotage is a very unconscious act that people are doing, you might feel sabotaged, you might feel like they're trying to hold you back from this thing that you say you want. In reality, what's probably happening is they are not aware that that's the effects that they're having on you. So I want you to be able to step back. And I always talk about stepping back in your brain and thinking about your thinking, and thinking about the thoughts that you're having, and where are they coming from? And why am I thinking this, I want you to give grace to the people in your life as well.
And I want you to take a second and think about their thinking, and how is this affecting them? And how might your changes be affecting them? And why might they quote unquote, sabotage you unconsciously in order to keep you the same won't get what gained do they have from that? The it's a real skill to be able to step back and think about your own thinking, but also to think about what is going on for someone else. So I want you to think about the people in your life. And first thing about who are the people who are holding you back again, on purpose or not on purpose? who's holding you back? So it's not that they're intentionally sabotaging you, they just don't understand. Right? What's happening? So sometimes you just have to have a conversation with them. Sometimes you just have to not hang out with them as much. Do you have relationships that are toxic and a source of conflict or stress? Do you have relationships with people who are energy takers instead of energy givers? This is one, this one's a little more nuanced, right? Because when we think of a toxic relationship, we think of like the most obvious ways that a relationship can be toxic, right? Like gaslighting, and just totally emotional abuse, physical abuse, whatever. Sometimes it's a lot more subtle than that. Sometimes relationships are really toxic to you. And until you step back and really examine it, you're not even aware how much stress it's causing you. So that's what I'm asking you to do. Now, think of the people in your circle, first, start with a tight circle, and then move you're on your way out, who are the people that when you hang out with them, you just feel drained, you feel exhausted, you feel like that was work, you feel like it shouldn't be this much work. It should be easy, it should be fun. Who are those people? Those are the energy takers, and I just want you to identify them.
I'm not telling you what to do with any of these people on purpose. Because honestly, I don't know you and I don't know your relationship with these people. And something that you have to figure out for yourself. But I do want you to be really honest about what that relationship is, Are you the giver, and they're always the taker, you need to acknowledge that and you got some options, you can hang out less, you can have a conversation about it. You can just keep on draining. Like it's all it's always your choice. I'm not telling you what to do. I'm just telling you to acknowledge what's going on, the questions you're going to want to ask yourself are how is this relationship benefiting? You? Okay, I know it's hard for us as women, we're constantly wanting to like benefit someone else and give, give, give and, you know, what can I do for you, but I need you to ask how is this relationship benefiting you? What are you getting from it? Is it fun? Are you laughing? You know? Are you feeling energized? Are you feeling supported? Are you feeling like you can trust this person or not? And if not, you need to do some real careful assessment about how much you want this person in your life. I also want you to ask, Does this relationship fit the ideal version of you? Am I able to show up in this relationship as my ideal version? And my accepted as that, the next thing you want to ask yourself is how does this relationship fit into your current goals and your current values? We all change I mean, I hope you change I hope for your entire life, you are constantly changing. That means you're growing, whether you see it like that or not. That is what that means. If you are constantly changing, you are constantly growing, you are not the same person you were 10 years ago, which means you might not want to have the same friends that you did 10 years ago. That's okay. You can grow and you can change and maybe they didn't or maybe you grew in different directions. All of that is okay. So how does this relationship fit into your current goals and your current values?
Now you have to ask yourself, Is this a relationship with enough trust and enough value that we can have a conversation about what you Your current goals and values aren't for example, let's say you got married to your spouse when you were like 18. And now you're 38. And you've changed a lot, and so have they. And sometimes when that happens, sometimes instead of growing up together, we grow apart. Now, it would behoove you, it'd be in your best interest to figure out a way that that relationship could come back together, and come back to finding your common goals and your common values. That's, that would be worth the work. Does that make sense? So is that the relationship that you want to spend your time and energy working on to create those similar values and goals? Or is it a relationship where it's like, yeah, we've, you know, my friend from high school, like, we are good friends then. But, you know, we kind of have grown apart and we do our different things. And, you know, no hard feelings, we're just different people, and it's all good. And we've kind of moved on our own way. That's okay, too. That is just fine. You are allowed to grow up and grow out and do different things. Okay. So you just need to understand for yourself, Does this relationship currently fit into my goals and my values? And do I want to just let it go? Or is this something that I need to work on and fight for and help find those current goal? common goals and common values make sense? Okay. Sometimes you can't distance yourself from a stressful relationship.
So in this case, I'm thinking a lot about caregivers, if you're a caregiver for a parent, or a spouse, or a child or anyone, being a caregiver is an extremely stressful relationship to be in. And if you are in this situation, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It is draining, it is taxing. It's rewarding in its own ways, but it's exhausting to. So this is a this is a stressful relationship that you could say is negative in some ways. But it's a stressful relationship that you can't distance yourself from, you can't just be like, now, we're done. I'm not gonna do this anymore. It's stressing me out. Like, no, that's not an option. So what do you do instead? You're not going to want to hear the truth about this. But I'm a truth teller. It's your responsibility to care for yourself. It is no one else's responsibility to ask, how are you doing? How are you doing? Do you need help? Do you need a break? It is no one's responsibility to ask those things of you. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself and ask others. Does that make sense? I need you to hear this because as women, we are so good at playing the martyr and Oh, I'm so overworked and I'm so tired. And I'm so stressed out and I'm so this and I'm so that I'm not blaming you, I've done the exact same thing. When when what was me, I have been there. But I need you to hear the truth. It is your responsibility to get yourself out of there. No one's gonna swoop in and save you girl. You got to save yourself. Okay. So what are you going to do? How can you take better care of yourself? How can you reduce stress? How are you taking care of your physical health? Are you eating? Well? Are you exercising? Are you sleeping? Do you need to talk to a professional, a coach, a therapist, a doctor? How are your social connections beyond that stressful caregiving relationship? What do you need to do to take care of you? Okay, I want you to get honest with herself. No martyrdom here. It's not worth it.
Okay, so the last point, we've talked about kind of the difficult, toxic relationships. Now I want to talk about the people who are in your corner, the people who are on your side who are cheering you on the people that are in your cheer squad? Who are these people, I want you to name them write down their names? Who are the people that let you cry, who let you just talk it out? Who let you be honest and ugly. And just the real raw you without judging? Who supports you on your health journey? Who is on the same journey as you are at the same time? Who is kind of parallel journey as you who are these people in your life? I also want you to think about how you can tell that they are helping improve your mental and physical health, like how do you know? Like, do you have some metrics and markers? Some clues so that you would be able to say yes, this person really is helping me. So maybe you have one friend who encourages you to go to the gym with them. Or maybe you have one friend who is working on not drinking and you're working on not drinking? Or maybe you have one friend who invites you to a Bible study because they are trying to explore their relationship with God and they know you are to like who are these people in your life who you can tell who you can feel are improving your mental In physical health journey, and then I want you to ask yourself a really real question. Are you doing the same for them? Are you giving to them as much as they're giving to you? Or are you being a taker? Okay, again, I know you don't want to hear this stuff, but I need you to hear it. Be honest. Are you being a taker? There's a lot of takers in this world and at different times. We've all been takers. I mean, it would be ridiculous for any of us to think like, oh, no, oh, I'm such a giver. I'm such a martyr. I'm such by the way, being a martyr is being a taker, I just want to throw that out there for you. Because you are stealing people's mental energy. When you are being a martyr, it's exhausting to be in a relationship with someone who is a martyr, I digress, I want you to get honest with each of your relationships are you giving as much as you are taking, if you are not, this is not a healthy relationship, and it's up to you to change it or remove yourself from it. I just, I can't say any more plainly than that. You must be a giver as much as a taker. It's okay to take in a relationship. That's how this works. Sometimes you need stuff.
Sometimes you need help. Sometimes you need the shoulder to cry on, you need the ear to listen, you need to hurt to hear you need to be that person to your cheer squad doesn't have to be big. It just has to be big enough. How can you spend more time with those people? Maybe your cheer squad isn't local, maybe they're kind of dispersed around? Maybe you can plan a girls trip with them? Maybe you can get on a zoom chat with them once a month? Like how can you take the initiative to spend more time with the people in your cheer squad, I will tell you straight up. I am not good at this. I am not good at reaching out to the people who I consider my cheer squad. And it's something that I personally want to work on reaching out to the people who are in my circle the positive people who I adore, and who love me for who I am the good, the bad and the ugly. So maybe that's something you need to work on to being the one who reaches out. And the other thing to think about is how do you create these types of relationships? How do you create your cheer squad? Maybe you feel like you don't have one right now? How do you find one? How do you get one?
How do you create this in your life? You got to go where the people are, you got to go where the people who will support you are maybe that's at your church, maybe it's in a support group. Maybe it's online. Maybe it's a podcast community Hint, hint, wink, wink, maybe it's at a gym, maybe it's through different programs or different online groups that you're in a lot of ways that you can find these people, you can definitely create those relationships with people online, it just takes conversation, right? You have to be willing to have those conversations. So think about where your people might be people with similar interests people on similar journeys, where are they go to those places? Start talking to the people I know. You're like, oh, talk to people. Yeah, likes, yeah, sister, start talking to people. I know, oh, you're an introvert. I know, I know, I get it, you still need people in your life doesn't matter, your personality type, you still need people in your life, you need those people. So go find them. So here's the harsh truth, one more harsh truth for you.
You will only ever be as healthy as the relationships that you're in. Let me repeat that you will only ever be as healthy as the relationships that you are in. What that means is that if you are trying to lose 30 pounds, but you are in a toxic, stressful relationship, you will not lose and keep off that 30 pounds period, you will only ever be as healthy as the relationships that you're in. If you are in a positive supporting relationship, supportive relationship, people who help pick you up and you fall and cheer you on and support you. And you want to lose 30 pounds. Yeah, you are in a very good position to lose that 30 pounds and keep it off forever. Have I made myself clear, if you're trying to level up your life, you have to level up your relationships. There is no two ways about this. So you need to take a cold, hard look and honest assessment of the relationships that you have in your life, the people that you are allowing to influence you and the way that you are reciprocating those relationships. Maybe you are allowing some of this toxicity to go on. You got to get really honest, because if you want to level up your life, you have to level up your relationships. This doesn't always mean new relationships. This could just mean leveling up the relationships that you're already in. Maybe you need to show up in a different way. Maybe you need to give more, do more take more initiative. How can you show up differently in your relationships to make them more positive?
I will step John for my soapbox. Very commanding today. But sometimes, I feel like I just need to come out you a little bit because I need to wake you up, I need to slap you across the face with love. And say Wake up, look at what's happening. Open your eyes, see how this is affecting your health. See how you will not reach your health goals until you address this until you address these relationships and show more appreciation for the people who keep showing up for you. Show them some love. Okay, my friends that was a little heavy I know. But I always come at you with love and with good intentions. Because my ultimate goal for you is to live the life that you truly desire. You were made to have positive, trusting relationships in your life and you were made to be healthy. We can't separate these things. They all work together. If you want to talk further about this, then hop in the community group. It's on Facebook super easy. The link is in the bio. It's just no nonsense is what's called hop in there, ask the questions have the conversation I will be there I will talk to you directly. And I'm sure if you have a question or a thought or you want some cheering on, you need some support. Come on over. It's a great group of ladies and we're all here for each other. So until we talk again, my friends your friends, thanks so much for being here.
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