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Building an Emotional Support System

Humans are communal animals. (Aristotle wrote that only a superhuman or a savage could live outside of a community.) But too often the pace and structure of our modern lives forces us to face our challenges alone. It doesn’t have to be that way!

When we proactively cultivate a community of family, friends, and co-workers around us, we know that we’ll be there for each other when the going gets tough. When any of you needs help, you’ll never be alone. Here are three ideas for building up your emotional support system.

Keep in Touch

Don’t wait to make friends until you need them! Strong communities spend time together doing things they enjoy. When you are a part of a community of supportive friends, no one has to worry about asking for help. So how can you strengthen your community?

  • Always have a plan for your next get together. Make Friday night happy hour or a monthly girls’ night a part of your regular routine.
  • Call, write, or e-mail absent friends as often as you can. You want to know how their lives are going, so don’ be shy telling them about yourself.
  • Give as much as you take. Look for ways to help a friend, even unasked—forward job postings to an unemployed friend, babysit a plant during her vacation, or take a stressed out co-worker out for drinks. When all else fails, be sure to write a sincere thank you note to any friends who helped you through a tough time.

Get Involved

Community activities like volunteering, clubs, and church groups are a great way to build meaningful friendships. Plus, it’s easier to introduce yourself to people when you know you share at least one common interest, belief, or value.

  • Choose an activity you can realistically fit into your life. For example, a choir that rehearses three nights a week may be a poor fit for a new mom. Instead, consider a mom’s group or a late evening activity you can enjoy while your partner babysits.
  • If you feel nervous about meeting new people on your own, look for an activity you can do as a family or with a committed friend. Just make sure you don’t isolate yourselves within the larger group.
  • The best groups for building friendships make repeated casual conversation easy—consider a weekly church dinner or a monthly community clean-up.

Sign Up for Support

Sometimes casual social interaction isn’t enough. Many women crave the company of others with similar challenges or experiences. There are support groups for everything from alcoholism to xenophobia, but the most important thing is to find a place you feel like you belong.

  • Look for support groups. Check out local library notice boards or church bulletins. You can also search on-line. Mental Health America has an extensive list of support groups.
  • Consider looking for a therapist. Therapy is not for the week. A good therapist helps you overcome the things that bother you the most about yourself and move on with your life. Psychology Today has a great search tool that will even look for therapists who take your insurance.

Where do you look for support when you’re down? Let us know in the comments.

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