The 5 parts of a complete support system
What are the elements of a vibrant support system?
When you think about your support system, you probably picture the people in your life who help you and guide you.
True, having supportive people is incredibly important when you are working on taking better care of yourself. But there's more to a support system than that.
As part of Integrated Self-Care, my clients explore their support system - what works, what doesn't, what support they have, and what support they still need.
In this work, we use a definition of support system that includes 5 types of supports: people, places, objects, activities, and beliefs.
This is great news! Because we can rely on more than just the people in our lives to help get us through.
Sometimes we have a hard time reaching out or the people we reach out to can’t support us in the way we want them to. When that happens, remember that you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips and you don’t need anyone but yourself to access them.
With that, let's investigate each of the 5 types of support and how they can each be helpful in taking care of yourself.
The most well-known leg of the support system is the people.
But remember that your support system isn’t only made up of your best friend or your romantic partner. The co-worker who makes you smile is part of your support system. So is the friend of a friend who always includes you in outings.
Your life coach or therapist is part of your support system. And include pets in this category if your fuzzy friends bring you comfort!
The beliefs you hold to be true are part of your support system. Ideas like "I am a good person" or "I deserve to have a happy life" or "life can be hard sometimes and that's okay" are important backbones to get you through stressful times.
Your beliefs also partially determine whether you will allow yourself to seek out other types of support.
What beliefs do you hold that support you in your efforts to take care of yourself?
Objects can be part of your support system!
Think about the dishwasher that helps you manage your dirty dishes. Or the photo album that makes you laugh every time you leaf through. Or your phone that helps you connect with people who are far away.
Maybe it's the comforting book from your childhood that you reread every year (that reminds me, I’m due for a Harry Potter read).
Okay, you get the point. Don't discount these things! They are part of your support system, too.
Your environment can agitate you or comfort you.
At the end of a long day, returning to a home that brings you joy can erase your earlier difficulties.
Conversely, a space that puts you on edge (hopefully not your whole home, but maybe the messy basement or a busy bar) will not relieve you of any stress.
Think about the places that make you feel warm and cozy - how can you incorporate more of those places into your concept of your support system?
Supportive, nourishing activities might be my favorite part of the support system.
The activities and rituals that I hold dear keep me grounded in the most stressful times. For me, that means being in nature, walking, journaling, watching comedy, singing, playing piano, drinking tea and reading...it’s a long list!
Take a moment to think about what activities bring you comfort. They may be energizing activities, relaxing activities, silly activities. Really anything that brings you into the present moment a little bit more.
I invite you to reflect on all of the aspects of your support system and write them down.
Not only is it encouraging to see a more robust list of support than you may have initially considered, but it will be a handy list to have on hand for moments of overwhelm.
What comes next? Figuring out how you can better take advantage of your support system to create the life you want to see.
If you feel stuck moving from the theory of your support system into taking action to make lasting change in your life, take a look at Integrated Self-Care. I’d love to be a part of your support system!
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