Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 17 - Can't we all just get along?

I mentioned this earlier in the series and am gonna dig into the topic more today: Support System. We all need it. We all crave it to some degree. We were created for relationship and designed to live in community. Yet this can be really hard sometimes. In today's individualistic society, with so many options and ways to fill our time, spending quality time with others often drops down on our to-do list. Many people don't see the benefits of cultivating strong, healthy relationships anymore. So today I am going to plead my case and explain why taking the time to develop relationships is crucial, especially when dealing with anxiety (or depression). I'll also address the qualities of a supportive relationship. Here goes...

I can't emphasize enough how valuable my friends and family are to me. When I go through hard times, they surround me with love, unconditional care and support. When my mother-in-law passed away, many of them came to the memorial service and called frequently afterwards to check in. When I experienced a bad breakup many years ago, my friends were available to hear me vent, process and complain about what I was going through. When I moved across country a few months ago I got numerous phone calls, daily text messages and even snail mail reminding me how loved I am. To be close to others is to walk alongside one another through life's ups and downs. It is more than simply seeing them at work or out around town; it is being together through some of the biggest challenges and greatest joys in life.

 Other benefits of having a strong support system:
  • When you know you're loved, you become more comfortable as you are (therefore increasing your self esteem - see Day 14). I have noticed this a lot since I got married. My husband likes certain qualities about me that I can't stand in myself. But as I have begun to feel accepted by him, I have grown more comfortable with those aspects of myself as well.
  • Supportive people validate your feelings rather than making you feel weird or wrong for experiencing emotion. (See Day 15 re: the importance of emotional expression).
  • Supportive relationships allow you to focus on someone other than yourself. You can be there for your loved ones too, allowing for mutuality and growth.
  • Supportive relationships are fun and often consist of shared interests and compatability. We can enjoy life by sharing it with other people.
A few tricks of the trade when trying to develop a support system:

1) Not everyone needs to be in your inner circle. Strong relationships require trust. If you lack trust in someone, they may not be the person you should share everything with. I definitely don't mean cut them off necessarily or hold a grudge against them! But, there are varying kinds of friendships and that includes different levels of closeness as well.

2) Pay attention to the people who have a proven track record. Do they have other close friends who speak highly of them and respect their character? Or do they spend a little too much time around the water cooler gossiping?

3) Find people with similar interests so you can have fun together.

4) If you're dealing with a particular issue, a support group might be helpful. I have led support groups in the past and one of the things participants inevitably mentioned was that it was nice to be around others who "got" them.

How is your current support system? Do you feel accepted and cared for? Can you count on them to be around during life's big moments?

See you soon for the last 4 days of the series! Time flies!

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