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Posted on: February 3, 2020 | Dr. Julia Hood Ph.D., BCBA, NCSP

[a woman who realizes the importance of having a support system

According to a recent report published by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, one in six American adults faces mental health problems. The conditions that lead to this range from mild to debilitating. The good news is that in most cases, adults can take the necessary steps to reclaim control of their lives. This involves understanding the importance of a support system, which may include not just family and friends but even perfect strangers.

Researchers have also said that having a strong support system has many positive benefits. Some of the best benefits include higher levels of well-being, better coping skills, and a longer healthier life. Having a support system has also been proven to reduce depression and anxiety and reduce stress. In order for us to thrive, we need a support system to be there for us when we are in need. 

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What Does It Mean To Have A Support System?

The definition of a support system is that you have a network of people that can provide you with practical or emotional support. These support systems will help you improve your overall health and have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Having a support system means that you have people to rely on when you need them the most. It means that there are people you can lean on whenever you are in a tough situation.

How To Build A Support System

Support systems are critical for anyone to have. Many people think that it is easier to do things alone and that their own health is something only they should be worrying about. This is not the case at all. While it is important to do some things on your own, having a support system that is there for you when things get tough is critical to maintaining your mental and physical health. To really make strides in improving yourself or building new skills you must ensure you have the right people surrounding you. You want the right people to be there to help and cheer for you going through life. To build your support team, here are some helpful tips that Highland Springs has put together:  

  • Consider joining a sports team or workout group to boost your mood, improve your physical health and give you the opportunity to interact with others.
  • Review your current social circles and family relationships, then single out the people who offer the most positive but truthful advice.
  • Be open to the idea of asking for help when you need it and accepting that help as graciously as possible.
  • Try new activities alone or in groups to introduce you to fresh faces who may provide a positive influence. 

Importance of a Support System

Mental health can be a tough battle. Oftentimes it can take hold of your life and make you feel unworthy of social interactions or being cared for by others. However, it is important to try to persevere through these thoughts and remember that everyone is worthy of being cared for and loved. Here are several benefits of having a support system and choosing the right people to spend time with.

Social Support

Oftentimes, isolation can worsen episodes of mental illness. It is frightening how the brain can work against you in your most vulnerable moments. It often offers confirmation bias of your worst insecurities, causing you to suffer from anxiety, depression and other conditions.

Social support helps to reconnect you to the external world while giving you the opportunity to focus on other people and interactions. Sometimes this comes in the form of a heart to heart with a friend and seeking out useful advice. Other times, you may find yourself on the giving end of the advice. Everyone is an expert at something.

Unprompted Check-ins

When you experience a particularly bad mental health episode, you may feel unwilling to reach out to others for help. You may find yourself increasingly turning down dates and get-togethers. People who are respectful of your time and space will back off and allow you to come around on your own. 

This is a healthy approach, but there is a line that the people closest to you need to draw. You may not even realize how withdrawn you have become until someone reaches out and asks, “Are you okay?” This may provide that prompt you need to recalibrate and start working on your recovery process again. 

Positive Influence

These unprompted check-ins often lead to encouragement for you to pursue healthier behaviors. Your spouse may come home from work and encourage you to eat something wholesome. A friend may recommend that you join him at the gym. Your mother may come by and start to clean up the house and open the blinds. 

There will be days when all of these activities feel bothersome. You may even feel frustrated, pressured and angry. However, these are also often lifesavers as they provide buoyancy at times when depression may otherwise weigh you down to rock bottom. The further along you are in your recovery process, the more you will feel grateful for these moments.

Healthy Distractions

For some people, maintaining your privacy is key. You may want the benefits of a social support system but worry about needing to disclose what ails you to achieve this. It’s true that it’s not always beneficial to you or your loved ones to explain exactly what’s happened or what’s wrong. In fact, you may not know the answer to this yourself.

Still, having a support group helps to provide healthy distractions. The key is to strike a balance between distractions that entertain and distractions that delay your willingness to take action. Unhealthy distractions might include using alcohol and illegal drugs to dull the senses. Healthy distractions include a hike with your friends or learning to meditate at a yoga class.

Professional Referrals

For some people, their first step is not to seek professional assistance. They may first join online communities or seek out local support groups that are less formal. At Highland Springs we can be your first step in finding a support system. These are great starting points, but it is only a starting point. It also helps to connect you with other people at varying degrees of recovery, regardless of the mental health condition they may suffer from.

People you meet may be able to refer you to behavioral health professionals who provided the results they needed. This may range anywhere from a masseuse to a mental health counselor. Not every mental illness requires medication or intense therapy. Even so, you will find that most people who are committed to improving their mental health seek out formal or professional therapy.

The Bottom Line

These are just some of the many benefits of having a support system that our clients report. Each case is different and you may experience perks completely unique to your situation. Our role at Highland Springs Clinic is to form a part of that support system, while also walking you through the process of reclaiming or building the life you’ve always dreamed of. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or even just to ask questions. We’re ready when you are.

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