When you’re going through a hard time, there’s nothing better than feeling emotionally supported by a friend or loved one. Often, knowing that we’re not alone is what gets us through to the other side.
But what can you do if you feel like you’re not getting the emotional support you need? When it feels like there’s no one there when you need them, the loneliness can make your situation feel a thousand times worse.
But there are active, practical ways to get more emotional support in your life when you feel like you don’t have any. Read on to learn more.
Ask for Support 一 Directly
Sometimes, the most obvious thing needs to be said first. So many of us want to be supported, but we don’t know how to ask for it. We may be filled with feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment that keep us from reaching out for help.
Have you directly asked the people around you for emotional support, or are you hoping that they’ll notice you need it without having to reach out?
It’s normal to wish that the people who care about you will notice when you need extra support. But remember that no one is a mind-reader, and that each person has their own struggles. If someone hasn’t noticed that you’re needing their support, don’t hold it against them. They’re probably not trying to be unsupportive, and they may become a fantastic source of support if you just ask them.
Be direct in your communication and ask for specific forms of support. Do you need someone to spend time with so you’re not alone? Do you need advice? Do you simply need a shoulder to cry on? Ask for it directly; don’t beat around the bush.
You might say something like, “Hey, I’m feeling really low and I’d appreciate having someone to talk to. Would it be okay if I called you tonight to talk?”
Related Blog: "How to Support Someone with a Mental Diagnosis"
Reach Beyond Your Circle
It’s a mistake to assume that only the people you’ve been closest to will be able to support you emotionally. Sometimes, the best sources of support are people that are far enough removed from your situation to be able to be there for you without getting tangled up in the situation themselves.
You might also think that people who’ve gone through the same situation you have are the most likely to be supportive. Although these people may have empathy for you, they might not be able to support you as much as you’d like them to. Your situation might trigger painful memories for them, and they might not be emotionally strong enough to support you through your hardships.
Think outside of the box when it comes to who might be able to provide you with the emotional support you need. Maybe that woman you used to work with turns out to be a great listener, or the acquaintance that you know from online is needing a friend, too. Don’t limit yourself to only your inner circle when it comes to getting emotional support. You may find friends in surprising places.
Give Support to Get Support
Remember that good relationships are reciprocal. If you’ve given emotional support to someone in the past, and if you have a healthy, non-toxic relationship with them, then they may want to return the favor now that you’re the one needing support.
Relationships aren’t transactional, but in general, giving other people support when you can is a good way to get support when it’s your turn to need it. Of course, this isn’t always a guarantee. But when you spend time fostering good, supportive relationships when things are going well for you, you’ll be more likely to find support when you need it.
Have you given the people in your life support, or have you needed more support than you’ve given? It can be hard to, but self-reflecting on this question might lead you to ways that you can give (and get) more emotional support in your life.
Try Online Support Groups
Making friends online isn’t just for shy teenagers anymore. There are so many online support groups for all sorts of different situations, from single parenting groups to groups to addiction recovery groups to groups especially for youth.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has free online (and local in-person) support groups for anyone experiencing mental illness. Mental Health America runs an online support community. Other people find online support communities through social media platforms like Facebook.
There are also free peer support apps that can connect you with a trained listener when you need to talk to someone. 7 Cups is an example of these programs; you can create an account for free and be connected with a listener over chat (listeners are volunteers, and not licensed mental health providers).
If none of these options are available to you, or if you’ve tried them and still don’t feel like you’re getting enough emotional support, then consider seeking professional help from a mental health therapist.
Some problems are just too big for the people around us to be able to support us through. For example, if you are suffering from clinical depression, or if you’ve experienced a traumatic event, then emotional support from loved ones may not be enough to help you recover.
A strong social support system is an important part of self-care for mental health problems, just like things like restful sleep and regular exercise are. But none of these are replacements for qualified treatment if you’re suffering from a mental health problem.
A mental health therapist can also be a great source of support even if you aren’t living with a mental illness. A therapist can give you a safe place where you can express your truest feelings and always be your complete self 一 without any fear of judgment.
Whether you get it from a close friend or a new therapist, emotional support can be crucial to get you through life’s most painful times. You don’t have to go through this alone. Support is out there, if you know where to look for it.