Emotional practical support

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What exactly is social support? Social support is a network of friends and family that you can rely on in times of crisis.

These relationships are crucial to your daily life, whether you need help with a personal crisis or want to spend some time with those who love you.

Social support is what gives people the strength and resilience to cope with stress.

Social support is not one-way. You can also help others by being a supporter yourself.

Why Strong Social Support is Important

Psychologists and mental health professionals talk a lot about the importance of a solid social network. Experts often urge people to rely on friends and family to help them achieve their goals or cope with a crisis.

1 Lack of social support has been associated with depression and lonely and has been shown to alter the brain’s function and increase the risks of:

One study found that men in their middle age who had strong emotional and social support were less likely than those without such relationships to die. 2

Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 988 for support and assistance. Call 911 if you or someone close to you is in immediate danger.

See our National Helpline Database for more resources on mental health.

Social Support vs. Integration Integration vs. Social Support

What aspects of our social environment are vital for health? How do social settings affect our well-being in general? Social support and social inclusion are the two most important aspects of our social environments that influence health.

Social Support

Social support is the material and psychological resources that a social network provides to individuals to cope with stress. Social support can take many forms and include:

When someone is ill, they can be helped with daily tasks or offered financial help.

Advice to a friend in a difficult situation.

Provide empathy and concern to loved ones who are in need.

Social Inclusion

Social integration is actually participating in social relationships, from romantic relationships to friendships. Emotions and intimacy are involved, as well as a feeling of belonging to various social groups.

Families can be found in every ethnicity.

Experts believe that integration into these social relationships can protect against harmful health effects and maladaptive behavior.

How to Deal with No Support From Family Members When You Are Depressed

Types of social support

Social networks that provide support can take many forms and have different roles to play in your life. Social support comes in three main forms: emotional support, instrumental and informational support.

Emotional Support

People in your life can provide you with emotional support. When you’re down, they will be there to support you and offer a shoulder for you to cry on. Consent can be especially important in times of stress and loneliness. 

Instrumental Support

They can also be a great source of support. When you’re sick, they can bring you a hot dinner or give you a lift to the mechanic. This type of support is essential when someone has an urgent need that needs to be met.

Information Support

Informational support is another way people can help. It can include providing information, mentoring, guidance, and advice. This support is important for making big decisions or changes in life.

This type of support can help people feel less stressed and anxious about their problems, thanks to the guidance of a friend, mentor, or loved one.

You might expect that people in your social network will play different roles. A parent may provide all three types of support, while a teacher provides informational support. You are more likely, when you have a strong social network, to receive the help you need.

Examples of Social Support

Support can come in many forms from different people. Support can come from co-workers in the workplace, while family and friends may be able to offer emotional or practical help in other areas of life.

Some examples of social support are:

Listening to your friend describe a stressful experience

Validating a member of a group that supports them when they express their emotions

Giving constructive feedback on someone else’s work can help them improve

When someone is depressed, helping them with their housework can be helpful.

Social Support and Health Benefits

Now that we know that social support involves both different types and levels of support, as well as the integration into various social groups, let’s take a closer examination at how these relationships affect both mental and physical health.

Healthy Behaviors and Choices

Social groups have a normative effect on behavior. They can influence whether or not people exercise, eat healthily, smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs. 8

Social groups can have a negative impact on health when peer pressure or influence results in poor or dangerous choices. Group pressure and support may also encourage people to adopt healthy behaviors.

You probably know how important social support is if you’ve ever tried to quit a bad habit like smoking. It can be not easy to succeed if your social network does not support you. You may be able to achieve your goal more easily if your family and friends offer encouragement and support.

Coping with Stress

Support from others can also help people cope with stress. Stress can have serious health effects, ranging from a reduced immune system to an increased risk of heart attack.

People who surround themselves with caring people and support them in their daily lives are more likely to feel capable of handling the stress that comes along with life.

Motivating Employees

People can benefit from social relationships to help them achieve their goals. People who want to lose weight or stop smoking find it helpful to make connections with others who have the same purpose.

It can be motivating and inspiring to talk with people who have experienced the same thing.

Very well: A Word of Advice

It is important to evaluate your relationships periodically.

Have you received enough social support?

Would you benefit by deepening the relationships in your life?

Would you like to find new social networks or contacts?

It is possible to be more proactive in providing and receiving emotional support. You could improve your quality of life.

If you are having trouble making friends or keeping them, a therapist may be able to help. A mental health professional may be able to help you effectively manage your relationships so that you have the social support needed to perform at your best.

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