There are some common techniques and practices in the mental health professional toolbox that anyone can (and should!) use. Here’s one of my faves: the support system map.
We are very social beings, and when we don’t feel supported, we feel lonely and this fuels depression and stress.
As a first step to happiness, it makes sense to know how you stand in terms of support. This is why it is one of the very first things I tend to suggest in sessions.
Now, the support system map is dead simple to set up. You sit down with a sheet of paper and ask yourself, “Who makes me happy? Who can I call, visit, or see when I need support, advice or just a giggle?”
Some clients resist this exercise, saying, “I know who I can go to, and don’t need to write it down” but when they start, they inevitably discover it is incredibly useful because it highlights support strengths you may have overlooked and identifies areas you need to beef up.
This is one of the fundamental principles of therapy: just applying structure to the chaos can be enlightening.
Blog posts work best with examples, so I’m going to share my support system map.
Do note I work very hard on my connectivity because I work from home, and I live very far away from my family in a culture that I wasn’t born into. That’s a triple whammy (my choice!) and I love my life but I’m aware I need to be super careful.
So, here’s what I have
People I can say anything to at any time, and call in the middle of the night in an emergency
Tom, my husband
Ian, my brother
Plus four friends I’ve had for over twenty years, and two close friends I’ve had ten years
Friends I have a ‘mutual moan’ pact with whom I can Skype or Message anytime without an appointment
Author friends I have a ‘mutual moan’ pact with whom I can Skype or Message
Therapy friends I have a ‘mutual moan’ pact with whom I can Skype or Message
Problem area: up until six months ago I had two but they left Malaysia. Needs beefing up.
People I’d trust 100% to give me solid advice and counsel on either love or career
Friends in the neighbourhood I can go for a quick morning coffee with
Lunch friends who always inspire me
Too many to mention
Friends to go to the pub with in the evening
Problem area: five years ago that was over a dozen people, but most have moved away and one passed away. Needs beefing up.
So, if you’re stressed and you’re not at the point where you need someone like me to talk to, create your own support system map and beef up all the bits you feel are lacking. Honestly, it’s a great help. Also, if you are unhappy at work, here’s a post onhow to use this together with self determination theory.
I’m off to see my mum for my annual holiday. I will be seeing my present clients but I won’t be taking on new clients until July 1st.