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January 17, 2021 | Caroline Marlow

With a Little Help from Our Friends (Part 1): How to Gain and Use Support Well.

Our guest blog is from Dr Caroline Marlow of L&M Consulting Ltd. A Chartered Psychologist, she specialises in wellbeing and performance psychology. In this first of a three blog series, Caroline encourages and helps us to seek the social support that is essential for our psychological wellbeing.

Songs tell us that we’ll get by with a little help from our friends. We all know that others can help, but how often and how well do we ask others to support us?


My guess is that few of us use support enough or well enough. Other things come first. We don’t know anyone who can help. We are embarrassed to ask. We don’t want to bother others.


But are most of us missing out on a simple way of coping, moving on, improving and thriving?


Social Support is Important because …

Social support can help us feel: competent, in control, valued, listened to, supported and part of a community. These are all important for our psychological and social wellbeing, and in turn, our mental and physical health. In fact, research often shows social support to be the most important thing that helps us buffer against and cope with many of life’s difficult situations, and indeed, to thrive.


So how can we get over our reservations and ask for support more effectively?


This is the first of three blogs that aims to help. Here, we look at how to build a support network and to use support effectively. Blogs two and three look at the types of support we need for difficult times and to thrive respectively.


How to Build and Use Support Well

The Golden Rule is Don’t leave gaining good support to chance. Give yourself some time, consider the following, and take small steps – one at a time, to start using social support more effectively.


Remove Your Doubts: Will they help me? People will usually help if they can; often in surprising ways. So ask – how else will you know? If they can’t, thank them and ask someone else: Remember,a “No” is not a bad reflection on you or them.


Who to Ask: As a basic, it’s important to ensure that you can trust anyone you ask, and thatthey will do what you ask and treat you as you see your ideal self. Think broadly: family, friends, fellow professionals, peer-support groups, charities or professional support.


Ask ‘Just in Case’: Just knowing that support is available if you need it is also goodfor health and wellbeing. So ask people if they will supportyou ‘just in case’you need it. This ‘in the future’ request is easier for people to consider and it gives them the chance to say, “Well, I can if….”


Build a Support Network: Over time, we all need different kinds of support, so ask a range ofpeople who can help you in different ways. E.g., this could be a good listener, someone positive, or someone who does what you want to be able to do.


Be Specific: When you are asking for support, be clear about the kind of support you need and for how long/often.See Blogs 2 and 3 for useful ideas.


Use Support Regularly: Plan to use support as a matter of course, not when you are on a downward slide, at rock bottom, and as a last resort.


Be Respectful:  If someone helps you, let them know it’s been worthwhile by being receptive and grateful. Always check you’re not asking for too much and give them a chance to say they can’t help anymore.


Stay Independent:Your wellbeing is boosted when you feel competent and in control, so don’t become reliant on support. Likewise, beware of anyone who encourages you to rely on them.


Give Support: Helping others can have a more profound effect on your wellbeing than receiving help. Be careful not to give so much that is effects your own wellbeing, but even small acts of care and kindness, e.g., a few encouraging words or recognising skills, are of benefit to you both.



Other’s support is important foryour wellbeing. Don’t wait. Plan. Ask for help.Maybe help back.



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