As part of our “Love Essentially” series, Jackie Pilossoph helps us navigate the complex world of relationships. Have a question that you would like her to answer? Contact her here, and it may be featured in an upcoming article!
Asking for support can mean so many different things. You can be fundraising and solicit people for their “support.” You might be divorced and seek child “support.” Or, maybe you are looking for approval or encouragement for some kind of life change, so you ask your spouse or a family member to “support” you in your decision.
But there’s a kind of support that is more important than ever, given a pandemic that has left us less connected to the outside world and more isolated and alone: emotional support.
Unfortunately, due to quarantining and lack of socialization, resources could be more challenging to uncover for issues like addiction, depression, divorce, abuse, physical health, and legal or financial concerns, to name a few.
Emotional support can provide comfort, knowledge and solutions. It might also take away anxiety and fear, or can make you feel loved, cared for, less alone, and like you matter.
Sadly, many people don’t ask for support and we can’t blame COVID entirely. Maybe they are embarrassed, maybe they don’t know where to start in getting the support, or perhaps they think they are bothering people by asking. Or, maybe they think if they ask for help, the person will say no. The reality is, those unwilling to ask for support probably don’t realize how much better their life would be by letting others help them.
Join a support group on Zoom – if it's a tough time for your mental health, you're not the only one. We have groups for families, too. Free and confidential, sign up at https://t.co/PRyKmBXuJU. pic.twitter.com/mlXqpkXzNY
— NAMI Chicago (@NAMIChicago) August 10, 2020
The other day, I was feeling extremely anxious about my recent cancer diagnosis. I couldn’t focus on work, and felt worried and depressed. I decided to seek support via the internet, and Googled my condition. Unfortunately, all that did was make me feel worse; more afraid and less optimistic. With tears in my eyes, I decided to call a friend who several years ago had cancer.
Talking to her turned out to be a great decision. She explained what to expect, and talked about how she’s now in good health. It was the perfect support I needed. It calmed and comforted me. The conversation turned my day around.
Reaching out for help takes courage and vulnerability. In other words, you have to admit you need support, and that’s hard for a lot of people. Asking for support might make someone feel old, incapable, weak or dependent. But that’s not the case at all! In fact, asking for help means that you are insightful and wise enough to know what you need and do something about it. Seeking support is empowering, like you are taking control of your situation to make things easier or better.
I have talked to many people who look back on tough times in life and regretted not asking for help. If you ask someone about being a new mom, so many of them will say, “It was really hard at the beginning. I wish I would have asked for more help.” People who were out of work for a long time will say things like, “During my job search, I should have reached out to a network of people I knew personally.” Think about it. People love helping other people find a job, so why not let them help?
Here are five ways to get the support you need:
1. Friends and family
Don’t underestimate your neighbors, your friends, your family members and your community. Even strangers want to help. If you ask for support, you will probably be inspired by how much others are willing to give it. People love giving back. It gives them self-esteem and self-love. Helping others gives meaning to people’s lives. In other words, helping you benefits them, too.
Talking to a professional can feel strange and uncomfortable, and paying for someone to listen to you might seem unnatural. But there’s a reason why talk therapy is an 8.8 billion dollar industry. Psychotherapy is used as a method to alleviate anxiety, improve one’s emotional health, and contribute to a better quality of life.
Perhaps our biggest supporters, faith and God are so much more powerful than you think. I recently read a wonderful book called, “The Garden of Emuna; A Practical Guide to Life,” by Rabbi Shalom Arush that I found immensely comforting. One of its main messages is the importance of learning how to live in harmony with God’s will, and to have faith in what is out of our control.
4. People in similar situations
Like I did, reaching out to people who are in your shoes might make you feel less alone, less frightened, more comfortable, and calm. I’m also a huge fan of support groups. During Covid-19, many support groups are meeting via Zoom.
There is nothing more powerful than educating yourself. What I mean by that is not Googling, but rather reading books and other literature written by credible sources, and reaching out to licensed professionals on what you might want to learn to ease your anxiety, manage the issue, or find resources for help.
When it comes to asking for support, remember that there might be some people who don’t respond. If that happens, keep in mind it’s not personal. Maybe they are going through a rough time, or maybe they aren’t the person you thought they were. It’s OK. Someone’s unwillingness to help has nothing to do with you.
Over the years, I have been utterly shocked at how people I barely know have been there for me when I needed support. At the same time, a few people I thought were close friends were nowhere to be found during tough times. It’s hard not to be hurt, but I choose to focus on the gratitude I have for those who stepped up in such a beautiful way.
In closing, remember that support is only a phone call or a text or a social media message away. The hardest part is finding the courage to acknowledge that you need help and asking for it. That’s no small thing. But life with support becomes a lot easier, and hopefully leads to acceptance, peace and a happier place.
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Jackie Pilossoph is a former television journalist and newspaper features reporter. The author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially, Pilossoph is also the creator of the divorce support website, Divorced Girl Smiling. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers.