The second instalment of our social well-being mini-series is support systems. We will all experience times of unrest, stress, grief, financial uncertainty, relationship breakdowns, and periods of subdued mood. Having a robust support system in place represents the first step in managing those difficult, sometimes hard-to-navigate feelings. Taking stock of those around you is a tremendous way to develop a support system for when we truly need help, guidance or just some plain old straight talking!
Today we will be looking at the importance of why you should possess a support system, and how you can go about building one.
What is a support system, and why should you create one?
Having a support system in place remains a great way to: Build up resilience, reduce anxiety, stress, depression, improves overall health and mental well-being and can also help to centre you when life knocks you off balance. A support system is a bubble made up of more than just emotional support. It is also tangible support, informational support and social needs. It is ultimately made up of the people, and things that you know you could need to support you through those tough times you might one day experience, or might already be feeling.
Life can throw us curveballs, but sometimes not opening up, or not identifying who to turn to can be at the detriment of our own mental and physical well-being. There will repeatedly be times when something throws you off-kilter. As I mentioned it’s not just emotional support; it might be knowing where to go for financial support, legal support, spiritual support and childcare. It might even just be knowing who to turn to, to help make changes in your life. Having that support system in place now allows you to nip issues in the bud early on. It gives you direction to overcome the issue(s) and also allows you to talk about how you feel. Plus, you will be surprised by the advice those around you might give you. Likewise, wouldn’t you want to help a friend or family member in need when they go through a hard time? The last thing you want to see if those around you suffering, so why let yourself suffer?
How do you construct a support system?
Let’s talk about emotional and social support! Chances are you already have that one person/or people in your life that you can turn to in a crisis. These could be a close friend, family member, or even a GP, therapist or a support group. What if you don’t possess anyone you can turn to, or you can’t ask for help what then?
Social support, is that feeling of inclusion, belonging and love. These can typically be sourced from family, clubs, religious communities, groups and even through your friendship circle.
Initially, you want to look at those people currently around you. Are you surrounded by positive, supportive, uplifting people who desire you to succeed in life? Are you getting back the consistent time and effort that you are giving? If not, then you may want to think more about what these friendships deliver to your life. Consider finding new people. Join local groups, committees, clubs, or start socialising with friends of friends who express like-minded interests. Meeting new people is an excellent way to expand your support network. You also need to be able to reach out and request help! Whether it be via text, email or call, you NEED to reach out! People can’t support you if they don’t know something is wrong. Start finding your voice. If you struggle to open up and allow people in, take things slowly. No one is expecting you to divulge your life story in the first five minutes of encountering them.
Tangible support is the following area to consider when establishing a social support network. Now when you need physical help, you might find you instinctively know the people that you would turn to. For some, this may be an area that’s lacking support and something you discover yourself trying to perform alone.
What sort of things fall under tangible support? This can range from a family member who can help walk your dog or help with last-minute babysitting duties. A friend who can come help you change a tyre or do the food shopping for you when you are ill. A colleague that can fix a leaking sink, put up a shelf, or help you move house. Right down to a neighbour who can bring your bin in for you when you are working late or keep an eye on things when you are away. It can be big or small, but do you know who can turn to for physical support? If however, you don’t have this area already in place, think about what we discussed in emotional support about getting out and interacting. Chat with your neighbours whilst pulling the bins in, engage with them when they stop you in the street and start striking up those conversations during your lunch break with colleagues.
Informational support is recognising who to turn to for information and advice. Most of us will know a wise beyond their year's friends, or a colleague you secret wonder might be part of Mensa. Maybe you have a family member who had access to a range of resources, or a friends partner that works for the local council or citizens advice. This area can be important at any stage of your life, but I find it more important during those big life changes. Looking for a solicitor when moving house, dealing with household bills, setting up insurances, bank accounts, moving out of home, right down to how to get help with mental health. All of these are covered under informational.
Now you recognise the difference between emotional, tangible, informational and social.
- Make a list of all the people you know.
- Insert them into the varying categories.
Don’t worry if your uncle James is great at fixing leaking pipes, helping with information, but sucks at listening. Don’t worry if your neighbour Jesse is brilliant at looking after the dog during the week, but that’s about it. Likewise, if you have a number of people who have the same skill set don’t worry about listing them all! You want backups for when those people are unavailable as well.
It’s about having those varying people in your life that have the necessary skills you are needing for a particular need, at that particular time.
Happy Self-care Sunday!