We’re in the throes of major changes: in our home and work lives, and in our society. Many of us feel devastated, depleted, and discouraged. So how do we cultivate the resilience we need to keep showing up?
When a person gets older or injured, they are often instructed to walk with a cane. Like a third leg, a cane offers support to our fragile bodies. We are taught to accept this kind of physical support, but what about the need for emotional support?
Your family and community, biological and chosen, are your emotional third leg. You may not have realized how much you rely on your larger support systems, until you were suddenly separated from them. So no wonder you feel drained: you’ve been shouldering a load that is usually shared.
When we feel depleted, it’s a signal to reconnect with our circle of support.
The Nurture Science Program has found that emotional connection is a building block of health and emotional well-being. In this blog series, we’re sharing our Family Nurture Care approach, which uses seven connecting activities to build and maintain emotional connection. Today we focus on family support.
We often wait to ask for help until there’s an emergency, but reaching out to each other regularly can set us up to be supported before we crash. Rather than “using up favors,” it creates a habit of mutual support.
The first step is to look at our relationships through the lenses of availability and helpfulness. Relationships don’t have to check both boxes in order to be supportive! If, say, your sister is your closest confidant but lives far away, she is very emotionally helpful, but not available for logistical or urgent needs. Perhaps your neighbor, who has made themself available to you, becomes more helpful for picking up your groceries. You need both.
Building a support network isn’t about picking just one person, it’s about appreciating what everyone in the circle can offer each other.
Today’s tip: Identify and connect with family support.
- Make dates with emotionally supportive friends and family, online or in person. Spread the dates out over the course of your week so you can look forward to connecting.
- Draw your support circle, and list family and friends who could be available and/or helpful. Whom can you call at 4am when you’re upset? Who might be able to drive you to the doctor?
- Ask members of your network for support based on their availability and helpfulness. Be available and helpful to them, too!
- Find opportunities to offer help, even online: you can run storytime one day for your friends’ children, while your friends get dishes or laundry done.
- Having fun is incredibly important in times like this, and prevents us from falling into patterns of only talking about current events and upsetting issues. Play board games, cook and eat a meal, work out, give grandparents Zoom tutorials, or tell stories and sing songs.
- Expressing your appreciation and love for each other is an essential kind of emotional support you can provide at any time.
It can be easy to feel abandoned right now, or to feel as though you aren’t doing enough. We might fear asking for help, especially when we know everyone is under so much stress. Remember: when you ask for help, you’re giving someone the opportunity to both give and ask for help. Through connection we can meet each others’ needs, up close, and from a distance.
Let’s take care of each other,
Martha G. Welch, MD, DFAPA
Director, Columbia Nurture Science Program