“No Man is an Island”
-John Donne
For many people battling with stress, the fight can often feel like a very lonely struggle.  The anxiety and depression that result from struggles at work and in our personal life cause us to feel isolated from others and forget that there are people around us who can help.  These people are our support system, and their presence is vital to reducing stress and helping us maintain a general sense of sanity in our worlds.
The purpose of having a positive support system is to ensure that we are not forced to cope with the pressures of stress alone- they keep us stable.  No matter how successful you may feel at coping with your problems alone, there will always come a time when even the strongest coping skills is not enough.  Stressful situations get worse just as sure as they eventually get better and it is important to have people to lean on when this happens.  Different support persons achieve this in different ways.  Some may help us by lending an ear to listen to us unload our stress.  Others may help take our mind off things by providing a fun afternoon activity to socialize.  No matter how they achieve it, a support person is defined by the end result of helping us reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
In addition to receiving stability from your support system, many people find that it helps them to feel grounded and validated.  When we get involved in stressful, anxious, or depressed situations, we often convince ourselves that no one in the world as gone through something like this.  We fool ourselves into believing that no one else could ever understand our pain.  A positive support system will often remind us that being overwhelmed and emotionally drained is normal and expected.  They can help us maintain perspective when our world feels out of control, and a good support system knows what to say to help us take a deep breath and take stock of our lives.
The most important part of creating a positive support system is being able to identify those people in your life that give you stability and validation without the negativity of judgment.  These people could come from any facet of your life: a spouse, a child, a parent or siblings, a co-worker, or just a friend.  If you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with this person and you can expect no judgment back from them, then they are a part of your positive support system.  If they do pass judgment or make you feel negative about the emotions you’re going to, then perhaps it is time to release them from your support system and engage with someone that helps you relieve your stress.
There are times and situations when we may discover that we don’t have the positive support system that we want.  It may be that our supports are too negative for us or that our supports have become warn out.  In these cases, you may want to seek out some new members to add to your support team.  This can be done in a number of different places.  Start by seeking out environments where you can find positive people, including: church groups, community organizations, and even neighbors.  In these groups, you can seek out new friends to create relationships with that can be supportive in the future.
Our positive support groups can be as big or as small as we feel comfortable.  Each person is different and requires a different support network to help us cope with our problems. The most important thing to remember is that, no matte the size, we all need a positive support network of some kind.  If you feel that you don’t have anyone in your life to help you through difficult times, this may be the perfect time to seek out a neighborhood friend, attend a church group meeting, or call a family member.  Reach out to the positive people around us and allow them to help.  You’ve probably already helped someone else- now let them help you!
Bill Knor, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor