Welcome to the 5th month of exploring self-care practices. In my first post I laid the groundwork for this challenge and named six categories of self-care. I’m sure we can think of additional areas I’ve missed. Feel free to post a comment with your suggestions below.
Social Support is this month’s focus. Please join us in the Facebook group to dig deeper into what Social Support is, how it can impact your physical and emotional health, and how to get it if you currently feel a void.
Social support is your network. This can be any combination of family and/or friends. Some friends may feel like family. Perhaps you’re like me and come from a small family? I never had siblings, very few cousins, and most of the relatives I grew up with are now long gone. From early on I prized certain friendships as my family.
Your network of people may vary. With some you may feel completely safe. They tend to know much about you. Other members of your network may know you in a limited capacity — such as through an exercise class, a job, volunteering, or religious/spiritual practice — but that’s still important.
If you have a chronic health condition which limits your excursions, many of your friends may be online. It’s possible to get a lot of social support from online connections that grow into friendships. I know this to be true for my patient community. Thankfully, we have an opportunity to meet in person at our annual conference, which enhances the online friendship.
In the past I’ve explored the role of social support in blog posts and podcast episodes. Humans are social animals and we’re wired to connect with others. I hadn’t thought much about the role social support plays in my life until I began my journey as a support group facilitator. As my disease progressed, it’s served somewhat as a litmus test for friendship. It is not uncommon to lose a few friendships throughout life as we grow and change but having a life-threatening condition at a younger age can really wreak havoc with your social life.
Over time I’ve lost many childhood friendships yet I’ve grown closer to people I may not have originally gravitated toward. My heart has opened to more possibilities. My empathy and compassion have increased as well as my social support. These connections help me immensely.
The challenge this month is to think about your social support network. If you’re using the Health Storylines application, there are tools such as Daily Moods, Symptom Tracker, and Daily Planner you can utilize to capture your social support progress. Over time you may see a connection between how you feel emotionally, how your physical symptoms impact your daily life, and what your daily life consists of. How often are you interacting with friends rather than just attending to medical appointments? Are you engaging in group activities that bring you joy?
Another feature of the application is Circle of Support which allows you to add family, friends, and your healthcare team to your support network. Here’s a short video with instructions on how to do this.
Good luck and don’t forget to weigh in on the conversation in our Facebook group.