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Mayday! Versus May Days: Connection Combats Distress

Mental Health Disorder | Image by Black Salmon/Shutterstock
Mental Health Disorder | Image by Black Salmon/Shutterstock

We live in a transient society where people come and go like a revolving door, and yet, the intrinsic need for authentic connection remains despite pervasive feelings of isolation and displacement.

During May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to note some alarming statistics. Approximately 48 million individuals in the United States purportedly have an anxiety disorder, 21 million have major depression, and 9 million live with post-traumatic stress disorder.

As such, nationally recognized days within the calendar year can give people a cause, perhaps a moment, to reflect outside themselves and connect with others. Some examples of nationally recognized days this month that have yet to be celebrated and offer an opportunity to reflect on the many ways people can positively contribute to a better world include:

National Decency Day (May 14)

National Bring Flowers to Someone Day (May 15)

National Do Something Good For Your Neighbor Day (May 16)

National Visit Your Relatives Day (May 18)

National Rescue Dog Day (May 20)

Memorial Day (May 27)

National Smile Day (May 31)

Critics may shun such days, scoffing that having a dedicated day to do something feels disingenuous. One can argue that we should celebrate every day, and that having recognized days like Mother’s Day simply serve as commercial payouts. After all, wouldn’t a mother appreciate a “just because” handwritten note of gratitude any day of the year more than a mass-produced card on the second Sunday in May?

The latest annual survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated that $33.5 billion would be spent on Mother’s Day celebrations this year, with 84% of U.S. adults celebrating the holiday. Interestingly enough, NRF projected $5.9 billion would be spent on special outings to celebrate the day.

Proponents of such nationally celebrated days may argue that despite the significant spending, having quality time with loved ones is priceless. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the U.S. Surgeon General noted that “social connection is as essential to our long-term survival as food and water. But today, loneliness is more widespread than other major health issues in the U.S. Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation is a major public health concern.”

Additionally, “[l]iving in isolation reduces our chances of survival and social isolation increases the risk for premature mortality by 29%.”

As the number of remote and hybrid employees increases, there is a potential trade-off for some individuals between productivity and mental health. Pew Research Center noted that 56% of those working from home at least some of the time think it “helps them get their work done and meet deadlines,” and for those who work 100% remotely, 79% say their boss trusts them to get the job done.

Still, perks also come with potential disadvantages. An Owl Labs study found that “55% of respondents say they work more hours remotely than at the physical office…  remote workers also worked over 40 hours a week 43% more compared to workers that never worked remotely,” despite the same study showing that “32% of those surveyed by Owl Labs said they would quit their job if they were not able to continue working remotely.”

Maybe nationally recognized days of remembrance and celebrating others should be considered important calendar entries, like deadlines and Zoom calls. After all, prioritizing connections with loved ones, neighbors, and the community can be a powerful way to lead a more fulfilling life.

Studies indicate that having strong social connections can result in an extended lifespan, improved health, and enhanced overall well-being. Additionally, being socially connected can help people to manage difficult situations, cope with stress, and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

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