Building your Support Network

An Article by Ryan Grey

It is important that you can connect to people who can support you. A good support network is key to your well-being. Having a good awareness of when you need support and knowing how to access that support and who from will improve your mental health massively.

Effects of loneliness

The lack of social and emotional support can be devastating to your mental health. Loneliness and social isolation has been closely linked to depression and anxiety, as well as to physical health conditions. Feeling disconnected from support has a detrimental effect on well-being in general.

You can feel lonely while surrounded by others. It is not necessarily the absence of other people that causes loneliness, it is the absence of an emotional connection. You can be with a friend, a partner or a family member and still feel incredibly lonely. Robin Williams summed this up perfectly when he said;

” I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

Who can I reach out to?

So, ideally, the way to combat loneliness is to surround yourself with people who make you feel connected. These will be people who you can feel a personal connection with and with whom you can dare to be yourself.

You may not have someone who you can open up to and confide to about everything. It may be that different people around you can offer you different types of support. For whatever reason, you will trust certain people more than others.

Identify people already around you who you can trust. Who has listened to you before in a non-judgmental way? Who have you been able to trust to keep your secrets safe?

Maybe you have had such people in your life but the relationship has lapsed, or you have drifted apart. There may be a way to get back in touch with these people, or to strengthen and build back your relationship with them. Reaching out to them, even in a small way can be a way into connecting back to their precious support.

Making new connections

Maybe you feel that you don’t have anyone around you who you can open up to or trust. You may be completely isolated and have no one to turn to for support.

Rediscovering interests and activities that you really enjoy and finding others with similar interests is a great way to start to build up your support network. Look for local groups around you where you can meet others with similar interests.

Joining a group, a class or a team will initially break into your isolation and help you to feel connected to others. You will be meeting others with whom you already share an interest, which makes initial conversations so much easier. It may take a little while to form closer friendships, but it is a process and often takes time.

If you are unable to reach out to people in person, the internet can be a great way to build up support. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter are full of helpful groups, where users can support and help each other.

There are groups and chat forums for users with similar difficulties, as well as for users with similar interests. When interacting with users online, there are many useful ways to keep yourself safe. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can very easily leave the chat or group. You can very easily block individual users. It is important to check out the group rules and the site’s rules before engaging, so that you know how to best keep yourself safe.

If you have real difficulty with social skills and self-esteem, you may want to consider counselling. Counselling can help you to build up your sense of identity and self esteem and develop new coping strategies for dealing with social situations.

There are lots of people out there who will be happy to support you and to help you to feel less alone. The first step is to reach out, however much you are able to, and start to build that support network around you.

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