Social support: You are not alone

All of us know that feeling… when we are having a bad day, (it is more like a bad year right now) we turn to that close circle of friends, have one-on-one conversations, and process what we are experiencing. But with the isolation that has come with this pandemic, we have had to find creative ways of getting that support. So it helps to understand how it works…

What is social support?

Social support entails one’s social circle, such as friends and other people, including family, who one can lean on or to turn to in times of need or crisis. Having a well-established and strong social support enhances quality of life and provides both physical and psychological comfort against adverse life events. It is reassuring to any individual to know that their family and friends are there for you, if they need them.

Importance of social support

Research and several studies have reflected on the advantages of a network of social support, including the following:
• Improving the ability to effectively deal with stressful situations or any stressor or trigger in the environment
• Alleviating the effects of emotional distress
• Enhancing self-esteem
• Reducing the chances cardiovascular risks, such as lowering blood pressure
• Promoting healthy lifestyle behaviours
• Encouraging adherence to a treatment plan

Four Types of Social Support

People can support one another in several different ways , but the majority of the research focuses on four distinct types of social support:

Emotional Support

This type of support often involves physical comfort in the form of encouraging or comforting pats on the back, warm hugs as well as listening and empathizing.

In current times, when people back each other up by actively listening and understanding each other is when they are emotionally supporting each other.

Informational Support

Informational support can be offered in the form of advice, guidance and sharing information that can help. While we are currently being bombarded by news, providing good and tailored information about various topics is of great importance.

Esteem Support

It involves expressions of confidence or encouragement. Somebody who may be offering esteem support may be emphasizing on the strengths you forget you have, or might be letting you know that they believe in you.

Tangible Support

Tangible support may entail taking a purposeful step to help someone manage a problem they’re experiencing. Someone may bring you dinner, help you brainstorm solutions or help you actively deal with the issue at hand.

As we are in terribly alien and out-of-control times like these, we all need someone to talk to, someone who has time to listen to our worries and who can be of support and offer strength and positivity in the situation we find ourselves in. It is important that we ensure that we reach out to someone who we can share our thoughts and feelings with, and that we are aware about anyone who might need us.

Do not be hesitate or hold back on asking for or receiving help. Even if we cannot do this by being together physically, there are different ways you can reach out.

Many people think that by asking for the help and support they might overload their networks. Keeping this in mind, it is important to be receptive and to be specific about what we need ourselves and what we can contribute.

Struggling with finances in present times is yet another thing many of us are struggling with. In this context, it is essential that anyone who is in a position to help should come forward. Help in this form may also entail seeking information about current entitlements and entering into agreements with banks about loan repayments, etc.

Social support is an important force and factor that helps people during times of stress and uncertainty and often gives them the strength to carry on and even thrive.

Social Support during COVID-19

In the times of COVID-19, it is crucial for individuals to build a social support system for healthy coping. Research has also shed light on the relationship that social relationships and many different aspects of health and wellness hold and support. Poor social support has been linked to risk of depression and loneliness, alcohol consumption, cardiovascular diseases and other ailments. Thus, to ensure one’s well-being it is suggested that people should be only physically distant and not socially isolated.

During the pandemic, special attention has been paid to maintaining social connections and increasing perceived social support. More importantly, family support is important and should be emphasised for all age groups, and even more so for adults. As difficulties increase in number and intensity, we need to provide increased social support to our family members.

Individuals should be encouraged to complete use of various social support resources to counteract the negative impact of the pandemic on mental health. It is important to acknowledge and be receptive of the fact that everyone does not respond the same way to social restrictions. How an individual feels, experiences and copes with loneliness vary with each individual.

Social support in such times helps people realise that they are not alone in their struggles which inculcates feeling of belongingness. Social support that is positive, consistent and encouraging can better one’s resilience to stress. Talking and addressing about one’s own feelings and mental health can improve one’s functioning including productivity, allowing you to focus on daily tasks.

Along with this, a sense of purpose which is source of motivation may likely to be restored with the help of strong social support further leading to fixed routine. Studies have found a positive correlation amongst levels of external motivation, internal motivation, and motivation for subject value of the individuals who received sufficient social support from their environment.

Simply staying in touch, answering phone calls, returning emails and reciprocating online invitations are some of the small gestures for letting your family and friends know that you are there for them. Lending your ear and listening actively along with validating one’s feeling and appreciating them has been proved to be effective. When resilience is lacking, high levels of social support resources from all aspects are likely to compensate for the negative effects of low resilience on mental health. Therefore, social support proves a strong and effective way for individuals to improve their psychological resilience against mental health risks brought on by the pandemic

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