Written by Dr Caroline Marlow, a Chartered Psychologist who specialises in wellbeing and performance psychology and is Director of L&M Consulting Ltd.
In difficult times, gaining support from others is one of the most important things that you can do to help buffer against stress and to cope. This is because social support can improve your psychological wellbeing by helping you to feel: competent, in control, valued, listened to, supported and part of a community.
But you need to use support well.
In Blog 1, we looked at how you can build your support network and plan to use support more effectively. Here, we look at the types of support that can help you improve your psychological wellbeing during difficult times.
The Golden Rule is Don’t leave gaining good support to chance: The more specific you are in knowing what you need at any particular time, the better you will be at finding the right person to help you, and the more likely it is that you will gain the support needed to progress.
To help you buffer against stress and promote your ability to cope, your support network should include people who can:
Provide a Safe Haven: Sometimes you just need to talk to someone honestly and to show your feelings. This person should: be good at listening, show that they understand you, and accept you regardless. They might also be able to reassure you and do something that actually reduces or shields you from the difficult situation.
Often, we think that our family and friends are best for this. They may well be, but be sure that they focus on you: Support is different to chatting about your similar experiences.
Think Differently: Sometimes we get so caught up in our problems that we can’t see the wood for the trees. Also, we all see the world differently and sometimes that different view helps flip our thinking and makes the difference. Find people who can listen to and understand your situation, but who might have a different way of thinking about it. Maybe, if you come to see a different or bigger picture it might help you see the situation as: less threatening or difficult, possible to overcome, or even of potential benefit.
Build You Up: Sometimes others can see things in us that we just can’t see in ourselves right now. Find people who know you and can help you recognise the coping skills, strengths and talents that you have used in the past, but are currently hidden. Maybe discuss how you can use/tweak them to help you now. Bear in mind that people who know you in different ways and from different places might have different views of you. So ask many!
Help You Take Back Control: It can be difficult, particularly when you’ve no energy left, but at some point you have to take control to be able to move forward. Find someone who can help you: get back on your feet, problem-solve, plan the first step forward and then the other steps, i.e., to take positive actions that will increase your control, coping and positive change. Blog 3 will also help with this.
Remember: You don’t have to face difficult times alone. Think, “What support do I need right now?” Then ask the people who can help you gain that the most.