Social support is a network of family, friends, neighbours, groups and community members that are available in times of need to give support. Social support enhances quality of life and provides a buffer against adverse life events and daily stresses.
Types of Social Support
Social Support can come in different forms and play different roles in your life. The different forms include;
Emotional Support: This is a form of support where people around you back you up when you need it and are there with a shoulder to cry on when things don’t go your way. This is ideal when one is feeling lonely or in a stressful situation. An example of this kind of support is checking up on a friend after hearing the stress they may be experiencing.
Instrumental/Tangible Support: In this support your social network is focused on taking care of your physical needs and offering a helping hand when you need it. Such support is important when people have immediate needs that must be addressed. An example is needing accommodation, and having to lodge with a friend or receiving a loan from a family member.
Informational Support: People can provide informative and instructive assistance which can involve guidance, advice, information, instructions, consolation, and mentoring. This support can be important in making a big decision or life major changes. An example is depending on a classmate for information or updates about a course or program
Sources of Support:
Social Support can come from a variety of places or people including (but not limited to);
- romantic partners
- community ties
- places of worship, and
The source of social support is important in determining the effectiveness of coping.
In the advent of technology, online platforms also play key roles in offering social support.
- Social media websites
- Facebook groups and pages
- Health forums
These offer some sort of social support and a sense of belonging and acceptance. Social support through social media is available to everyone with internet access and allows users to create relationships and receive encouragement for whatever issue they may be facing without really changing location.
Benefits of Social Support
Social Support has a variety of health, mental, and physical benefits, which include the following and more
- Improving the ability to cope with stressful situations.
- Alleviating the effects of emotional distress.
- Promoting lifelong good mental health.
- Enhancing self-esteem.
- Lowering cardiovascular risks, such as lowering blood pressure.
- Promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors
- Providing a sense of belonging and inclusion
Cultivating your social support network
It is important to understand the different social support networks you have, and categorize them according to the types of support they provide. By doing this, you will be able to reach out to the appropriate networks, depending on what your immediate need it.
For instance, if you have a friend who is more inclined to providing instrumental support, but lacks the ability to provide emotional support, reaching out to this friend to assist you with you remotional needs will be of no benefit to you. In fact, it may lead you to more stress and frustration than you had before.
While some support networks are capable of providing the different types of supports that we need, others are not. Hence the need to understand your networks, and strategize how to take adequate advantage of each one for the support you need.
To strengthen your network, you will need to remain committed to staying in touch, being a good listener, appreciating your networks for the support they provide to you and also being a good support system to them.
So the question to ask yourself is:
“What kind(s) of support do you provide?”