Personal relationships can bring us many benefits. In stressful contexts, such as dealing with a chronic disease our relationships can bring us psychological/emotional benefits such as consolation, comfort, alleviation of loneliness as well as concrete/tangible help such as information, help with chores and activities, financial help.
Week 8: Part Of The Tribe -Social Support
We have been focussing on developing and expanding our Internal Resources to better manage stress. However, social support is an external factor which is a resource that can enhance our quality of life.
Social Support and our Thought Habits
Recall the Thought Analysis process: Event -> Appraisal -> Emotion -> Behaviour
Social support can affect these stages, particularly the Appraisal stage and reduce our emotional reaction and physiological and behavioural consequences by:
Giving us a different perspective
Helping us manage our self-talk
Enhance our feeling of support
Quality & Quantity
It is often said (and it's very true) that the quality, rather than quantity of our relationships is important.
Even a single source of social support can:
Be a stress buffer and a coping resource
Increase feelings of well-being
Provide a sense of predictability and stability
Social Networks & Interests
We develop our networks through our interests and activities. Just think of all the people you got to know during your school years, even if you didn’t maintain those contacts as life moved on. However, opportunities don’t come knocking on the door. At times when the social network is becoming limited, it can be helpful to assess the variety of interests we engage in.
It can be helpful to do an occasional audit of our involvement in interests and activities. We can become over-focussed on one or two aspects of our lives and lose perspective and need to set goals for a balanced and varied range of interests as well as maintaining and developing social networks.
Take a moment to think about the activities you are involved in or committed to:
Do you have too many?
Do they need to be trimmed?
Are there only a few?
Over time would you benefit from expanding your activities and interests?
Review the goal setting material from week 1, and consider opportunities as well as limitations and whether there are any compromise options so a limitation isn’t automatically a full stop.
Maintaining Social Networks – Communication with Partners and Family Members
Do you have any no-go areas? Are there areas you don’t discuss with the people who are important to you because they:
Make the other person feel worse about your condition?
Raise your own fears or distress about your condition?
Are areas of sensitivity and potential conflict?
Spend some time writing out what may be no-go areas in your communication with your partner, family members or other people in your social network.
What makes you avoid these no-go areas?
IBD symptoms and treatment often require that patients communicate with their partners and families about sensitive topics that they don’t usually talk about such as side effects of treatment, changes in body image and issues relating to sexual functioning.
Do you find the following common areas of concern difficult to discuss with your partner or people who are close to you?
Living with uncertainty
Intimacy and sex
Feelings of guilt
New compromises that need to be made
Can you identify other issues that you have difficulty discussing?
People often find it difficult to ask for help, particularly if they are used to being the ones that provide help to others.
People sometimes feel guilty about needing help and about the effect their condition is having on those around them
Are you willing to receive help from your partner and others, to ask for help, or do you need to be strong and manage on your own?
Do you just hope others will recognize your need for help, or do you take responsibility to seek and arrange for tangible help such as with chores?
Do you request time with your family and friends for both illness related and leisure related activities?
Develop new avenues for managing your feelings such as seeking counselling keeping a journal, developing new activities and support networks.