What to do when you struggle to ask for the social support you need?

No man is an island, so the saying goes. (I supposed if we are being politically correct it should be amended to no human is an island.) And it’s true. We are built to work in communities. Each person on the team contributing with their own skill set to make the whole stronger, more effective and be able to achieve the desired goal. Be it survival in the days of yore, or creating the new app that will revolutionise people’s lives today. It takes a team. Funnily enough in our business lives we find this easy to accept. In our personal lives it’s a whole other story.

I recently worked with a client who was stuck and felt alone. She was under enormous pressure in her home life with a dispute regarding her children and her ex man. She had all of the practical things covered. The school knew. The state is soon to hold a mediation meeting. However my client was still emotionally fragile, thoroughly overloaded and desperately needed to talk it all out to release the emotional pressure. (Talking being one of the best ways to process emotional overload). She needed social support. You may have been in a similar situation. And although my client has a strong family, community of friends and a life coach she still felt isolated and alone with her emotions. Why? Simply because she found it challenging to reach out and talk to her friends and family about her feelings. Maybe you can relate?

Infact I know you can, because we have all been there. Infact a lot of the people I have spoken to in the last week are there right now. Some of them are stuck not knowing who to turn to and so sit with their problems alone. Some of them are bound up by negative limitations such as I am weak if I ask for help and support. Some have tried turning to their partner and just end up in miscommunicated rows leaving them feeling more stressed and alone. And some like my client just feel that they don’t want to intrude in other people’s lives. That others have enough to worry about. I don’t know how this became an issue in our society when we are genetically built to work together and help each other?

However that’s by the by. The issue when you look at it  objectively simply stems from a lack of trust. Trust that we can reach out. Trust that it’s ok to reach out.  And the trust that when we reach out someone will be there to catch us without letting us down or judging us negatively. Now I know trust issues are seriously challenging to overcome (I work on them myself every single day). However what I have found is that there are some simple things you can do which help you to both create the emotional support you need as well as learn to trust other people when you are in need of emotional support.

If you are stuck with an issue and are sitting scrolling through your phone knowing you need help, knowing you need to talk out the emotional pressure and don’t know who to call try these 4 tips to begin the process of creating the support you need.

Accepting you need to talk

We all know that a build up of negative emotions and unreleased pressure is unhealthy for us. Science backs that up. Talking helps release tension, brings perspective and is a healthy way to channel negative emotions.  If you are a regular here you know I advocate that journaling is one of the best tools a person can have to help regulate emotional pressure.  Journaling when you are swamped emotionally is a great way to figure out if you need help and if you need to talk to someone. In your journal write out you challenges your feelings (don’t worry about punctuation or spelling). Get it all out on paper. Now how do you feel? If you are feeling settled and calmer, then you probably don’t need to talk out your feelings. If you are still feeling unsettled, sad or in fact any emotion other than ok, you need to talk to someone.

Allowing yourself to find someone to talk to

Once you have accepted that you need some social support, the next hurdle is often you. Somewhere along the line of human development we have developed this misguided opinion that we are weak if we don’t ask for help. And it’s BS! Look at nature. In every walk of life, every species there is mutual support, co creation and co existing. There is structure for social support. Whether it’s in the animal or the plant kingdom, helping each other is natural. Think about how you feel when people come to you for advice or just to talk. How does that make you feel? Good. Valued. Trustworthy. A warm fuzzy glow. One of these -right? Then it stands to reason when you ask someone to help you they will also experience these feelings. In a way by asking for emotional support you will actually be helping someone else to feel good too.  So allow yourself to ask for social support and allow yourself to make someone else feel good because they can help you.

Identify who to talk to

Talking to the wrong person when we need social support is one of the worst things we can do. If we are already feeling emotional and vulnerable this will always make us feel worse. For example I once got given the advice that I should pretend to be more ill so a partner would pay me more attention (I kid you not). It did not address my needs to feel valued and important in the relationship and left me feeling more alone with my problems.  You have probably tried the classic, talking to your partner. Now I am not saying this is a bad thing. However it can be a challenge, epecially in a hetrosexual relationship simply because of our genetic differences. Traditionally men look for solutions,women need to process feelings. And often when then two clash either party will feel hurt, not heard and alone.

So who can you turn to for healthy social support? Who can you talk to? Look through your facebook and find 3 people who you feel you may be able to talk to about you feelings. The 3 people who you trust the most outside of your relationship. Think about the kind of support you want. Do you want solutions? Do you want comfort? Do you want empathy? Once you know what kind of support you want you will easily be able to identify which of the 3 people you have chosen will be best suited to what you need. Call them. Explain you need to talk. And  ask when they have time to talk. Just be honest.  

Make an agreement

Social support is something you are always going to need at some point in time. One of the best ways to know that you have it is to make an agreement. In Danish I call this a blæs af agreement. Or a blow out agreement. Basically you contact the people in your network who you know you can talk to and make an agreement. It might be an agreement to talk once a week. It might be when I send you a sad or angry emjoi, or the word talk, this is our code for I need to talk something out. You can ask the to reply with a time that will work for them, then you ring at that time. And of course the agreement works both ways. It is not just for you it is for them. Maybe at the time you make the agreement they are not under pressure but at some point they will need to talk so this two way agreement means that you both have social support when you need it.

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Of course I am fully aware that some problems go beyond the point of social support and in these cases you can ask your friends and family for help to get the support you need, whether it be a psychologist or a life coach. The important thing is to be honest with your network. Let the people that care about you know what is going on. It may seem scary however by telling them you need their support you will be making them feel valued and help create what you need to feel better. Honesty and reaching out is a win win. And don’t be disheartened if the first person you reach out to say I am sorry I can’t help. There is always someone out there who will be willing to help. And if in your good times you are willing to provide social support for others you can bet your bottom dollar you will find there are people there for you in your darker times.  Just remember “we rise by lifting others” and asking for help is the way to initiate a circle of kindness that makes the world a little better for us all.

Have a wonderful week <3

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