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Your Support System

Even if you’ve been an independent and self-reliant person your entire life, you may find that a bit of support would help you along your journey.

“Healing occurs when we move from the loneliness, isolation, and depression of the “I” toward the sense of support, connection, and community of the “WE”.”
– Dr. Dean Ornish, Preventive Medicine Research Institute 

Having supportive relationships is a strong predictor of well-being and increased quality of life. The effects of this impact aren’t just emotional; individuals with a strong support system also enjoy better health outcomes and reduced disease burden. In fact, having strong relationships helps us to live longer! Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: isolation and loneliness lead not only to depression, but also to poor health outcomes.

No one needs to face a chronic health condition alone. When people with a chronic health condition seek and receive help from others, they often find it easier to cope. Developing and nurturing strong relationships is one of the most important steps in healing, and it’s something you can work on right now to immediately benefit your health and well-being.

Overcoming the fear of being a burden

Being a burden is a common fear when faced with chronic health condition(s), and it may present a barrier to receiving badly needed help and support. If this fear strikes, it may help to remember that support is a two-way street; just because you are receiving support from another doesn’t mean that you can’t give it back at the same time. Think about how you may be offering support, love, or help to the individuals who are helping you. Perhaps you are providing company to a lonely friend, or a badly needed break from the home or work life of an overworked loved one. Maybe, even from a doctor’s office waiting room, you can offer advice or input on a problem your support person is facing. Or perhaps all the errands a friend runs for you one day could culminate in a meal, coffee, or conversation back at home. At the end of the day, helping others makes us feel good, even when we aren’t compensated for it. So, if feeling like a burden has been weighing you down, shift your mindset: have you ever considered that you are and can help others as much as they help you? It’s a win-win situation.

Developing a Support Team

Having a trusted support team in place to help with the emotional, social, physical, and practical needs that come along with a chronic health condition can help to relieve fears and boost your confidence. Here are steps you can take to be proactive in establishing a support team:

  1. Identify Resources: Make a list of all the people or organizations that may be able to offer you assistance or support in some way. It may be helpful to organize these support sources by category (e.g., friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc…).
  2. Identify Support Needs: Often, people want to help, but don’t know what to offer. Take some time to reflect upon all your health care journey needs now (e.g., rides to the doctor, walking buddy, help with grocery shopping or meal preparation) and then think about who from your list of support sources may be best suited to help address that need.
  3. Communicate your Needs: Reach out to those on your support source list. Tell them that you’d like for them to be a member of your support team. Explain why you value their support and how specifically they can help you. Remember, support is a two-way street and lends itself to healing for everyone involved!