Cultivating your Support Network

It’s important that we all have a support network we can rely on, and when we encounter challenging times, it’s crucial to cultivate a network to help you through.

Poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Why do we need support?

We are intrinsically connected and reliant on each other. Our very safety, while doing something as straightforward as the weekly food shop, is reliant on the values, beliefs, decisions and actions of total strangers.

We cannot be independent. We are all interdependent, and there’s no shame, unless you attribute it to yourself, in identifying your support needs and learning to source the support you need to make your life as easy, effortless and happy as possible.

A support system is a network of people or organisations that provide us with emotional and practical support. Cultivating a good one provides us with many benefits such as promoting our wellbeing, increasing our coping skills and helping us live an overall happier, healthier and longer life.

We need these to offer us a sounding board, be role models, offer advice, feedback, listen, help us to organise, sort out logistics and strategise. We might need support in lifting our spirits, keeping us motivated and accountable. Or maybe, we need it to help us make difficult decisions, providing us with knowledge and information, help to give us more time, or share some of our responsibilities.

Identify what support you need

  • Emotional Support: What support do you need to keep you feeling well emotionally? Who can listen to you and value and validate your feelings? Who can encourage you and keep you motivated if you are facing a challenge? Who can show you empathy, concern, affection, love, trust, acceptance and care?
  • Cognitive Support: Who can help you to think things through? Who can help you, not just by giving advice, but by assisting you in addressing issues that come up, someone to help you break things down and make a plan of action?
  • Practical Support: What support do you need with logistical issues, time management issues, child care issues, financial issues? What information do you need and where can you find it? Who can you call in to help you with these areas? If family and friends aren’t available, what professional resources are there?
  • Social support: Who do you have fun and a laugh with? Are you keeping in touch with them? What banter and laughs can you have? Are you using your social media to keep a smile on your face? Are you taking part in online classes with others so you get a sense of camaraderie? What about keeping in touch with family and friends?
  • Self-Support: How are you supporting yourself? How can you care for yourself better? Are you eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep? What about keeping your stress intact and keeping your energy up?  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you don’t look after you, no one else is going to, and when you look after yourself well, you set higher standards for how you expect others to treat you and they will respond accordingly.

Support systems come in all shapes and sizes. These include partners, friends, family, work colleagues, support or fitness groups, educational organisations, charities, mentors, counsellors and coaches. In order to figure out where to source your support, consider:

  • What support role do your friends and family provide? Are there gaps in the support that you are getting? How can you fill those gaps? Who can fill those gaps?
  • Is there a type of support you need but don’t have? Where can you source this support?
  • Is there someone or somewhere you could reach out to for support? How will you do it, what do you need from them?

It’s easy to assume that others know and understand your circumstances and that if they do not offer the support you need or are looking for, that your needs are being ignored. It’s also normal to not want to burden others with your troubles, and to shy away from sourcing support. However, you have to value and validate your support needs, feelings and wants because you have a right for them to be met. You are responsible for identifying them, communicating them and being accountable for them being met.

About Sara Wright

Sara Wright is a confidence coach based in Leicester. She specialises in helping improve people’s mental health self-esteem. She has over 20 years’ experience, as well as a BSc and MSc to back up her practical knowledge. To find out more, check out her website and Facebook page.