Have you ever felt that stress is affecting your life more than you want it to? Stress is no joke, as it can come from so many places in life and can have physical and emotional side effects.
Managing stress can help prevent stress-related concerns, such as increase risk for chronic disease, cause headaches and muscle pain, and interfere with sleep and concentration. Building and using social networks can be important ways to manage stress [1, 2]., This is how you can build your social support network and use it wisely to manage stress.
Importance of Social Support for Stress Management
Successful stress management can include using a variety of strategies. Avoiding unnecessary stress, such as not talking about politics with your brother-in-law if you know that it will lead to an unpleasant conversation, is one example.
Another is using stress management techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation. Lark can help you with these methods!
Using a social support system is another approach to include in your stockpile of stress management tools. Social networks can help you cope with stress and maintain health better despite stress. One study found that stress had less of an effect on depression among people with more social support compared to less.
Possible Members of a Support Network
Various members of your network can play different roles, such as calming you down, offering medical or other advice, and improving your mood. Other roles include increasing accountability and encouraging you to practice many dimensions of self-care.
Parents, or people who end up playing such a role for young ones, may have offered answers, comfort, support, and advice, along with unconditional love, for as long as memory goes back. If they are still on this planet, they may still be the ones for the job when you are undergoing stress!
Even if they are not fully up-to-date on the details of your life and stressors, parents can comfort you, which can help you think more clearly and give you strength. And, when things are challenging, it can be nice to know that at least someone still thinks that you are the best kid in the world.
- Significant other.
A spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend may be familiar with most details of your life, may be near you a lot of the time, and hopefully cares deeply about you and thinks highly of you. They may be in a position to listen, offer advice and a hug, join you in healthy ventures such as cooking more vegetables, and keep you company when you are feeling down. They can also help with solutions, such as working out a financial plan if you are worried about money, or helping with homework if you are worried about the children’s performance at school.
Friends can serve all sorts of purposes when it comes to stress reduction. They can make you laugh, cheer you up, offer insights, and listen. They can be there for you when you phone them, or you might plan time together such as walking to get coffee.
- Work Colleagues.
If you are spending a majority of your waking hours in a workplace, it helps to have at least one ally present, especially if some of your stress is work-induced and likely to get you down while you are at work. Walking together on breaks or during lunch can give you a daily healthy outlet and improve your sense of belonging and warmth towards work.
Spend a few minutes with kids, and you may feel cheery and uplifted. They may not understand the nuances of your stress, to say the least, but that may not matter. They may think you are superhuman or have magical powers, and the confidence they have in you can give you confidence in yourself.
- People with similar interests.
How can people with similar interests help with your stress? There may be a couple ways. First, getting involved in something you enjoy, such as cooking, gardening, learning a language, or sewing, can help manage stress. Participating in your hobby with other people can help you concentrate on the hobby, rather than the stress.
It can also be easier to start a conversation when you are doing something rather than simply sitting face to face. The fact is that talking to anyone can help, and it can be easier when you have something in common and something to do.
- A pet.
Take a walk or watch a movie with someone who loves you unconditionally and in a way that no human ever will, and stress may dissipate. There’s no need to hold back when explaining your troubles to a pet, and you will not be interrupted or judged. That has to be good for your mental health!
- Healthcare provider(s).
You may not be going to coffee with your doctor, but healthcare providers can be part of your social support network. They provide information and recommendations. They can also increase accountability and motivation.
How would you feel about having someone in your support network who is available all the time, who understands what you are going through, and who can offer advice without ever passing judgement on you? Meet Lark, your digital health coach.
Getting the Most from Your Stress Support Network
After building your stress support network, there are some steps you can take to maximize its stress management effects. These are some ideas.
- Stay in touch with your network. That may mean making phone calls, sending texts and emails, scheduling appointments, and opening Lark frequently.
- Be open and honest to build trust and enable your network to help you as best they can. With Lark, that can include logging your meals and activities to be sure you can keep yourself in top shape to better manage stress.
- Be a giver. Helping others can make you feel better and not feel as much of an impact of stress. Listening to others and offering support to them can help yourself.
- Be appreciative. Say “thank you” often even if it sounds silly to your ears. How else will they know how much they mean to you?
Social support can be a critical part of your stress management plan, so it is important to build a varied social network. Once built, using that network can help keep stress to manageable levels so it does not affect health too much.