Cultivating a Healthy Support System
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Stress Management Coaching
Healthy relationships are crucial to our general success in life. During this past year, COVID has both driven us apart and drawn us together in ways we did not expect.
Having to practice so much self-isolation, especially for those who live alone, has been difficult. We have had to find creative ways to stay connected. I had been using Zoom for years in my business. Who knew it would become a lifeline in my personal life, too?
COVID or no COVID, our health depends upon having a solid support system of friends, so I encourage you to take time to examine your support system. Is it as strong as you want it to be? Who have you lost touch with this year that you want to reconnect with? How can you be more proactive in cultivating your support system?
Some of the ideas below might offer inspiration for you.
1) Be a Friend to Have a Friend
Building supportive relationships take time and effort, but it is worth it. If you want people to support you when you need it, you need to do the same.
The Golden Rule is an excellent one to follow when it comes to friendships. Treat your friends and others in your world the way you would like to be treated.
2) Be Authentically You Are from Day One
Differences are the spice of life. So, never try to be someone you aren't just to have certain friends.
Sometimes when we are young and still trying on different ways of being, we try different personalities. After all, we want to be liked. And sometimes we are afraid if we show our "real selves," no one will like us.
The truth is that people are drawn to authenticity. So be the real you. You might be pleasantly surprised you who attract into your life.
3) Respect Others for Who They Are
By contrast, it ís imperative that you be accepting of other people and their differences too. It doesn't mean you have to accept illegal or dangerous behavior. But it would help if you were willing to accept some minor moral differences.
We all need to accept those of different races, ethnicities, religions, or other backgrounds different from our own.
If you want to be accepted for who you are, you need to be willing to accept others for who they are.
4) Avoid Taking Responsibility for Others Though
There is a fine line between being supportive and enabling destructive behaviors. If you have a friend who engages in dangerous behavior like using illegal drugs or drinking too much, you can still like them and be their friend without condoning the behavior.
You don't have to take any responsibility for their actions as long as you aren't also engaging in that activity. You can like the person without approving of their bad behavior as long as that behavior doesn't harm you. Certainly, you need to avoid getting drawn into their harmful activities.
5) Learn How to Listen
We were each given two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should all seek to listen twice as much as we talk.
But, there is a difference between just sitting there silently hearing what is being said instead of truly listening to what is being said. Try repeating back to people what you think they said in your own words until you get it right.
6) True Friendships are 100/100 (Not 50/50)
In a genuine friendship that offers support, no one is keeping score. That is why they are 100/100 instead of 50/50. If you are focused on providing 100 percent of yourself, you will not focus on resentments and misunderstandings.
7) Spend Quality Time with Your Friends
When you foster a friendship with someone, spend time with them that counts. It doesn't need to be that much time.
Quality trumps quantity
Sometimes you only need to spend ten minutes on the phone. Other times it might be meeting for a virtual coffee. Soon, we will be getting together in person. Won't that be great? Spend quality time with one another regardless of how you meet.
8) Be Open to Being Criticized On Occasion
Authentic, supportive relationships aren't always wholly positive. Sometimes friends need someone to be willing to call them on their "stuff." Truly supportive people can do that for each other and allow it to be done for them.
If you have a friend who tends to be a blowhard and you can see that they aren't honest with themselves about something, it may be that you are the friend who can help them get off it and get real. We all benefit from having that friend who keeps us grounded.
9) Ask for What You Need
Some relationships can seem one-sided at times. That is why it ís essential to learn how to draw boundaries and ask for what you need.
If you ask people for what you need and don't, can't, or won't provide it, it might be time to move on and find friends who will come through for you.
Developing real support systems requires work, but it will pay off when you need the support. Setting the standard of what you expect in a relationship goes a long way. That way, you will be an excellent example to your friends and family regarding the type of support network you need.
This past year has been tough on everyone. While we all want to have those friends in our lives who check in on us to make sure we are okay, we also need to BE that friend for someone.
Consider who you have not been in touch with for a while.
Perhaps it's time for a quick call or text to check-in.
Remember, it's also been a year of loss for many people. The loss of a job can be devastating. People who have lost their job this year need extra support.
And many of us have lost family members and friends to COVID this year and have had to grieve more or less in private because of all the safety protocols.
If you know someone who has lost a family member, reach out to them. If you have lost someone, don't let yourself grieve alone. Reach out to your support system for the support you need.
As human beings, we have been created to be social. The past year--most of 2020 and this first part of 2021--has been a challenge to that. We have all suffered to some degree or another. We all need that healthy support system to see us through. So reach out to your support system. You'll be glad you did.
Until next time.
Have you listened to my podcast yet? If you haven't, I would like to invite you to check it out. I talk every week on alternating topics. One week, I discuss the latest in stress management tips and techniques. On the alternating week, I talk about job search strategies for those who are considering looking for a new career.
To check it out, listen wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. It's on iTunes, Stitcher, and more.