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Growing Your Support Network

Last week we wrote about social support networks and why they are so important, especially during times of crisis. But how do we build and grow those networks in order to have reliable support?

Be proactive

At times people expect others to reach out to them and then feel rejected when they don’t go out of their way to do so. Why not make the first move yourself? Make an effort, reach out to help, or just say hello. If you’re available for others, they’re most likely to return the kindness and be there for you too.

Take advantage of technology

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As nice as it is to sit down face to face with a friend, it is not always possible. Take advantage of technology and use the various social media platforms that are available to make voice or video calls, chat via text messaging or even join online groups, such as exercise classes, book clubs and other various activities.   

Different types of support

Cast your net wide, there is no one size fits all. It is impossible to find someone you can confide in about all spheres of your life.  Look to different relationships for different kinds of support. 

  • Emotional support offers a safe place to voice your feelings without fear of judgement. It is empathetic, caring, nurturing and comforting. 
  • Instrumental support offers tangible, practical and direct assistance. It is usually a “hands on” type of support with action, like hiring a garden service. 
  • Informational support offers advice, suggestions, skills or feedback about how someone is doing or coping. 
  • Companionship can take many forms and makes you feel that you are not alone.  Pets form part of this category, as well as friendships (platonic and romantic).

Follow your interests

It is much easier to connect with people who like the same things you do. You can make new connections over shared activities especially if you find talking to new people challenging.

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Acts of kindness

Reach out to people who might have difficulties or need help, such as the elderly and disabled, or volunteer your time or expertise to organisations that provide support for those in need. Often when we help others we also benefit.  

Seek professional help

If you find yourself alone with no one to ask for help or rely on, you can turn to experts who can assist you in the various spheres of your life. 

For more information on professional help, contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group.

Silindokuhle is an Industrial/Organisational Psychologist registered with the HPCSA.  She holds a Master’s degree from UKZN and runs an independent practice specialising in psychological assessments, training and wellbeing.  

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