I know just last week I encouraged you to commit to yourself and to not expect others to hold you accountable to ensure your success, so perhaps this week’s blog seems a bit of a contradiction. It’s not. You see, a support network can provide the motivation and inner strength needed to pursue and succeed in your personal goals. The American Psychological Association has already written an article about this so I won’t reinvent the wheel. Here’s the link: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/emotional-support.aspx

There’s a bar here in town that tends to attract the twenty somethings that have already graduated from college but have not chosen to give up their pre-graduation social life. Every time a patient tells me that he/she was involved in a verbal (and sometimes physical) scuffle at a local bar, I already know where said fray took place. Each year at least one of my patients decides that it’s time to leave the bar life behind and is shocked that, once this decision has been made, her/his group of bar friends disappears. He/she will invite the friends to movies, or out for coffee, or out for dinner, to no avail. So, what changed?

Nothing and everything. What she/he failed to realize was, besides drinking, he/she had very little in common with those drinking buddies. They would drink, play a few rounds of darts, slowly become tipsy (or worse) and then go home, only to return to that same bar later that week to do it all over again. They never had similar interests with their drinking buddies, only discussed philosophy (or politics or religion) as they became increasingly more tipsy, and brought little to the table themselves in terms of discussion as they had limited their lives to working and going to the bar. Truthfully, outside of the bar setting, they were no more likely to be supportive of their drinking buddies than their buddies were to them. They had created a social life for themselves, but not a social support system.

So, what, exactly, is the difference? In short, a social life ensures that you have people that participate in specific activities with you, whereas a social support network has your back, no matter what the situation. If you’re lucky, the people in your social life are also the people in your support network, but that’s rare. I had surgery the first week in January. Major surgery, not the in an out in four hours type. The surgery needed to be done. Period. It was scheduled the day before my husband was to leave for a business trip and two days before my daughter and her boyfriend planned to drive to Colorado because they had nonrefundable reservations for a cabin. Not a big deal, because I have a social support network. Neighbors, colleagues, exercise classmates… All were willing to pick me up from the hospital, stay with me at the hospital and in my home, feed me, run errands for me and so on, if needed. All routinely checked in on me, even if I didn’t need their direct assistance. Interestingly, I don’t hang out with any of them on evenings or weekends. Why? Because we’re all responsible adults and are busy managing our own lives. We have our own interests and activities but support one another in theirs as well. These are the type of people you need in your social support network. As you ponder how to develop your own support network, perhaps you should also consider whether you are truly supportive of others, or simply someone in their social circle.

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.