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Social Support – You Don’t Have to Go through it Alone

You had a rough day at work. Your family member is ill. Your audition for American Idol didn’t go so well. A long-term relationship ended sadly. Life is constantly throwing us challenges. We take all kinds of measures to prevent certain challenges from getting the best of us, like purchasing health insurance, installing locks on our doors, and planning out household budgets. I encourage you to consider one other “preventive” measure, which research suggests can enhance your mental and physical health: nurturing and using a network of social support.

Many of us already have good networks in place that may include family, friends, coworkers, and professionals. These are people whom we regularly confide in, who know what we are going through, and who care about us. When we are faced with stressful situations, enlisting the support and encouragement from others who care might make the difference between sailing boldly through shaky waters and sinking into depression.

Sometimes when feeling particularly down or frazzled, we are inclined to withdraw from others. We might not feel like talking, we are afraid to make ourselves more vulnerable than we already feel, or we are afraid to burden others with our troubles. While some quality “alone time” is certainly healthy, balancing it out by spending some time with others can be extremely beneficial.

If seeking support from others feels anxiety-provoking or new to you, it might be helpful to know that whomever you choose to reach out to will likely feel honored!

Reference: Reis, Harry T. and Rusbult, Caryl E., eds. Close Relationships: Key Readings. Psychology Press, 2004

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Comments

I appreciate your comment, Jim. You're right - the opportunity to put your thoughts and feelings into words can be very powerful. Keeping a journal can be handy, just for this reason. I also think there is something particularly therapeutic about being able to share your story with another person, to not have to experience it alone.

-Leslie

Leslie,

I totally agree with your statement. Another thing that I've discovered throughout the years is that, if I simply talk to someone about something, I usually can work things out on my own. The listener doesn't even have to respond and I'll make a decision, feel better about a particular problem or have a better understanding of my emotions. I guess forming the thoughts / feelings into words and actually voicing them has an impact on resolution.

Thanks to all my friends who have listened to my incessant complaining over the years! They *should* be honored! ;-)

Jim