The Importance Of An Effective Support System
Finding and sustaining the right support system in your life can make all the difference in the world. Support systems are all the people in your life who care about you, regardless of your choices or decisions in the past. The people in your support network may be friends, relatives, partners, or peers. They are always there for you, and they support you in any way in which they are capable.
With a good support system, you can accomplish your goals, overcome obstacles, see yourself through hard times, and enjoy a more prosperous, fuller life. Without a support system, you are on your own and must find ways to do alone what is much easier when working with others.
Not only can a support system help you accomplish your goals, but its benefits also extend to your physical, mental, and emotional health. This guide will explore all the many benefits an effective support system can offer to your life as well as how to go about cultivating and sustaining the right network for your life.
There is nothing like knowing that there is always a team of people cheering you on and who will have your back if you ever need help. That is what an effective support system offers to your life. Being able to turn to friends and family, not only in times of turmoil or difficulty but also when you need to celebrate the good things in your life, is invaluable.
Without a support system, you lack people to share the good and the bad in life, which can affect your physical, emotional, and mental health in profound ways. There is a direct link between effective, quality social relationships and many different measures of wellness and overall health.
Below, we will share with you the many benefits that an effective social support system can bring to your health and wellness as well as other aspects of your life. First, let’s look at the many different types of social support that can influence your life.
Types of Social Support
Your support system can take on a lot of different forms, and these people can each play very different roles in your life. For example, some people in your life may provide you with strong emotional support. They are always there to back you up when you need it, then never fail to lend an ear when you need to talk, and they are happy to have a shoulder on which you can cry any time. When you are feeling lonely or need to manage your stress, these are the people you call first.
Others in your support system may supply support for your physical or other needs. These people address your immediate needs and take care of you when you cannot care for yourself. This can include bringing you food, caring for you when you are ill, giving you a ride when your car is not working, or helping you fix your furnace when it breaks down. This type of instrumental support is invaluable to you in good times as well as bad.
You also have people in your life who provide informational support. These are people who give you advice, offer you mentoring, and share guidance. These are the people you turn to when you are making a significant decision or have a momentous change occurring in your life. These people can help you feel less anxious about change and cope with stress when tackling problems.
The people in your support system may each play a different role or multiple roles, depending on your relationship. For example, your spouse or romantic partner may offer tangible support in the form of money to help pay your bills while also helping you make big decisions and offering you emotional support. While a teacher may give you guidance and mentoring, they may also be able to encourage you and provide you with emotional support, as well.
When you have a reliable social support system, you are much more likely to receive the help you need, no matter what that might be. And your support needs may change over time. At various times in your life, you likely need different types of support, and there may be some types of help may you never really need.
It is often more common for people to have too little support in their lives than too much. Most people find that they lack sufficient support at times. Knowing what type of support, you need and being able to ask loved ones specifically for what you are lacking can help with this problem. Learning to pay attention to your needs and recognize the type of support that is most needed will help you cultivate and sustain and helpful, lasting support system.
Types of Professional Support
In addition to getting support and help from the informal network of friends and loved ones in your life, many people also turn to professional support to help them with more complicated or chronic life issues.
When your friends or family are not enough to get you through a tough time or help you cope with mental illness, getting support from a professional therapist, counselor, or psychologist can be the answer. Professional help is often the best choice for dealing with struggles, finding effective behavioral modifications for your issues, and learning healthier behaviors.
Another, more formal type of help is a support group. Support groups offer you opportunities to interact with other people who have similar experiences or problems as you. Support group meetings allow you to hear how others are struggling and dealing with their issues, giving you models from which to learn and a safe community with which to share. Support groups can help you learn new coping skills, and they can hold you accountable for practicing healthier habits you are trying to develop.
Religious and spiritual groups are another form of support that is often more organized. When you are struggling, having a religious or spiritual group can help you immensely. Beliefs offer you hope and purpose in your life, and these types of groups are beneficial for those looking for strength or resilience. These are effective ways to meet others with similar beliefs and values as you, as well.
Benefits of a Support System on Your Physical Health
When you have a dependable support system, you can enjoy better health and longer life. An effective support system benefits your physical health in many ways. Here are just a few.
Adopt Healthier Habits
Belonging to and taking part in various social groups can encourage you to adopt and maintain healthy choices and behaviors. When you take part in social groups, those people have a normative influence on how you behave. This can mean helping you to maintain a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and abstaining from alcohol, smoking, or illegal drugs.
Your social groups can also negatively influence your behavior and choices. You are much more likely to smoke if your friends smoke. Your support system can even encourage you to make dangerous decisions which can have health consequences, too.
A dependable support system can help you reduce your stress level and keep you healthier longer. When you have a good support system, you are more likely to stick with changes in your behavior that have a positive impact on your health.
Those who are trying to lose weight, for example, have more success when they work with a group of others who are also trying to achieve similar goals or who have successfully lost weight already.
Pay Attention to Your Health
The people in your support system can also alert you to potential problems. They may let you know that you seem tired or that you are not acting like yourself. They notice when you are not well and may notice signs that you yourself do not see or are choosing to ignore. Those who love and care for you can help you stay on top of your health needs.
One of the biggest benefits that your support system can offer to you is helping you cope better with stress. Stress is a leading factor in many chronic and acute diseases, including heart disease. An elevated stress level decreases your immunity, making you more vulnerable to infections, too. Those who surround themselves with a strong support system are more capable of dealing with the stresses of life and maintaining better health overall.
Benefits of a Support System on Your Mental and Emotional Health
In addition to having a positive influence on your physical health, your support system can also help you to be healthier emotionally and mentally. Whether you are having a crisis in your life and need to turn to friends, or you just want to be around people who care for you, having strong, personal relationships is beneficial in many ways. Here are just a few.
Support a Positive Outlook
When you have people in your life who support you, it is easier to keep a positive outlook and believe that things will be alright. Whether you are facing a challenge or things are going well in your life, knowing there are others behind you can make everything easier.
Provide Emotional Support
Your support system is what gives you that emotional boost during particularly tough times. The people who support you are there to listen to your dreams and acknowledge your hopes and fears. They make you feel like someone understands you and that you matter in this world.
When you are struggling, your support system helps you to figure out practical solutions and determine alternatives that might work for you. They can help distract you from your worries, too, when you really need a break. When you are feeling discouraged, it is your support system that lifts you back up and gives you the ability to feel like you can, indeed, continue on and persevere.
Stave Off Mental Illness
Those with a lack of social support are more likely to suffer from mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Lacking support can lead to problems such as alcohol use, depressive episodes, and even suicide. Those with depression are much more likely to live longer when they have a strong support system behind them.
Your support system is an excellent way to support and enhance your self-esteem. When you have a network of people who believe in and support you and your goals, you are more likely to believe in and support yourself, which raises your self-esteem.
Achieve Your Goals
When it comes to achieving your goals in life, it is your support system that can make or break you. Those with a robust system of support are more likely to set higher goals for themselves, achieve their goals, and persevere in reaching their goals during times of difficulty.
Your support system can give you advice, mentor you, and provide you with new knowledge and skills to help you achieve your dreams. They are there to keep you on track while you are working hard at goal attainment, too.
Other Benefits of a Support System on Your Life
In addition to all the ways your support system can benefit your health and wellness, these people also provide tangible support for you when you need it. You can rely on your support system for financial help when money is tight.
They will run errands for you or bring you food when you are laid up. They will drive you to the doctor when you are ill and look after your house while you are on vacation. Without them, life is infinitely harder, which is why we rely on them so very much.
Developing Your Vital Support System
Now that we know the many benefits that a support system offers you in life, it is time to turn to how you go about growing and sustaining the important relationships in your life.
First, we will look at the many ways you can increase your support system and find new people who can become a part of your network. Later, we will look at effective strategies for keeping those relationships, so you do not neglect this important aspect of your life.
Your social support system is the network of family, friends, colleagues, peers, and acquaintances in your life that you feel you can reliably turn to for practical or emotional support of some kind.
Throughout your life, you meet people through various capacities that may become a part of your support system at some point.
But sometimes, we need to go out of our way to meet new people and really grow our network for support and caring.
Below, we discuss some common and not-so-common ways you can increase the size and variety of people within your support system so that you have the right people to turn to when you need them.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to give your time to a cause in which you believe. Find an organization in your community with a mission that supports your values and commit to regularly giving your time. When you volunteer, you are likely to meet other people with similar values to you. This is a terrific way to meet people outside your normal social circles. You may find someone who can become a trusted friend or mentor.
Start or Join a Book Club
Sharing your thoughts about new books is a great way to meet people, discuss interesting ideas, and share your thoughts with others. Book clubs are often advertised in libraries and book stores, or you can use social meetup apps to find one in your area.
Join a Team or a Gym
Not only will you get the health benefits of more exercise, but sports teams and clubs are a fantastic way to meet like-minded people with healthy habits. Running and walking clubs, rowing groups, sports teams and leagues, and even just pick-up games at your local gym can introduce you to many new and interesting people that can become a part of your healthy support network.
Become Professionally Active
Joining a professional organization can help you meet people that might support your career and professional efforts. This is great no matter what stage you are at in your career. Professional and trade groups connect you to people with similar interests and ambitions as well as those who have already achieved success in your field.
Get to Know the People Already in Your Life
You probably have lots of neighbors, co-workers, fellow parishioners, or others in your life you know by site but probably not by name. Get to know the people already connected to your life on a deeper level and turn some of those acquaintances into good friends.
