One of the most important aspects of healthy human functioning is having a strong, reliable support system. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but in reality, that village is important even in adulthood. For some, their support system does in fact start in childhood. They have parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, teammates that all help them find their place in life, give them advice when things become challenging, teach them right from wrong. But for others, building their tribe is a much more intentional process in adulthood.
In therapy, oftentimes one of the first questions we ask is, “Who is in your support system?” We want to know whether this is a piece that is already in place, or if it’s an area for improvement that could use our attention. Having a solid support system and social network is important not only for your emotional health, but for your physical health as well. Many studies have shown that people with strong social supports live longer, healthier lives, whereas those without tend to experience premature death and other ailments. Caring for others releases hormones that help reduce the impact of stress on the brain and the body, which can be harmful to our sleep, immune functioning, and overall health when experienced for prolonged periods.
The easiest place to start building your support network is to examine the relationships that are already in your life. Are there some that you could invest more time and energy into? Or are there others that are actually adding to your stress levels rather than alleviating them? That’s not to say you have to go around cutting ties to all challenging relationships, but perhaps your energy may be better spent finding time to spend with those who have a more positive impact. It’s possible that you may need to further expand your support outside of those who are already in your life, so join a book club, take a community education class, sign up for a yoga series, find like-minded people doing an activity you love. It may feel scary to put yourself out there and be vulnerable as an adult, but the potential to build lasting connections can be so powerful. So get out there, find your village.
Written by Elise Browne, MS, LAMFT
Healthbeat, Harvard Medical School. Strengthen Relationships for Longer, Healthier Life. (2010-2019). Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/strengthen-relationships-for-longer-healthier-life
Cathy Williams, MSW, LCSW, CEAP. The Importance of Developing A Support System. (10 Dec, 2014). BJC HealthCare. https://www.bjceap.com/Blog/ArtMID/448/ArticleID/139/The-Importance-of-Developing-a-Support-System
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