To whom do you turn for comfort, support, or a favor in a pinch? For so many of us, the answer is a partner or parent. But where are we to go if these options are not available? Or what if they can’t provide what we are needing? For simplicity’s sake, I am going to refer to any support herein as “social support,” whether that is emotional, physical, familial, or from a friend. For so many people today, it feels as though there aren’t enough “hands” available (or ears when you just need someone to talk to). The University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing sponsors a website called “Taking charge of your health & wellbeing”; according to this site, “Social support enhances quality of life and provides a buffer against adverse life events,” (Towey, 2016). There is also a plethora of research from psychologists, neurologists, etc. indicating that as humans, we are wired for connecting with other humans, especially in times of need.
If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “Okay, my social support is lacking, but how do I go about getting more?”, do not lose hope. The first step is recognizing that there is a lack in a very important part of your life. I would recommend starting by sitting down and making a list; this list may include headers such as emotional, spiritual, career, and family. Depending on your individual needs and lifestyle, you might also include headers such as physical, nutritional, medical, etc. Try listing every person you can reach out to should you need help in one of those areas. Depending on your life circumstances, you might include someone (e.g. your mother) under most of your headers. Are there certain areas where you have fewer people to turn to than others? What do you think is the ideal number of supports in each area? Again, depending on your unique set of needs, these answers will vary. For example, as a mother with a young child, I need to have more people under my “family” header to help care for my little one than I would under my “physical” header (e.g. a trainer, friend, etc.).
If you are still struggling to build this list, here are some things to consider. There is nothing wrong with formally seeking out additional support; this may even include hiring someone. For example, as a college student, you have the unique opportunity to seek mentorship and academic support from professors and advisors. You could approach them directly (or via e-mail if that’s more your style) and ask if they would be willing and able to provide some of what you are needing right now. Religious/spiritual communities can also be a wealth of support. Last, but not least, therapists, doulas, childcare providers, nutritionists, and many other professionals can be a great addition to a lacking support system. If you are feeling unsure, I would encourage you to just reach out and have a conversation to see if they could be a piece of the puzzle that is your support system.
Written by Alexis Anttila, MA, LAMFT
Towey, S. (2016). Social support. Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. Retrieved from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/social-support.
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