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6 Ways to Be There For Your Support System

Mohana has been feeling very overwhelmed since the last couple of days. She has recently joined office after her maternity leave. There has been an overload of new information at office and she feels burdened with work and home responsibilities. She explains this situation to her husband and mother who step in to support her with taking care of the baby and arranging for a house help. Her colleagues assist her in learning the new developments at work. One of her team members who is also a good friend to Mohana, helps her in keeping a track of her meals and breaks, while reminding her that Mohana had been very supportive to her when she was feeling distressed in the past. 

This experience helped Mohana in feeling heard, understood and supported. She has also started to realize the importance of being a good source of support to her support systems. 

Support systems are what keeps us motivated and going in times of difficulties. These support systems could include our friends, family, colleagues, partners, neighbors or acquaintances. Some of them provide us with emotional support, while other may uplift us in different ways. 

As we can see from Mohana’s story, her support system was made up of her family, friends, co-workers and house-help. Each of these people provided her with a different kind of support, but were based on a few common components. In a study conducted by Mattson and Hall (2011), being aware of what makes for a stable support system might help us in recognizing more support systems in our environment and strengthen the already existing ones. These components are:

1)    Interactions- which provide for a sharing and listening space and have a two-way communication have been identified as more satisfying to have.

2)    Coping- support systems are made up of people who positively encourage us to cope with life’s adversities. These people are often willing to provide for options and solutions if required.

3)    Esteem- people who continue to positively remind us of our accomplishments, help us to believe in our own worth and potential. They not only support us but also create a space of growth in competence and independence.

4)    Exchange- not all support systems can provide emotional support, but an outstanding characteristic of support systems is that there is always a state of exchange (for tangible goods, emotions, advices, feedback or affirmation) which exists while we interact and respond to social cues (George Homans, 1961). The extent to which support is given and received within a relationship, defines the strength and fulfillment in it.

While we have people to support us, it is often healthy to provide them with support when they require. If we want our relationships with friends and family to be ever so refreshing and young, we need to replenish our support systems. Like a land has to be ploughed and tilled for a healthy tree, relationships need care as well. We can learn to be a better source of support to our loved one’s by keeping some points in mind. 

1)    Listen: as often as it said, listening is truly an art, hard to master. If you want to learn to be a supportive friend, you could start by listening more attentively and carefully. It means actually listening, trying to understand, asking questions to clarify doubts and showing interest in their story. 
2)    Don’t rush to help:  sometimes all that people want is for someone to hear them out. A witness to our story can often reduce the pain and help us deal with it better. We often want to suggest solutions to help people better but that could be quite counter-productive. 
3)    Small acts of care: we can show our love and care by small acts of care like cooking, helping with chores, small gifts, flowers, a playlist of favourite songs or a phone call. These seemingly small acts go a long way and make the person feel supported and cared for in their times of difficulty. 
4)    Physical affection: depending upon our relationship or comfort with the person, different types of touch could be very strengthening for the person in distress. Holding hands, tapping on the back or the shoulders, hugging or kissing could be some of the ways in which we assure another person of our presence in their times of difficulties. 
5)    Taking up a responsibility: when Mohana’s family offered to help her with the baby and household chores, she felt naturally relaxed. We could also share the load of responsibilities with our family and friends when they need it from us. 
6)    Standing up for them: it might be important to take sides with your friend and family in an argument with someone else or if you see them being uncomfortable somewhere. It could mean leaving a party early because your parent feels unwell, opposing a crass comment made about your friend at work, or simply checking with them before taking big decisions. 

The word support system indicates that you are a team. It means being there for people who are there for you, as the pop culture reference goes. Providing care is as much a fulfilling act as is receiving care and affection. We learn and grow by building each other up and it is important to step up for people who step up for us. As the African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

Glanz, K., Rimer, B. K., & Viswanath, K. (2008). Social networks and social support. In Health behavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice (4th ed., pp. 189-195). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Mattson, M., & Hall, J. G. (2011). Linking health communication with social support. In Health as communication nexus: A service-learning approach (1st ed., pp. 181-187). Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/lenovo/Downloads/socialsupport.pdf

If you would like to discuss this further or need some help or support in this or any other area, our counsellors would be happy to help.–A-Guide-on-the-Important-People-You-Need-in-Your-Life/ODcy

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