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Why Building a Social Support Network is Important For You

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By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Two women with a good social support networkLife gives us many reasons to be happy and to stay on course with every aspiration. But every now and then there can be a circumstance that makes it easy to lose our way. As many reasons as life might offer to pick oneself up, the overpowering situations that have grave consequences are often toilsome and omnipotent to be fought against. It's even more difficult when we feel as though we are having to navigate these situations all by ourselves, and for this reason it is essential that we build a social support network that we are comfortable turning to when we feel troubled.

Some people can manage to face all adversaries and the adversities but there can be a time in anyone’s life when trying to cope up with a situation can become overbearing and simply inconsolable. It is during these times that a support network becomes relevant and extremely significant. We all need people who care and we also need people to empathize. There can be insurmountable condolences and heartwarming sympathies, but those are often not enough to empower an individual or to offer any solace. In most trying circumstances it is compassionate empathy that counts.

Whatever be the crux of a grievous situation or an unsolvable problem, it helps to hear from people who have been there, experienced that, and have been subjected to all the grueling of life and have managed to steer through it. Other people can help with a different view that can offer a completely different perspective and shed light on aspects that can motivate a person to emerge from the scenario. A support network gets people who have had prior experiences of similar nature to share what life has taught them. It is this common learning and experience that lend them the relevance; due to the fact that they have been through it, their views and experiences can really help others.

While it is easy to lose our way, it is also easy to get back up. The union of life and reality offers enough reasons to be bogged down, enough challenges to feel threatened, more than enough circumstances which can shake the very root of our foundation, and of who we are or what we intend to do. These challenges and their omnipotence become a towering compulsion to derail the normal course of life for an individual. As much as we all need people who care, we also need people who can relate to what we are being subjected to. Without that connection it is difficult for anyone to even offer a word of advice. Even if there are words of advice, they would hardly be relevant or convincing.

Stress and the NEM Stress Response

When dealing with chronic stress, without a social support network, the body suffers. The adrenal glands, located at the top of each kidney, produce cortisol in response to stress. Good or bad stress, cortisol is secreted. This is part of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress ResponseSM. The NEM stress response is the body’s ability to attend to life threatening situations with acuity and focus. The NEM stress response increases survival techniques such as increased vision, hearing, energy, focus, and decision making abilities. In doing so, the body’s digestive, reproductive, and immune functions are temporarily reduced. This ability is essential in life threatening circumstances, yet in today’s fast paced lives the stress in often never-ending.

When life situations become tense and stress is ongoing, the adrenals become overworked and tired. If left untreated Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome may occur. There are many symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue and individuals may experience a variety of them.

The most common symptoms include:
Social support network in all facets of life

  • Constant Fatigue, not relieved by sleep
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Depression
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Food sensitivities
  • Chemical sensitivities
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Infertility problems
  • Menstrual problems, PMS, early menopause
  • Skin changes
  • Food cravings for high fat or salty foods
  • Concentration or focus problems
  • Low energy
  • Low libido
  • Feeling “wired but tired”

Note: Discuss any health concerns or questions with your Primary Care Provider. This list is not intended to diagnose.

To prevent or begin recovery from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, build a social support network. Talking with and hearing stories from other people who have been through similar situations is invaluable. Knowing that you are not alone and that others have made it through what you are going through is important. There are many different types of support groups, activity groups, and clubs. Try a few different ones to see what fits you best.

Important Note on Your Social Support Network

A social support network can be most conducive to succeed when faced with a monumentally challenging incident or phase of life. Having someone available, who has been through similar circumstances, can be invaluable. A social support network can help reduce overall stress, anxiety, and depression while beginning the healing process of moving on. Utilizing a social support network is different than counseling or therapy because the group needs each other. It is not just one person that is relying on others, it is the group strengthening each other. A social support network is supportive of each other through good times and bad, helping each other lower the stress and anxiety of the past and focus on the possibilities of the future.

© Copyright 2013 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Social support network

© Copyright 2001-2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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