International Friendship Week 2018 will be Feb. 18-24. The observance was created to emphasize the importance of friendship in helping people lead happy lives where they feel connected to others in their area and around the world. It also encourages us to be mindful of cultural differences and how they enrich our lives.
If you are affected by anxiety and depression, International Friendship Week serves as a reminder that it is important to build and maintain a strong support system. Having friends you can lean on when your condition is at its worst can help you weather the storm more effectively.
Support Groups Come in Many Forms
The term “support group” has multiple meanings. In its more formal sense, it can mean an organized group of people, often between five and 15 members, who gather on a regular basis to talk about the challenges they are facing and to provide encouragement to one another. A support group might also be a less formal collection of friends that you connect with individually or in smaller numbers more randomly to talk about life.
In many cases, a group from which you receive support wasn’t really formed for that purpose. For example, if you exercise regularly with a group of friends, simply spending time with those people who share your interest in fitness provides an important connection that can give you strength when anxiety and depression strike. Spiritual groups are another example of a collection of like-minded people from which you may derive a sense of support. Whether a support group is formal or informal, the benefits can be equally powerful.
Support Groups and Other Self-Help Resources
Support groups are a type of self-help you can use as an aid in managing your mental health. Other forms of self-help include books on topics like relationships and personal transformation, wellness apps, relaxation techniques and exercise. While professional counseling can be an essential tool in achieving better mental and emotional health, augmenting that guidance with a support group and other self-help techniques can be very effective.
Tips for Getting Involved in a Support Group
If you are considering joining a support group, there are some things to keep in mind. First, if you are receiving counseling, your therapist can be a great resource for helping you find a group that meets your needs. However, remember that you are not required to remain in a group if after a few sessions you don’t feel like you are clicking with the other members or getting any benefit from attending. It’s critical to find the right fit.
It’s also important to consider how much you want to discuss with a support group. While being open about your struggles can be very cathartic, know that unlike your therapist who has a legal obligation to keep your conversations confidential, support group members are not similarly bound. Often there is a stated agreement that “what is said in the room stays in the room,” but keep in mind that that is not as secure as conversations with therapists. That said, it is also true that you get out of a support group what you put into it. Be sure to share your thoughts and feelings and provide positive feedback when others do the same, as that is what a support group is all about.
If you are interested in learning more about our counseling services, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.