At the beginning of this last lockdown, I was asked to be someone’s bubble buddy. They were struggling with working from home and being alone all the time, as they had all their immediate family overseas and no partner, pets or children here in Australia.
I initially said “yes” because I was a little bit worried about them, but I have to say it ended up being a saviour for my own mental health. As the monotony of lockdown continued and COVID restrictions kept worsening, my own personal and professional situation became harder and I realised that having one night a week with someone else was better than any experience I have ever had with being someone’s bridesmaid.
I know it is a privilege to be asked to be someone’s bridesmaid, but what I now know is that it is far more of an honour to be asked to be someone’s bubble buddy. When they can only choose one other person in their community that they would like to hang out with during some of their most challenging months, it is incredibly rewarding to be trusted and considered a positive inclusion in the life of someone else.
Bubble Buddy vs Bridesmaid
I will say that I’ve been lucky enough to be a bridesmaid three times and had the most wonderful day each time, but when you think about the following comparisons, I’m sure you will agree that a bubble buddy experience is far better.
As a bubble buddy, you get to wear your activewear and slippers. As a bridesmaid, you have to wear a dress that you’ll never put on again and high heels that hurt like hell.
As a bubble buddy, you don’t need make-up and your friend does not judge you for all the grey hairs that are sprouting from all over the place. As a bridesmaid, you spend hours being ‘made-up’ to look like someone you don’t even recognise.
As a bubble buddy, you can slouch on the couch, drinking takeaway cocktails while watching Netflix. As a bridesmaid, you have to look elegant all night, keep your superficial smile plastered across your face and listen to boring speeches.
Social Connection Benefits
One thing COVID has taught us all is that we don’t need a lot of people in our lives, we just need a few important ones who we can genuinely connect with.
As humans, we crave social connection which makes sense because for as far back as we can trace we travelled together, shared food, told stories and thrived in social groups.
Research from the University of Cambridge, UK shows that social connections not only impact our mental health but our physical health as well. A review of 148 studies indicated that the individuals with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival. This remained true across a number of factors, including age, sex, initial health status, and cause of death.
Other benefits of having a high social connection are:
- Stronger gene expression for immunity
- Lower rates of anxiety and depression
- Higher self-esteem and empathy
- Better emotion regulation skills
- Feelings of happiness, purpose and belonging
It took my friend 10 days to ask me to be her bubble buddy because she didn’t want to ‘burden’ me with the responsibility. How sad that she spent those 10 days worrying about this, but unfortunately our society has made it difficult to reach out to others when we are wobbly because of the stigma that is still attached to not being “fine” all the time.
I do believe that amongst all the challenges that COVID has brought, that we are slowly but surely chipping away at this stigma. When we learn to feel comfortable putting up our hands and saying, “I’m feeling a bit wobbly right now”, we give permission for others to do the same. What a precious gift this is.
My greatest takeaway from this entire experience is that reaching out and connecting with others does not only provide a support mechanism for the people in our lives who are struggling a bit, but it also acts as a protective factor for our own mental health and sense of purpose.
Fingers crossed, I’ll never be asked to be a bridesmaid again but if I am, I probably will have to say “no” because I will already be busy continuing with my bubble buddy ritual, even after lockdowns are lifted.
You can listen to the radio interview I was engaged to do on this topic here.