When life gives us challenges that we cannot seem to overcome, we often turn to the people around us that make us feel safe, loved, and cared for. We call this a support system, and it is important for a variety of reasons to develop this system over time so that emergencies and crises in our lives can feel less stressful and lonely.
What is a social support system? This can include a network of people, from friends, family, and peers, who we turn to for emotional and practical support in times of need.
Example: At school, students, staff and faculty provide assistance in our professional careers
Benefits of a Social Support System
The benefits of having a social support system includes: better health, longer lives, and reports of higher well-being. Friends and family can help you realize you are stressed or distressed before you may even notice yourself. Having friends, family and peers who make you feel seen, heard, and understood enhances the feeling of security and comfort, especially in times of need. They may also be inclined to help you solve problems, think of alternatives, and/or distract you from your worries, lowering your stress levels and feelings of loneliness.
Relationships are not only about reaping benefits, but also about giving back. You should be the friend that you want to have and act accordingly with your friends.
- Show appreciation to your family and friends that provide support, thank them.
- Stay in touch.
- Be available when needed.
- Accept their help.
- Support their success.
- Keep honest communication open.
- Respect needs and boundaries on both ends.
- Know when a relationship is not working for you and step away when it no longer serves you.
Ideas for Building Social SupportSystems
- Volunteer in organizations you are passionate about and create community with fellow peers.
- Join a sport or gym and create strong bonds with teammates/friends.
- Meet your neighbors and co-workers to create community and network/ask for help.
- Join professional organizations to further develop professional career and support systems.
- Use online resources
- Thaddeus resources such as: Support Groups, Life Coaching, Career Development, etc. to build community with people who are experiencing the same things as you and receive support, advice, and/or guidance.
Importance of Social Support Systems
It is important to have these social support systems in place before a crisis/emergency so that we can turn to them for help during these times. Starting now, creating friendships and nurturing your relationships with others will benefit you and others in the future.
Starting a Support Group
Step 1: People -Gather 2 or 3 people who share your interest in starting a support group.
Step 2: Planning -Decide on the frequency, location, and emphasis of group meetings.
Step 3: Place -Decide on an accessible location.
Step 4: Publicity -Leverage all available media; Post and distribute flyers to grab attention.
Step 5: Programming -Decide what to do during meetings, check in with members, and include educational component if necessary. Let people hang out before or after meetings to make sure people leave their information (phone number, address, etc.).