Community Tools and Tips

A Circle of Support

Today we talk about a recipe for enjoying more energy in our lives: A strong support network.

It’s something we may take for granted, but there is little doubt that a good support network improves our health. It helps to ground us emotionally, and provides a buffer against adverse events in our lives. Social networks provide us with a sense of comfort, security, belonging and community.

A circle of support consists of the trusted individuals in your life to whom you can turn in good times and in bad. These people may be family members; friends; co-workers; fellow members of a church, synagogue or temple; or members of a support group.

Studies show that having a social network can be critical in successfully weathering stressful events, be it a bad day at work or a year filled with loss or chronic illness. Social support can include:

Emotional support—where the actions that others take make you feel cared for

Informational support—where others provide information, advice or guidance to help you

Instrumental support—where others offer physical support in the form of money or services, like grocery shopping, housekeeping and driving you to an appointment

Whatever your challenges, age or state of health, building a strong circle of support can literally be life-saving.  Studies show that people who have a good support network are less vulnerable to ill health and premature death. One of the earliest of these studies, conducted in 1905 by Dr. Joseph Pratt, showed that tuberculosis patients who gathered together under his care benefitted physically and mentally from the psychological support of the group. Since then, research continues to show the power of a support group in health and healing from all variety of physical and/or mental illnesses.  

If you already have a strong support network, you are very fortunate. But it’s never too late to foster close and rewarding relationships.

The Mayo Clinic offers these tips for building and maintaining a strong support circle:

Appreciate your friends and family. Take time to say thank you and express how important they are to you. Be there for them when they need support.

Stay in touch. Answer phone calls and texts, return emails, send notes and reciprocate invitations to let people know that you care.

Be a good listener. Find out what’s important to your friends, family and other s

Don’t overdo it. The idea is to nurture your relationships. Try not to overwhelm others with information that they may view as too sensitive or personal. Also, be careful not to engulf people with phone calls or emails.

Don’t complete. Be happy when your friends, family members and co-workers succeed. Celebrate their accomplishments and they’ll celebrate yours in return.

Engage in energizing connections. Remember that building a circle of support is meant to reduce your stress, not increase it. If you’re feeling drained rather than supported in a relationship, then it is best to avoid the relationship. Now you have all the ingredients in our recipe for feeling more energy in your life. During the weeks ahead, we’ll round things out with exercise tips from Being Energy to help you feel strong and fit.