Do you have a support system? Who are the people you go to first when you get good news? How about when you get bad news? Having a support system means that you have people to depend on whether things are going well or not-so-well. These people will also turn to you during their highs and lows. If you don’t have a tight-knit circle of friends or family members who support you no matter what you’re dealing with, here is some advice on building and maintaining a strong support system.
Why is Having a Support System Important?
Teenagers who have a good support system enjoy many mental and physical health benefits. For example, they often have less trouble with anxiety and depression. This might because the people in a support system listen and give feedback. If you are feeling anxious and you talk about these feelings with close friends who listen, you will likely feel less alone and overwhelmed. If you are feeling depressed, your support system might be able to encourage you to seek help before your condition gets very serious.
People with a good support system might live longer and have fewer health problems, too. High levels of stress and anxiety can lead to problems like high blood pressure; keeping your stress levels low can help you maintain better heart health. In addition, people who have less stress might be more likely to stick to healthy habits such as eating a healthy diet, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly.
Who Should You Include in Your Support System?
As a teenager, you might only be thinking about other teens as members of your support system. It is true that many adolescents count other young people among their closest friends. Don’t write off other people due to their ages or positions, however. Some people to consider including in your support system include:
- Extended family members like grandparents or your aunts and uncles
- Your pastor or volunteers at your house of worship
Even your pet can be a member of your support system! Your dog or cat can’t give you advice, but they certainly can listen to your troubles.
What if you don’t already have people in your life who could make up a support system for you? You might need to carefully consider some activities you could join to meet the type of people who would be good for you. After-school clubs, a part-time job, or a volunteer opportunity could all be good places to meet positive, supportive people.
Who Shouldn’t You Include in Your Circle of Support?
While you’re considering who you might want to include in your support system, it’s also important to think about who you shouldn’t include. First on your “no” list should be anyone who has proven themselves to be unsupportive in the past. Now, this does not mean that every person who has ever told you something you didn’t want to hear shouldn’t make the cut. Instead, think about whether people have given you advice and insight from a place of love and respect, or if they have only tried to make you feel bad about your situation.
Other people who should not be in your circle of support include:
- Those who have lied to you
- People who tend to thrive on drama and disorder
- People who are currently using drugs or abusing alcohol, particularly if you have struggled with an addiction or substance abuse issue
You want to look for people who think and speak positively; you don’t need to invite negativity into your life by including negative people in your circle of support.
How to Get the Ball Rolling in Building Your Support System
Once you decide on several people who you’d like to include in your support system, it’s time to begin learning how to rely on them in times of need and how to support them when they need help. It can be difficult to ask for help, so be patient with yourself. You might want to start by sharing the good things in life with your chosen support system. For example, if you ace a test in a class you’ve been struggling in, share that with people. If you are in recovery from substance abuse, let people know when you have reached 30 days (or three months or one year) sober.
When you let down your guard and open up to others, they will also open up to you. Think of just one or two people in your support system who you’d feel comfortable confiding in. If you are having trouble processing something that’s going on in your life or you just need some feedback on your next steps, take a deep breath and seek those people out for help. They will likely feel honored that you trust them enough to share what’s on your mind.
How to Maintain Your Support System
As time goes by, it’s important to be a supportive friend if you want to maintain your support system. Make time for the people who mean a lot to you. This means returning phone calls and texts. If you haven’t heard from them in a while, reach out to say hello. If someone in your support group asks you for a small favor or needs someone to listen, be there for them. You might have heard the adage, “you can only have a friend by being a friend.” This is doubly true when it comes to your support system; people won’t want to help you through your tough times if you aren’t there for them during theirs.
As you build your support system, it’s natural that some people will rotate out and others will rotate in. Try not to take it too personally; the natural rhythm of life causes this to happen to everyone at all stages of life. Just be sure that you always have someone you can count on to help support you and hold you up as you navigate the various paths you’ll face in life.