Social support can be described as the physical and emotional comfort we receive through social ties to others, such as family, friends, co-workers, etc.  It’s the love and acceptance we feel from belonging to a community of people who care about us. Social support is imperative to your overall health and wellbeing.  

Types of Social Support

  • Emotional support – Most people think of emotional support when they talk about social support.  Emotional support involves kind words, hugs, listening, showing concern, acceptance, encouragement, and empathizing.  For example, if you were struggling in your relationship, a friend might call you to make sure you are okay. They may give you a big hug next time they see you and say kind and encouraging words to you about your situation.  
  • Tangible Support – Tangible support would be the offering of assistance with a problem.  This may include such things as help with financial trouble, babysitting children, giving someone a ride, or helping someone move.  Tangible support is helpful when you are experiencing a problem and need immediate assistance. This type of support helps you actively work through the problem at hand.  
  • Esteem Support – Esteem Support comes in the form of encouragement, words of affirmation, or anything that lifts you up.  When someone offers you esteem support they might remind you of your many strengths, tell you that they believe in you and your ability to power through this struggle, or just remind you of previous issues that you have worked through successfully in the past.   
  • Informational Support – When receiving informational support, you are getting support in the form of advice, information sharing, or educational documentation/information that will assist you in overcoming your challenge.  When you are well informed on a topic, you are better able to make calculated decisions about your issue with clarity and confidence.  

Think about that last time you had an issue and you needed social support.  Did you get the right type of support you needed? It is important to remember that there are different types of social support and that you may need to ask for the correct type of support depending on your situation and what you are comfortable with.  Have you ever had too much informational support (usually unsolicited advice) when all you really needed was esteem support? It is okay to ask for the type support you are needing.  

Ways to Grow and Strengthen Your Social Support Network

  1. Spend time and energy nurturing the relationships you already have.
  2. Find ways to meet new people.  Go for walks in your neighborhood.  Join community events. Talk to your neighbors.  Think outside the box. 
  3. Practice and improve on your listening skills.  Ask questions. Focus on what the other person is saying, not what you would like to say next.  Look for things that you both have in common. Use an appropriate amount of eye contact.  
  4. Deepen relationships by using self-disclosure and empathy.  
  5. Take risks.  Open yourself up to meeting new people, even if you are hesitant at first.  If you don’t enjoy their company, you do not have to spend additional time with them.  You get to choose the relationships you invest your time and energy in. Choose people who lift you up and make you feel good about yourself.  Look for friends that you can count on and trust.  
  6. Use your interests and passions to assist you in meeting new people.  It is likely that you will build lasting relationship with people who are interested in similar activities.  If you like bike riding, find a local group and join them. If you are into quilting, look for others in your area who quilt.  Find people who are in a similar stage in life as you. If you have small children, reach out to the neighbors you know have young children as well.  If you are an empty nester, look for empty nester groups to join in your community.  
  7. Ask for help!  If you are at a point in your life where you are struggling, seek professional help.  Sometimes we feel alone and lonely, even when we are surrounded by lots of people. If you are having a hard time with social support or any issue that you think you can no longer cope with on your own, reach out to a counselor.  We are here to help, with open hearts and nonjudgmental acceptance.  

 

Call Amy Wine Counseling Center at 832-421-8714 to schedule an appointment with a counselor.