Building a Support System

At some point in our lives, each and every one of us comes face to face with difficult situations or unpleasant circumstances that can feel stressful or overwhelming. Part of life is experiencing ups and downs. We want people who understand us and can be depended upon during tough times. We need people who will listen to us and give us honest feedback. These are the times when we could each definitely benefit from having supportive and caring people in our corner; someone who will be there with some helpful advice, a listening ear, or a shoulder to lean on.

Unfortunately there are a lot of people who do not have a good support system built up for themselves, leaving them alone and fending for themselves when faced with tough times. Research has proved that having a support system has many positive benefits, such as: higher levels of well-being, better coping skills and a longer and healthier life. Giving and receiving support from others is a basic human need.

The goal of a support system is to decrease stress. If you are looking to decrease stress by developing a support network, start with people who are already in your life. You may want to make a list and determine who is healthy and positive and who is not. You may want to limit contact with the negative people in your life. Negative people can drain your energy and bring you down. Watch for these types of people who may be negative.

Your time and energy need to be invested on those who make you feel good about yourself. To have a solid support system of people who will be there for you during difficult and stressful times – people who will be a good influence in helping you to keep your emotional health and physical well-being in balance. A support system is something you can develop when you’re not under stress. It provides the comfort of knowing that your friends/family members are there for you if you need them.

Support can come from family, friends, pets, neighbors and clergy. It can be emotional or financial. And it can come from a mental health professional. There are also support groups that provide education and an opportunity to be with others who are experiencing a similar situation. Support groups may be led by a professional or a member of the group. There are also support group websites. These are useful because you do not need to leave your home to get help. Support comes in many forms, and it is helpful to have a variety of different resources to lean on. Having access to a group of people you can turn to provides a healthy alternative to coping. Life is full of unplanned events. There is no telling when you may face anger, sadness, or stress because of circumstances that are outside of your control.

Benefits of a social support network

Research has proven that having a network of supportive relationships contributes to psychological well-being. If you want to improve your mental health and your ability to combat stress, surround yourself with at least a few good friends, family members, and confidants. When you have a social support network, you benefit in the following ways:

· Sense of belonging – Spending time with people helps ward off loneliness. Just knowing you’re not alone can go a long way toward coping with stress.

· Increased sense of self-worth – Having people who call you a friend reinforces the idea that you’re a good person to be around.

· Feeling of security – Your support system gives you access to information, advice, guidance and other types of assistance should you need them. It’s comforting to know that you have people you can turn to in a time of need.

Remember that the goal of building your support system is to reduce your stress level. Taking the time to build a support system is a wise investment not only in your mental well-being, but also in your physical health and longevity. Start making more friends or improving the relationships you already have. Whether you’re the one getting the support or the one doling out the encouragement, you’ll reap a plethora of rewards. Remember, you are not alone and together we are strong!

Monretta Vega, LPC


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