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Stress and Kevin Bacon​​​

 By Richard Johnson, CEO

At Family Advocates we see a lot of families, and their diversity is amazing.

While every family looks differently, the value of a healthy family is universal and immeasurable.  If you have one, you want to hold on to it.  And if you don't, building one is a lasting treasure.  We all want to be a part of a healthy family, but most of us are at a loss when it comes to defining what a "healthy" means.

In my time working with families I can report one thing for sure; "healthy" and "normal" aren't anywhere near the same category.  Personally, I can say the family I grew up in was definitely not made of "normal" people, but it was wonderfully healthy.  So what is my definition of a "healthy family?"  A family that has the capacity to limit and cope with stress.

Notice, that I didn't say a stress free family.  Stress is normal.  Stress about kids, health, money, jobs -- you name it.  And some families have a lot of stress.  But stress alone doesn't make a family unhealthy.  It becomes unhealthy (we usually call it toxic stress) when the members of the family just haven't built up the capacity to deal with the stress.

One of the great things we do at Family Advocates is teaching parents how to take the sting out of stress.  And it's a lot easier than you might think.  One of those ways I like to think of as the Kevin Bacon approach, but smarter people than me call it "Social Connections."  You know the study that showed everyone in the world is only six relationships away from each other?  The study that spun off a fun game focussed on Kevin Bacon? Well, that study showed that every time you include a new person in your life, you increase your circle exponentially.

The Kevin Bacon approach works like this… The more positive and supportive people you have in your life, the less stress you will feel.  It turns out that when we get stressed it is this same group of people who show us we are valued and help us find what we need to cope.  Over time, we trust that they will be there for us, and that makes stress a little more bearable.

The great part is that it can be ANY positive and supportive person.  A coworker, your mailman, a sibling, your child's teacher, or someone from a book club.  I was lucky enough to be born into a huge (and very odd) family.  Even if half of them were annoying me, that left a lot of people to count on for a hug.  And don't get me started on the friends I have found to share my life with.

So take up the hobby of collecting friends.  And if you are a parent looking to add some adults who can understand and support you, let us know.  We have some great groups to get you started.

Learn about our free weekly Parents Anonymous support groups. 

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