As we move through the ups and downs of life, a good support system can bless us with friends who celebrate our triumphs and those who comfort and encourage us when we’re feeling low. Cultivating a healthy support team can be one of the most important projects we ever undertake. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Psychology tracked participants over a thirty year period and found that those who maintained connections with family, close friends, and community, had significantly lower rates of mental and physical health disorders.
The first step to cultivating a healthy support network is to stand up and be on your own team. Have your own back by treating yourself with kindness, compassion and encouragement. Get clear on your boundaries, your limits and your needs….then honor them! No one can do this for you.
Secondly, accept people where they are and appreciate their strengths. Take an honest look at the people who are already in your life and accept their limits. Not everyone can be the perfect confidant, objective voice of reason, maternal comfort, and cheerleader at the same time. Sometimes people can be there for you in some ways and not in others. When you can accept the strengths and limitations of the people in your life, you will be much more successful in getting the kind of support you need when you need it.
Expanding your network is another important step to building a circle of allies. Most of us call on our friends, family and colleagues to provide support. But there are plenty of resources we may not be utilizing such as local support groups, online communities, professionals, mentors and more. If you’re serious about taking charge of your need for support, reach out and don’t stop at the first one you find. Keep exploring until you discover the right fit for your needs, comfort level and lifestyle.
If any members of your support team are professionals, such as doctors, therapists, or healers of any kind, remember that they’re working for you. If you trust them and feel that they make your life better, great! If you can’t rely on them for any reason, don’t be afraid to fire them and find someone who will make a better contribution to your team.
Building a support community may take being proactive and giving some thought to keeping the relationships balanced, but when you feel confident in the people you can lean on in times of need and are happy to celebrate your joys with them, all the efforts are worth it.