How to access support networks in your community
By: Szilvia Lovas
Updated: 26 November 2020
How to access support networks in your community.
Having our support network is a vital tool for us in maintaining our physical and emotional wellbeing. When we hear the word self-care, the word „self” might make some of us think that we have to go the road alone. However, this is not exactly the way it is meant to be. Recognizing our need for support at times requires us to take the initiatives on our own, nevertheless an important part of this process is ensuring ourselves to build and maintain our support networks.
What does support network really mean? And why is it important for us to have one?
Stress is part of life, but too much of it can affect our emotional and physical health.
Research has shown that having a strong support system can contribute to our overall well-being both on physical and mental levels. Moreover, it can help to reduce stress, depression or anxiety. It is a crucial element of our self-care plan.
One form of a support network is our social support. We, as human beings are primarily social. This explains our need for contact with others. Our support network may include family members, neighbours or friends that we can turn to when needed and whom we trust and count on. Close and trusting relationships can be greatly supportive when we are going through difficult times. Other times, we might find ourselves being a listening ear for someone else, or there are times when we simply feel like spending time with others. All of these aspects of our social interactions are beneficial for our healthy daily functioning and eventually gives us the strength to strive in life.
Joining clubs, such as hiking, meditation groups or book clubs for example could be a good idea to strengthen our social networks. Sharing activities with like-minded people can create an opportunity to make new friendships and can also increase our self-esteem.
Peer support groups allow us to meet and connect with people facing similar challenges. This support is mutually offered based on the participants’ individual lived experience. Being part of such groups can be a freeing experience as we realize that we are not alone. There is a wide range of these groups we can choose from. It could be a group of single parents or a peer support group for people with addiction for example. We can find local support groups either via the webpages of the various peer support groups or through our GP or mental health professional.
If one is lacking a support net and is feeling stressed and alone, mental health professionals are there to help. Seeking for professional help is another way to access support. The good news is that there are a lot of different types of support available. Mental health organisations across Ireland are offering a wide range of services and approaches that we can choose from. Low cost sessions are also accessible for anyone in need. If we are not sure how and where to start looking for a therapist, we can turn to our GP for help as a first step. There are also various websites to check out and find the right service for us:
In the present circumstances however, physical connection with people can be challenging at times. This might increase our sense of isolation and might make us feel lonely or depressed. Connecting with people and reaching out is particularly important during crisis. The current regulations for the duration of Level 5 allow for the possibility of creating so called “social bubbles” for those, who live in isolation. This includes single parents with children under the age of 18, individuals providing care for a dependent adult and people living on their own, who have carers. Support bubbles can be formed within two households, which means that they can visit each other at their home and they can also meet outdoors.
Thanks to the technology, we have the opportunity to stay connected with friends and family even during the time of this pandemic we live in. We can join peer support groups online and we can find a great variety of communities to connect with depending on our personal needs through Facebook for example. Most mental health organisations are offering therapy online or over the phone, which are also valuable opportunities to get help when needed.
Loneliness and isolation are very valid feelings particularly during these difficult times, but knowing that there are appropriate people and places to reach out can make us realize that we are not alone.
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