Living with Chronic Pain
How to Develop a Strong Support Network
A support network is a group of family members, friends, coworkers, and other acquaintances who support an individual through life’s struggles. A strong support network is an essential part of a healthy, well-rounded life. Developing it takes time and energy; however, the benefits are well worth the effort.
Two ways to develop a strong support system is to maintain or improve the relationships that already exist and meet new people.
Maintaining and improving existing relationships
It is important to maintain or improve relationships with family members, friends, and peers already in a support network. They often create the core of the system and are long-lasting members. However, those relationships still take effort.
Methods to maintain or improve existing relationships include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Stay in touch through visits, phone calls, text messages, or emails
- Be available for family members, friends, and peers when they are going through a tough situation or need support
- Be proactive by being the first one to reach out to say hello or make plans to meet
- Take time to express appreciation to a person in the support network
Meeting new people
In addition to existing relationships, meeting new people is beneficial in growing a support system. Tips for meeting new people include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Volunteer. By choosing a cause that is cared about, individuals not only make a difference in their local or global community, but also meet others with similar goals and desires.
- Take a class or join a club. Similar to volunteering, taking a class or joining a club allows a person to meet others with similar interests. Examples of classes and clubs include crafting lessons, book clubs, group fitness classes, or cooking lessons. Classes and clubs can typically be found through community centers, schools or universities, neighborhood groups, and fitness centers.
- Join a support group. For individuals in specific situations, such as dealing with chronic pain, a cancer diagnosis, or the loss of a loved one, joining a focused support group may be beneficial. Support groups allow interaction and learning from others who are going through similar struggles. Support groups can be online or in-person. They are frequently found through hospitals or other medical facilities, local or national organizations, and churches.
It is important to remember that a support network does not need to be large. A handful of strong, healthy relationships can be just as effective as a large support network. Quality matters more than quantity.