Having a good social support system is an important part of staying emotionally healthy. People who have close relationships with their family and friends are happier, less stressed, and even healthier than people who don’t. But even if you have great relationships, it’s hard for your loved ones to help you through tough times if they don’t know what you need. You can help your support system support you by building strong relationships with your family and friends, communicating clearly about your needs, and returning the favor when others in your life need help themselves.
EditLetting People Know What You Need
- Admit that you need help. Sometimes, one of the hardest things to do is actually recognize when you are in over your head or when you could use a helping hand. You may have been trying to take on the role of superhero, doing everything for everyone. However, such a mentality can lead to burnout or resentment in the end.
- Be willing to admit when you’re having a hard time, and give your loved ones the chance to support you. Take a look at your day-to-day life. In what areas are you struggling? Now, think about the people you can trust to offer you non-judgmental assistance. These may be friends, family members, neighbors, or people who go to the same church as you do. Make a list of all the people you trust and put it on your fridge so that it is easy to find when you need it.
- In this step, you don’t have to take any action. All you need to do is become aware of some of the things you’re having trouble with and identify some people who might be willing to help.
- Identify the areas where you need the most help. Think about what you struggle to do on your own. Be honest with yourself about the areas of your life where you need the most practical or emotional support.
- For instance, if you have just gone through a breakup, you might need someone to keep you company and lend a sympathetic ear.
- Or, maybe you have been caring for a sick loved one for a while and could use some help running errands and cleaning.
- Another possibility is that you have experienced a loss, such as the death of a loved one, friend, or pet. Perhaps you could benefit from someone making meals for you during this time.
- Communicate with your support system about what you need. Be polite but straightforward when you ask for help. Don’t feel bad about making the request. We are biologically, emotionally, and cognitively designed to be social beings. It is normal to need help sometimes. Remember that these people care about you, and they’ll probably be happy to support you.
- For instance, if you’re dealing with depression, you could say to a friend, “I feel better when I leave the house, but it’s hard to get motivated to do that by myself. Will you start going for walks with me in the evenings?”
- Share your crisis plan with your support system. If you have a written plan for what to do in the event of a physical or mental crisis, make sure everyone in your support system has a copy. Include details like your doctor or therapist’s contact information, any medications you need to take, and anything you will need help with while incapacitated.
- For instance, your crisis plan should include information about how to take care of any pets you have.
- Accept help with gratitude. When someone reaches out to help you, let them. People usually enjoy being able to do something for a friend or family member. Avoid feeling guilty or awkward, and let the person know how much you appreciate their gesture.
- If you’re used to being the person who does everything for other people, it may take some time to feel comfortable accepting help. Think about how you feel when you help others, and realize that’s how the people in your support network feel, too.
EditKeeping Your Support System Strong
- Identify the people in your support network. Think about your family members, friends, coworkers, and other people in your life, such as therapists. Ask yourself who you trust and rely on the most. These people make up the core of your support network.
- Consider people who have helped you out in the past, who always give you good advice, and who you want to call right away when something important happens in your life.
- Reach out to the people in your support network. Keep your relationships strong by taking the initiative to stay in touch. Ask a friend you haven’t seen in a while to watch a movie with you, or send a funny card to a family member who lives far away. When you show people that you care enough to maintain a connection, they’ll be likely to do the same for you.
- Avoid assuming that people will contact you if they want to spend time together. They may be thinking the same thing about you.
- Meet new people. Grow your support system by getting involved in your community. You can make likeminded friends by joining clubs related to your interests, participating in a support group for an issue you’ve experienced, or doing volunteer work for a good cause.
- Keep in mind that it’s best not to ask too much of new friends while the relationship is still developing. Avoid bringing up heavy or personal topics until you know the person better.
- Avoid leaning too heavily on just one or two people. Your friends and family members will get worn out if you ask too much of them. If you need more help than one or two people can reasonably give, spread your requests out among numerous people in your support system.
- For instance, if you have a broken leg that prevents you from doing chores and running errands, don’t ask one friend to cover everything for you. Instead, ask a couple of friends to give you a hand around the house, and see if your family member, neighbor, or friend will run errands for you.
EditReturning the Favor
- Ask your friends and family how you can help them in return. Let your support system know that you’ll be there for them when they need you. Ask what they need the most help with in their lives, and follow through if they make a request.
- Sometimes people avoid asking for help simply because they don’t want to inconvenience others. If your loved ones say they don’t need anything, check in with them every once in a while, so they know your offer of support is genuine.
- Pay attention to people around you who are struggling. Spend time with the people in your support system regularly, and be sensitive to what your friends and family are going through. If you think a loved one could use a hug or some help around the house, don’t wait for them to ask – reach out and offer your support.
- For instance, if your friend has been acting sad lately, you could take them out for coffee and ask if everything is okay.
- Communicate your boundaries and inspire others to do the same. To keep your relationships healthy, talk with your friends and family about what kind of help you and they are comfortable giving and receiving. Establishing your expectations and needs will prevent misunderstandings later and help everyone feel respected.
- For example, you might refuse to borrow money from family members because you don’t want to complicate your relationships. You might tell a loved one who offers, “I have a rule about not accepting money from family. I really appreciate the gesture, but I can’t accept this.”
- By communicating and standing firm in your own boundaries, you give your loved ones a model for which they can build their own.