Who is your support system? The people you call on the toughest of days? What do you turn to for comfort when you are stressed out? Where can you go to get relief and peace when life feels chaotic?
The answers to these questions are important parts of your unique support system. A support system is a catalog of resources that offer you practical and/or emotional support. More specifically, these are people, places, and things that bolster you.
I recently published a guide for teens to build their support networks. This article (and free downloadable map) is equally applicable and supportive for parents and caregivers, and it’s a common part of the work I do with clients. Thus, I invite you to explore this tool, too, and brainstorm and create your unique support system.
I encourage you to keep this living document somewhere you will be able to see it and access it with ease. Reflect: Can you remember the last time you felt overwhelmed and unable to take the next step, or even figure the next step out? This trapped feeling can be tough to get out of. However, the closer we keep our tools and supports, the more frequently we are reminded of the resources around us, and the easier it will be for us to reach out and ask for help.
Parents, especially parents of teens and emerging adults, often share that they feel isolated. Once school drop-offs and play dates are things of the past, parents and caregivers tend to have fewer organic opportunities to interact with one another. This feeling of isolation is an opportunity to build and maintain your systems of support– an important aspect of self-care.
Developing a Support System
Recently, I have become more observant of the ways that I use my own support system, and I’m excited to share how this network has served me. When I brainstormed my own system, I sat with some of the words that I use to describe myself: highly sensitive, empathic, introvert, anxious, curious, detail-oriented, antsy, creative, and so on. As I considered each of these traits, I asked “What brings me comfort? What brings me stability?” Then, I generated broad lists and ideas for supports that were already in place, as well as supprots I wanted to integrate.
Today, I’m sharing some of the specific ways I use my support network to inform daily and weekly practices. These ideas are meant to be examples for you to consider and explore as you dig deep into your own needs and preferences for support. I invite you to edit, revise, revision, and recreate your own map of supports and structures for including these into your regular practices.
10 Ways to Integrate Your Support System into Daily Living
- Slow Down. I notice that I feel most supported when I am not rushed. When I take the time to transition from place to place or role to role, I feel more grounded. Observe your transitions and find ways to slow down throughout the shifts you endure daily.
- Accountability Partners: I talk with my accountability partner weekly for 20-30 minutes each Friday. We cover celebrations and accomplishments for the week and set goals for the coming week. Explore an accountability relationship with a friend or colleague! Email me for more info on how to get started.
- Top 3: When I have a work-related situation that I don’t know how to solve, I have 3 close friends who are also solopreneurs that I can contact to share, brainstorm, and create a plan. When I face depression, I reach out to my partner, my sister, and a close friend. Consider having a top 3 list for personal life, as well as work life.
- Shared Interest Groups: I meet weekly with my writing group. We are building a culture of support, resource sharing, and feedback around our work as writers. This helps me know that I am not in isolation as I do my creative work. Join groups of people who have similar interests and projects as you.
- Scheduled Self-Care: Yoga and walking in nature support me in feeling strong in my mind. I set aside time for these activities (and others– like baths, reading Young Adult fiction, and meditation) because they help me refuel. Plan time for the self-care activities or your choice.
- Structured AND Unstructured Family Time: Each week, my partner and I typically designate two “date” nights. This is time that we are dedicating to one another and to our relationship. While we don’t always have plans and rarely leave the house, we have a plan to be with one another. This gives us plenty of other time to connect spontaneously or to work on our individual projects. Explore supports like family meetings, movie night, or walk and talks with your family members. Be mindful of leaving plenty of downtime in the weekly calendar too.
- Less is More. Whenever I notice that I am overwhelmed, I (attempt to) stop adding to my plate. I also check the calendar to see if there is anything extra or unnecessary that I can eliminate. I’m finding more and more that a “no” can really be the biggest “yes” to myself and my mental health. Know that it’s okay to say no, to cancel plans, or to decide not to add anything else to your to-do list.
- Professional Supports: I’ve always been an advocate for seeking the help of professionals, from therapists, to coaches, to yoga teachers, to acupuncturists, to doctors, to editors. I spend time curating my list of professional supports and depending on my needs in a given season, I prioritize different appointments. Seek professional supports that align with your values and needs (including insurance, location, and services). Don’t be afraid to “shop around” until you find a great fit.
- Happy spaces and places: I travel to happy space figuratively through safe place meditations. I also know that a nearby trail and green space always brings me comfort, as does a bookstore or library. Identify the space and places that can help you shift your energy and find a sense of safety.
- Screen-time Limits: Because so much of my work and communication involves screens, I can become overly exhausted and unable to focus. This leaves me switching between tabs or apps and in the end, I feel like I accomplish very little. When I set timers or myself, limiting my time on a given task and setting an intention to attend to one task, I feel more efficient and calm. Set limits for your technology usage. Be curious about the amount of time that feels healthiest and most enjoyable for you; let this inform your limit-setting.
It is my wish that you leave this article with new ideas and awarenesses for building and maintaining your unique support system. Get your free guide and support system map here to help you begin this process. Furthermore, I invite you to share this process and practice with your family. Noramlize asking for help and utilizing resources. We are all in this together.
I’m here to support, and I can’t wait to hear about and learn from your unique map!