An emotional support system is a lot like a life jacket: Don’t wait until you’re on a sinking ship to determine whether you have one!
When life is going well, we probably don’t think much about support systems. After all, we have our friends, and family, and a decent social life. But when things become challenging—whether it’s the end of a relationship, becoming a new parent, death of a loved one, cross-country move, new job, illness, financial struggles, depression, etc.—we begin to realize just how much we need to feel loved and supported. The problem is, challenging times may cause us to withdraw; maybe we think we can handle everything on our own, or we don’t want to burden others with our problems.
There’s a great deal of research backing the health benefits of support systems: reduced stress, improved immune function, and a greater sense of well-being. Additional benefits include assistance in making objective decisions, keeping us motivated and accountable, and allowing us to laugh and/or openly cry. Support systems are important for everyone, of every age, including teens and adolescents, for whom support systems can also provide tools for dealing with stressful situations at school and on social media, such as bullying.
In a perfect world, we’re surrounded by family and loyal friends who support us unconditionally. In the real world, where families are often spread apart and friends sometimes come and go, we can still find the emotional support we need from co-workers, shared interests, hobbies, religious groups, book clubs, parent groups, and even pets. We can also use social networking sites to help us stay connected with friends and family, or to find others who are experiencing similar situations.
For work-related challenges, try joining a networking group, local chamber of commerce, or other type of industry association. For relationship issues, many churches offer divorce support groups as well as grief support. For mental health issues, NAMI North Texas Alliance on Mental Health offers support groups for families. And for those whose loved ones are dealing with alcohol addiction, there are 12-step support groups such as Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics.
For more information on emotional support groups, click on these links:
Don’t go it alone. Building a strong emotional support system is one of the best things you can do for yourself—during good times and bad.