by Cathy Williams, MSW, LCSW, CEAP
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. 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. Studies have also shown that social support can reduce depression and anxiety. Some people do best with a large support group, while others need a small support system. Giving and receiving support from others is a basic human need.
The goal of social support 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: blamers, liars, alcoholics, drug abusers and those who put you down. Your time and energy need to be invested on those who make you feel good about yourself.
Support can come from family, friends, pets, neighbors and clergy. Support can be emotional or financial. Support 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.
- Review your current family and friends; evaluate who may be helpful.
- Try new activities to expose yourself to different people.
- Join a book club.
- Get active with being on a sports team.
- Let important people in your life know that you appreciate them.
- Be willing to ask for help.
BJC EAP is a great resource if you want to talk to a professional about how to develop your personal support system. We can be reached at 314.729.4030 or toll-free at 888.505.6444. Please do not hesitate to call us if you need help. We are here for you.