Today I’m going to discuss the importance of having a support group. If you can’t find a support group (or even if you can), I highly recommend becoming your own support group. Life can hit hard but the blows don’t keep us down if we have a solid group of people who encourage and love us through difficulties.
How Do You Find a Support Group?
Be cautious when deciding who will be in your support group or as I like to call them, your “sound board.” Ideally, you should know them well (one year may suffice for some people and 20 years won’t for others) because you will need to be comfortable with them to speak freely. Use discernment and wisdom when doing this. If someone only talks about their life, they are not going to be a good sound board. Make sure there is no codependency or emotional abuse between you and those you choose. You also want to take stock of those who have encouraged you in the past and stood by you during difficult times because that means they will be likely to do so in the future. Take note of those who check in on you and those you are good about contacting yourself. For example, I have a friend who contacts me periodically just to say hello and check in to make sure I am doing well. I know I can call her and relay some of my hang ups (we all have them!) and drone on about a current frustration, pain, or discouragement I’ve experienced. Sometimes, she has the perfect response to help encourage me and even when she doesn’t, she makes it clear that she will cry with me, walk with me, and comfort me even if neither of us has the answer. Oftentimes, we are able to remind each other what really matters. Don’t rule out those you are close to but live far away. Distance is not a factor when it comes to a sound board.
If you do not already know someone or a group of people who you want to be your sound board, consider attending a support group for specific situations (such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, Single Mothers group at church, etc) that apply to you. You may not feel comfortable sharing your life story with a group like this but it is an safe space to discuss something that affects you. If you don’t think an official support group is what you need, counselors are always willing to listen. You may think you are overthinking things and you should just accept the way your family or coworkers treat you but if you present all sides of the story to a counselor, you may be surprised to find that you are validated in your thoughts and emotions. The goal is to receive a healthy nudge in the right direction. I cannot stress this enough:
- Make sure you are comfortable with your support group.
- Make sure you can trust them.
- Use discernment when selecting them.
- Be ready and willing to return the favor.
Be Your Own Support Group
You’re probably thinking, “But Danielle, you just said to find a support group.” Yes, I did. And guess what? Not only can you be part of your own support group, you should be the leader of your own sound board. By this I mean there will be times that you cannot reach your sound board. They may be fighting their own battles and take a day or two to return your call. They may need to work late. They are human like you, after all. I firmly believe that the reason I have come out of so many battles victoriously is because I was not afraid to be my own encouragement and voice of reason. I’ve lived through some pretty crazy situations and I’ve lived alone without any emotional support. It’s difficult to do on your own but you can do it. It takes training and you need to be patient with yourself. Here are some ways to be your own sound board:
- Use a journal to state all the facts on whatever topic you need wisdom on then write down the perceptions and feelings you have concerning the issue. Ask yourself why you feel and think this way. If you notice that there are two or more reasons to conclude what you have about a situation, chances are it isn’t just you. Trust your gut. Trust your mind. Don’t be afraid to act on what is best for you, especially when it comes to healing and health.
- Keep a list of things you are good at and a list of things you are thankful for so that when you feel discouraged, all you have to do is read them. This really helps. Some people even make collages.
- Remind yourself of times you’ve come out on top (i.e., walking away from the job you hated to taking a lower paying job that brings you purpose or putting your foot down in an emotionally abusive relationship to make room for a healthy one). Reminding yourself that you can and will succeed and that the situation is only temporary is a huge jolt of encouragement to keep marching onward.
- Have a source of encouragement outside yourself. Again, you’re probably thinking, “But Danielle, you said I can be my own sound board.” Yes, you can. Part of being your own sound board or the leader of your sound board is knowing when to pull outside resources to help you. For example, the Bible is a great source of comfort and love for me. Because I read it frequently, I know where to go for inspiration and guidance and I know that the guidance I receive will be in my best interest. Some people use motivational quotes. The key here is a positive source, not a negative, discouraging one.
- Do something that makes you feel at peace (i.e. going for a walk in nature can help you obtain perspective in an objective way).
Having a support group doesn’t make you weak. It makes you realistic and human. It’s not a matter of if you will need a support group but when. Prepare some of the tools I suggested for being your own sound board and have them readily available for use. Go ahead and consider who your sound board might be. You’ll be glad you did.