Most everyone has been through a stressful event in his or her life, ranging from a personal family issue or medical crisis, to a community tragedy or natural disaster. During times of emotional and physical hardship, a support system is invaluable. Gratefully, we experience the tender care of people, such as a parent, friend, church member, co-worker, or neighbor who help us “get through” a difficult period simply because they are concerned about our wellbeing.

Spending time to build a healthy support network is a wise investment. Being with others helps protect against loneliness, and increases feelings of security and positive self-worth. Research shows that those who enjoy high levels of social support live healthier, longer lives.

Can you think of a person who has the patience to listen, and motivation to encourage you when you need it, in good times and in bad? Positive people who can provide you with practical guidance and emotional nourishment are critical to have in your life.

If you currently have limited close friendships or difficult family relationships, do not be discouraged. To enhance your support system, consider ways that you can meet and connect with others, such as:

  • Do volunteer work. Pick a cause that has meaning to you and you will likely meet others who share similar values.
  • Get involved on a committee at work or in the community. Contribute your knowledge and skills to a greater purpose. A team accomplishment fosters a lasting bond.
  • Develop a variety of interests. The world has a lot to offer! Join a book club at your library or
    church. Take a photography or art class. Some local grocers and restaurants offer cooking classes.
  • Join a fitness class, walking/running group or recreational team sport. Exercising with others and working toward a common goal are good for both your body and mind.
  • Get online. Social networking offers opportunities to connect with new people or reunite with friends from your past. Choose online groups that allow you to share and express ideas.

Relationships are a two-way street and require a variety of experiences and emotions to thrive and grow. Take care of the people in your support network and those people who lean on you:

  • Stay in touch. Don’t let too much time pass between chats with friends. Answer or return phone calls, reply to emails and respond to invitations to let people know that you care.
  • Be a good listener. Advice is not always needed; sometimes people just need to express themselves and have their voice heard.
  • Show appreciation. Take time to say ‘thank you’ and express how important a person is to you.
  • Try to be positive. There are times when you need to express frustration or anger, but strive for mostly positive interactions. Avoid gossip, complain less, and forgive others’ faults.

Be aware of people that seem to exhaust your energy; spending time with people who aren’t supportive can add stress and take away valuable time.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, LifeWork Strategies EAP, and Adventist Behavioral Health, and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers. For additional information, consult your physician.