I have been preparing for a major life transition into parenthood, and part of my preparation has involved reflecting on my support network. The upcoming changes that come with the arrival of a new baby are huge, and the strength and quality of my social support will be key to a healthy start to parenthood.
The value of our social supports
It may not be surprising to hear that people who feel more socially supported have lower rates of anxiety and depression. But did you also know that strong and healthy relationships help to strengthen your immune system, help you recover from disease, and may even lengthen your life?
Our social wellness plays a very big role in determining our levels of both physical and mental health. It is worth being intentional in how you can actively construct your social environment to build a strong quality support network.
What can I do if I don’t currently have a strong support network?
It is never too late to take action to strengthen the quality of your relationships and supports. As we go through seasons of life, it’s normal for our social environments to change – people move away, commitments shift, and the support you require may change as well. It’s always a good time to reflect on the support you are receiving and take steps to build high quality relationships that you can rely on.
Here are 3 tips you can consider for building a strong support network:
- Build a web of multiple relationships. One challenging aspect of building a support network is taking the risk to ask someone for support. Facing rejection or disappointment takes bravery! If you reach out to someone who is unavailable, try not to take it personally. Remind yourself that you have taken a courageous and worthwhile step to seek support, and don’t let this discourage you from sending a message to another friend. A strong social support network consists of a web of multiple relationships that we can fall back on rather than a single person that we rely on. Reaching out to multiple people can help us receive the different types of support that we need – at some times we may need practical help, while at other times, we may need a listening ear, good advice or someone to have fun with!
- Prepare to invest time. Building deep relationships takes regular and frequent interactions – aka it takes lots of time! In our productivity-focused society, building relationships can fall off our priority list or even seem like a waste of time… however, planning to spend time to be with your friends is necessary to build deep and long-lasting relationships – even if it doesn’t ‘look like’ you’re doing very much!
- Cultivate authentic relationships. Developing deep relationships involves a reciprocal process of self-disclosure that can be likened to gradually peeling back layers of an onion. When we meet someone for the first time, they often see the more public aspects of our personality – our outer layers. Over time we gradually disclose more personal parts of ourselves – our inner thoughts, values, worldview – and peel back the layers of our ‘onion’. Gradually disclosing deeper parts of who you are helps to foster deeper emotional connections over time.
Can I encourage you to think about one connection you can make this week to give and receive support? Or maybe there is someone you would like to thank for the support they have given you in the past?
Lauren Chee (M Clin Psych, BSc (Hons – First Class)) is a psychologist who understands the importance of forming a genuine and caring therapeutic relationship with each individual she sees. Lauren is registered with Medicare and is also an approved practitioner in the NSW Workers Compensation System.
Lauren has experience working with both children and adults within schools, private clinics, and inpatient and outpatient hospital settings. Her warm and supportive approach helps her clients feel comfortable exploring their concerns in order to develop practical strategies to reach their goals. Some of the issues she has helped her clients with include depression, anxiety, perfectionism, adjustment to significant life change, self-esteem, grief, learning difficulties, and school and work-related stress.
In her work, Lauren recognises the individuality of each person and their story, and provides uniquely tailored treatments to support her clients. By being committed to the latest psychological research, she is able to equip her clients with evidence-based skills and knowledge that can lead to positive and lasting change. Lauren is a dedicated and approachable psychologist with a passion for helping her clients live a life in line with their personal values.
Lauren has a special interest in:
Anxiety Disorders e.g. Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, Health Anxiety
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Social Skills and Assertiveness
Parenting and Attachment
Child Mental Health and Wellbeing
Learning Difficulties e.g. ADHD, specific learning disorders
Outside of work, Lauren enjoys spending time in nature, discovering new music, and sharing delicious meals with her friends and family.