Use Online Services
There are many social networking apps and sites that can help connect you to new people as well as stay connected to people you already know. These days, there are sites for all sorts of niche groups and interests, and you can even find support groups online to help you deal with all sorts of issues or problems.
14 Ways To Sustain Your Effective Support System
Once you have good supports in your life, it is important to nurture these relationships so that they continue to serve you well into the future. Here are some tips for keeping and sustaining your support system.
1| Show Your Appreciation
If you value the support that someone in your life gives to you, then you will treasure it and make sure they know how much you value them. Be sure you are showing gratitude to those in your life who are a part of your support system on a regular basis.
2| Stay in Touch
Staying in communication with your support system is vital. Emails, texts, messages, and phone calls show them you care and that you value their presence in your life. Communicate with the support system regularly to ensure they continue to be an important part of your life.
3| Do Not Turn Down Help
Welcoming help from others is important, too. No matter how much or little someone is willing to support and help you, accept it gratefully. Accepting help when offered shows that you value their opinion, too.
4| Tell Them What You Need
If you really want your support system to work for you, you have to communicate your needs to the people in your life. Even your closest loved ones can’t read your mind, so do not expect them to. Identify the type of support you need and do not be afraid to ask for it. This will help your support system care and nurture you better, which makes them feel better, as well.
5| Be Available for Others
Support is a two-way street. You can’t be the only one getting help if you want your relationships to last. Be sure you are offering support to those in your life. Do not just assume people will ask. Make sure you are checking in and asking if there is anything you can do, to show you are available when needed.
6| Support Others’ Success
Celebrating success is just as important to your support systems as helping out in troubled times. When you care for someone, you want them to succeed and are genuinely excited when they do. Be sure you are acknowledging and celebrating others’ success, just as you hope they will for you.
7| Presume Positive Intentions
When things go wrong in a relationship, as they are bound to do, be sure you start with the assumption that the other person cares about you and wants to solve the problem. Often times, hurt feelings result from simple misunderstandings or miscommunications, so do not assume the worst at once. Ask questions, see how you can repair any damage, and assume the other person has your interests in their heart.
8| Respect Others’ Limits
Not everyone in your support system is there to meet your every need. Each person has a boundary for how much they can and are willing to give. When you regularly ask more of them, you will soon damage your relationship beyond repair. Be sure to respect that not everyone has unlimited time and energy to help you when you need it.
9| Know When to Let Go
Not every relationship continues to work over time. If you find that you are emotionally drained or feel pushed into negative behaviors by a friend, it is time to re-evaluate your friendship. It is okay to let someone go from your support system when they are no longer able to support you in your current goals.
10| Admit When You Need Help
For some, the notion of asking for help is a hard pill to swallow. Being able to admit you can’t succeed on your own, and then accepting the help of others is important if you want to sustain your support system. Let others give you a helping hand and stop trying to be a superhero.
11| Do Not Rely Too Heavily on a Select Few
Avoid leaning too much on those one or two people you are closest to in your life. If you ask too much from people, they will burn out. If you need so much help that what you ask from a few people is overwhelming, it may be time to look for more professional support. Your friends and loved ones may not be able to help you with every problem in your like, so know when to seek outside support.
12| Share Crisis Plans
Especially for those with mental illness, having a crisis plan can be important. And sharing that plan with your support network means that the people who love you know your wishes in case of psychological or physical crisis. Make sure at least two people in your network know your doctors’ phone numbers as well as any medications you may be taking. Someone should know your wishes, in case you become incapacitated.
13| Pay Attention to Others Who Are Struggling
Spending time with others in your support system will help alert you to when one of them might be struggling in their life. Be sensitive to others’ needs and life events. Pay attention. Do not take for granted that they will always ask for help. Make sure to offer it when you see them in need.
14| Talk About Your Boundaries
Communicating your boundaries to others in your support system will inspire them to do the same. Make sure you talk about the kinds of help you open to giving and receiving, so that they feel comfortable to share that information with you, too. Establishing these expectations can strengthen your relationship and prevent misunderstandings in the future.
An effective support system provides you with comfort, advice, help, and perspective through all the good and bad moments of your life. The friends, loved ones, family members, colleagues, and acquaintances that make up your social support system all provide you with some amount of help when you ask for it, and these people are what allow you to be the best version of yourself.
Not only can your support system help you to be healthier physically, but you can also enjoy mental and emotional health benefits from this group to people. Your support system is vital to maintaining healthy habits, reaching your personal goals in life, and enjoying true happiness. That’s why it’s important to take care of these relationships.
Your support network needs to know you appreciate them and their efforts. Be sure you are giving as well as receiving support from those in your corner. Maintaining these relationships will ensure you are able to enjoy the benefits of your support system for many years to come.
Stay well and take care!