“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
You’ve probably heard a few different names for it – circle of support, support network, caregiving team (on LifeCourseOnline it’s your ‘LifeCourse Team’) – but they all refer to the same concept: a group of people that work together to provide emotional and practical support for an individual.
Sometimes the most difficult part of building a network of support is admitting to others that we need help. Or admitting it to ourselves. You may even still be telling yourself that you’ve got it covered. The fact is, everyone needs a support network in some form or another. It’s critical in times of transition or crisis, it decreases feelings of isolation and stress, and greater support is even linked to better health.
Whether you’re just starting to build your network of support or looking to grow it further, here are 5 tips to help you assemble that dream team!
1 . Broaden Your Definition of Support
Every single one of your ‘Team Members’ is going to bring different types of skills and support to the table and a lot of the time it may not match the idea of “caregiving support” that you have in your head. For example, someone may have the time and the enthusiasm to join your team but may not be comfortable performing traditional caregiving tasks such as providing respite, for example. What other tasks could this person take off your plate?
These are all examples of practical support that members of your team can provide without needing traditional caregiving experience:
- Picking up groceries
- Providing transportation
- General housekeeping tasks
- Helping you research or connect to services and supports
There are also many ways for team members to provide emotional support:
- Making you feel loved and cared for
- Knowing and understanding intimate details about your life
- Sharing experiences and memories with you
- Helping you advocate for support
- Being there to talk to
*On LifeCourseOnline, you can use the ‘Caring for’ and ‘Caring About’ exercises in your LifeCourse Charting Session to think through the different roles that need to be filled on your team and leverage your team by tagging them to support different tasks and events.
2 . Use What You’ve Got
You should always start by exploring your existing supports to see whether you already have potential team members in your life. Start by thinking about these 4 categories:
- Family and Friends
- Community Members (ex. Neighbours, Coworkers)
Family, friends and community members should always be our first consideration in building our network of support. It is through these relationships that you receive support that is the most personalized to you. It’s also the type of support that has the capacity to keep growing. The more you put into relationships with family, friends, and community members, the more you will get in return.
- Local Organizations
- Professional Supports
These last 2 categories may take a bit of research if you’re not already familiar with them. Do some research online to see what’s available in your area or enlist the help of someone you know who is knowledgeable about this. If you’re having trouble getting started, try to focus on finding one local community organization that serves people with your needs and ask them to connect you to relevant supports.
*Use your LifeCourseOnline map to pin the locations of community organizations and include support and contact details. Add these supports to your support star under ‘Community Supports’ and ‘Eligibility Based Supports’ so your team knows that they’re available.
3 . Venture Online
If you don’t have people in your life who are knowledgeable about the areas you need support in, online communities are a great way to gain knowledge and build those connections. Online spaces give you the opportunity to connect with people who are in similar situations to you. You can get more specific in finding information and support that’s relevant to you through participating in these communities that are often built around certain circumstances, locations or even diagnoses.
Some types of online spaces to explore include:
- Message boards and Community Forums
- Facebook Groups
- Hashtags on Twitter and Instagram (try #carechat #caregiversupport or searching for a specific diagnosis)
4 . Join Support Groups
Support groups are a great place to share experiences and gain emotional support. You can find support groups and workshops that take place virtually or in person depending on your preference.
You can find these groups by searching online. Again, try to search using keywords based on your circumstance, location, or diagnosis. You can also search on event registration platforms like Eventbrite where you can filter by keyword, date, and location.
5 . Accept Help When It’s Offered to You.
This is all at once our most obvious and challenging tip.
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help”... have you ever heard someone say this to you?
It can be difficult to convince ourselves that people really are willing to help so we can feel comfortable taking advantage of these opportunities. Sometimes it’s as simple as shifting our perspective and believing that there truly are people out there who want the responsibility and fulfillment that comes with being part of a support team. We always want to respect people’s personal boundaries when it comes to providing support but after someone offers support, what more are we waiting for?
Next time someone asks if there’s anything they can do, try answering “yes.”
LifeCourseOnline is a platform designed to help you grow and leverage your network of support and includes tools that help you connect with your network and advocate for support in day-to-day life.
To learn more, head over to our main site at lifecourseonline.com