What are support systems and why are they important?
By: Jennifer Seip, LMFT, MA
“If I was truly happy with myself, then I wouldn’t feel like I need other people,” is something I hear all the time. As a society, we’ve been taught that the thermometer for happiness lies partly with being able to be without other people during moments of distress. Taking care of ourselves comes in the form of receiving massages, exercising, or reading a good book. While it may be true that those things can be be significant, you don’t want to discount the important role a support system plays in your psychological health.
There is a biological reason why humans need one another. As we all know, survival of the fittest has played an enormous role in the evolution the human species. Back in cavemen times, people learned that they were more likely to survive if they had numbers on their side. So they made friends and formed groups which eventually led to an entire network of cohorts. One person versus a fierce tiger is probably going to lose, but one hundred… now we are talking!
Poor social support has been linked to anxiety, depression, loneliness, and physical health problems. Our brains and bodies are connected and if you think about it from a holistic perspective, if our brains are in bad shape, then are bodies will follow suit.
What Kinds Of Support Are There?
Okay, so you’re in a crisis and you need help but you don’t know what kind of support to look for. Well, there are three different types of support, emotional support, informational support, and instrumental support.
Emotional Support is what you are receiving when someone is listening to your story and providing empathy. They are there for you just to hear about your struggle and to give you a shoulder to cry on. They let you know that you are not alone.
Informational Support is given when someone is looking for advice. Big life decisions usually are accompanied by informational support. Whether you have a mentor, therapist, parent, or a friend who has gone through a similar experience, lot’s of people ask for opinions when they aren’t sure which path to take.
Instrumental Support is provided when you need physical help from a person. If you are sick, recovering from surgery, or disabled in any way, instrumental support is that helping hand you need.
How Does This Benefit Our Health?
One word, SAFETY. During periods of high anxiety and feeling alone, a healthy support system can do wonders. Having a core group of people who you can go to just to bounce your thoughts off of feels really good. The reason why it feels good is because including other people in on your struggle makes you feel like you are one hundred people up against the lion instead of just one. Motivation, increases and you can begin to feel hope again, followed by a feeling of relief.
If don’t have a good support system, how can I find one?
Making friends as an adult is really hard! But luckily there are lots of options. If you’re living in the Philadelphia area, our community offers groups and clubs you can try! Everything from playing sports, to taking a class, to finding a spiritual outlet might give you what your seeking. If those don’t work, there are also therapy groups everywhere you can take part in. Another thing you could try is a meet up or a free online dating site but just click the box that says looking for friends.
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