Everyone needs to develop a support system for better mental health. We’re wired for connection and community. And we may need different communities – or support systems – for different parts of our life.
For entrepreneurs, building a business might feel less isolating and overwhelming, but if you develop a support system of like-minded individuals, you can count on people having your back. It turns out that a good support system will benefit your mental health, too.
In this article, we’re exploring what a support system is, the benefits of having a strong support system, and how to develop your own support network to let your mental health thrive.
What is a support system?
A support system is a network of people who provide emotional, social, and even professional support.
Your support system can include family members, friends, coworkers, and mentors. You may even develop a team of professionals as a separate support system — for example, therapists and support groups.
In business, your support system might even be an online community. As part of my support system, I have a small group who chat predominately on LinkedIn Messenger. Even this group of online friends who I’ve never met in real life is incredible for my mental health and, in turn, my business. Other online support systems live in Facebook groups, Slack, Discord, and more.
Benefits of a strong support system
Your support system is a crucial component of your mental health. Your community provides a sense of security, belonging, and validation. Having a strong support system benefits mental health, but also, other areas of life can thrive with the right support.
A good support system can:
1. Reduce stress
Sharing problems in a safe space helps us to feel heard and validated, our stress levels decrease, and we can approach challenges with a clearer mind. I’m sure we can all relate to a good rant with a friend, only to feel infinitely better after.
Reducing stress through support doesn’t need to be official or feel stuffy. A simple talk with friends or family can help us identify and label emotions allowing us to process them and become less reactive, and more mindful.
So, next time you feel in over your head, give a friend a call.
2. Improve self-esteem
When we have a support system that believes in us, we are more likely to believe in ourselves. This can lead to increased self-esteem and confidence. Your sense of confidence will give you the courage to pursue your goals and dreams. And, with a better mental state, you’re more likely to seize the opportunities as they arise.
3. Beat impostor syndrome
Most entrepreneurs are well-versed in the term impostor syndrome. Jessica Vanderlan, PhD, is quoted sharing that the benefits of sharing your impostor feelings with trusted support systems can help reduce loneliness and give others an option to share how they see you.
This can help your perspective on a situation. Vanderlan does express the importance of sharing with trusted individuals and avoiding sharing imposter syndrome feelings with those who are likely to compete.
It is a good support system that will reap the most benefits for you mentally.
4. Enhance coping skills
Difficult times are inevitable, but when you develop a support system, it can improve our ability to cope. We can learn from others' experiences and gain perspective on our own challenges, allowing us to approach them with greater resilience.
Managing conflict and coping with situations as they arise means we’re better prepared for the future, too. Harvard Business Review found that, ‘resilience is not purely an individual characteristic, but is also heavily enabled by strong relationships and networks’. Also, that, ‘The ability to bounce back from setbacks is often described as the difference between successful and unsuccessful people.’
So, your support network could be the difference to you reaching your goals.
How to develop your support network & let your mental health thrive
There’s an art to building a support system, and it may take some time to identify those who truly want to be vulnerable with you, listen to you, and support you in thriving.
Here are some strategies for developing your own trusted support network:
1. Actively work on your self-esteem
It all starts with your own self-esteem. Research shows that a better self-esteem leads to better relations, but the reverse can be true, too. So, if you’re struggling with self-esteem you can look for good networks of people to build this.
Better self-esteem means you’re more likely to engage with people who are healthy for you.
To improve your own self-esteem you can try practicing daily affirmations, engaging in activities that bring you joy, and prioritizing your physical and emotional health. Try and get outside every day, step away from your work and indulge in whatever it is that brings you peace.
2. Strengthen connections with family members & friends
Family members and friends can be some of the most critical members of your support system. To strengthen these connections, make time for regular phone calls, text messages, or video chats. Plan outings or activities that you can enjoy together, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Your family and friends may be some of the most underrated support groups, since good friends and family are always there. Still, the act of being together, and chatting through problems — even casually — is going to reap the benefits for your mental health.
3. Consider joining a support group for people like yourself
There will be more support groups in your local area than you don’t know about yet. And when we consider that there are online support groups, you are guaranteed to find a place where you fit in and can benefit from solid support networks.
Support groups can be a great way to connect with others who are going through similar experiences.
You can also find groups based on interests through sites like Meetup.com. Or, you could search Facebook Groups as well as local newspapers.
4. Make time for your own hobbies & interests
Making time for yourself and your own hobbies feels like a no-brainer, but in the world of entrepreneurship, two things can happen: either you find yourself grinding away at your business, promising to take that all-important self-care, later, but, of course, later never arrives. Or, you make the error of monetizing too many hobbies and interests.
Keep some hobbies profit-free and just for fun. You need to give your brain time to relax in order to be in the best place to develop good support networks and you don’t want everything tied into work somehow .
5. Expand your network of people by making new friends
While it can be challenging to make new friends, putting yourself out there can pay off in the long run. Attend social events, join clubs or groups that align with your interests, or volunteer for a cause you care about. This can help you to expand your network of people and build new connections.
I’ve joined running clubs in the past and triathlon groups. These types of activities are amazing for mental health anyway and you get the side benefit of making new friends who will love you!
Conclusion: A healthy support system is key to emotional health
It becomes clear that a strong support system is a crucial component of mental health and more. By looking after your mental health and staying true to your most basic needs, the need for community and validation, you can thrive in many areas of life
Whether it's emotional, social, or professional support, having a network of people who believe in you and support you can make all the difference.
Take the time to develop your support system, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Your mental health will thank you.