One of the greatest assets in life is a support system, a group of people who can help you get through trying times as well as enjoy your life. As a person living with mental health issues, your support system is a critical aspect of your care, one that can make life much easier for you.
That said, it’s also tough to feel like you can reach out to people if you do live with mental health conditions. The fear of stigma, not wanting to be a burden on others, shame, guilt – all of it can stop us from creating the support system we truly need. While these fears are incredibly real, we encourage you to move through them to give yourself the group of helpful individuals you need — support that, quite frankly, you deserve.
Here are five quick tips to growing your support system and personal network to enrich your life:
- Start with your medical team – Your doctor and the individual in charge of your care should be first and foremost on this list. Finding a doctor who is caring, sympathetic to your needs, and focused on your care is important. If you don’t have this part of your system in place now, now is the time to act. Your care is the primary aspect of your continued health and happiness. Don’t disregard the importance of having the right medical team dedicated to your needs.
- Find like-minded individuals – Support groups are a great place to start. There are plenty of recovery support groups from Alcoholics Anonymous to the numerous other twelve-step programs, there are survivor groups for domestic violence through Safe Horizon, and plenty of other groups have meetups and activities. Finding others who have your condition can help you feel understood, which alleviates stigma and the need to feel like you’re all on your own. NAMI has a great directory of support groups.
- Volunteer for a cause– One of the best ways to get out of your head and out of your own way is to help others. Finding a local charity that needs help an hour a week is a great way to make a difference in the world and to introduce you to people who have similar passions as you. You can also volunteer with organizations that specialize in your mental health diagnosis to help meet people and gain more resources for your own care.
- Let friends and family in – Sometimes, the fear of stigma keeps us separated from those who love us most. Let those who love you who have expressed a desire to help do so. If you don’t have support in your own family, turn to friends who love you and let them be a part of your journey. You may have more love and assistance than you think.
- Get out there – It’s hard to build a network of friends from your bed or couch, so try to get out there as much as you feel you can. Meet a friend for coffee. Join a gym and take classes, or join a running club and meet friends for a workout. Attend book signings for your favorite author. Gather friends together for a book club or a tv show binge once a week. Take a cooking class. Let your imagination be your guide. The activity will do you some good, and you never know what kind of amazing people you’ll meet.
Building a support network doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take a little time and effort. In no time, you’ll find yourself surrounded by love and concern, and that’s where your life could take a decidedly amazing upswing. You deserve to be happy, and being enveloped in people who understand you and want to help could make all the difference in your life.