We all know that having people to lean on is important. But how easy is it to build a solid social support network around yourself? And where do you even start?
Photo supplied by Unsplash.com.
Why networks are important?
Support networks provides a deep sense of belonging and offers support during the happy times, as well as the more difficult ones.When Wendy’s family contracted COVID, she mentioned in each interview the importance of having a good support network. Her insights weren’t unique. Studies have repeatedly shown that having a good support network – ideally a broad one - is critical to our mental wellbeing.
“Having something like COVID shows you the people you need around you,” said Wendy, “Mum-friends, family, your bestie from highschool, colleagues at work, neighbours and even professionals.” For Wendy, the people around her played different roles, both practical and emotional.
Let’s start with the pragmatic details first.
Deliveries. You can’t leave home but even in the smallest town in this shire, deliveries can reach you. It might be a friend or social service doing the drop off at the end of the driveway, rather than an uber driver, but there are options. If in doubt, just call your local pharmacy, newsagent, supermarket, or butcher. You’ll be surprised at how they can help you. If you want, discuss this with them in advance so that you don’t have to worry if you do contact COVID. If not, call your Neighbourhood House. Note to self: I wonder if someone can deliver real coffee? Oops. Didn’t mean to leave that in!
Access. Managing COVID at home doesn’t mean you’ll have your feet up watching Netflix. Well not in this shire anyway. Access to a phone and internet may be genuine issues for you. If they are, let someone know.
Other support. Whether it’s keeping an eye on your animals in that paddock that you are agisting 20 kilometres from your home or arranging for someone else to take over your shift at the community garden, people are out there who can and would like to help. You don’t have to post the call out on social media (in fact, Wendy’s tip was to avoid as much media as you can), but someone else can organise it for you.
COVID comes with a gamut of emotions. Fear, guilt, and anxiety, just to name a few. These emotions won’t just be what you might feel. They’ll potentially come from others around you as well. So, pick your support people wisely.
The simple stuff. Sometimes a quick chat is all you need to be able to push through, especially for those of us who live alone. You may have friends or family who could make a point of calling you each day, or you could tap into services like the Ballarat Community Health Social Connections Program who can help keep you connected while you are dealing with COVID at home. Either way, having someone (other than medical professionals or the health system) touch base with you each day is a good plan.
When you need to cry (or explode). Do you have a friend you can vent too? Someone who understands that you can’t always talk with your filter on, and that you might be managing your needs and your family’s needs all on your own? If you don’t, ask your doctor for a referral to a wellbeing professional or helpline that can be that person for you.
Support for your family. Wendy’s family had friends who sent daily letters and care packages in the form of backyard scavenger hunts or other games the puzzle-loving family could play together. Others sent books. It doesn’t have to be much, but these acts take the pressure of the care-giver and make everyone in your family feel supported.
Either way, the big message is you’re not alone
You don’t have to live in a big household or come from a large family to have a good support network. Think about all the avenues you have in your life where you can connect with others. Different kinds of people offer different kinds of support, so the more people you have in your social support network, the stronger your network will be.
COVID for all it’s lingering, is still something new to us all. We’ve never had to live with it and now, we can all feel it getting closer. But remember, we do know what practices exist to keep us as safe as possible. We do know that vaccination rates are rising and as we continue to inform ourselves about what living with COVID might mean, we can reduce the fear (that sparks drama) around it. So, if someone you know contracts COVID, offer your support so we can all get through this together.
…tomorrow's (last) article: Social Stigma.
This article is part of a 5-day series developed by the network of Neighbourhood Houses in Hepburn Shire (Trentham Neighbourhood Centre, Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre, Creswick Neighbourhood Centre and Clunes Neighbourhood House). The series will include an interview with a Victorian family who lived through the delta-strain. Each article is designed to help provide us with some insight into what living with COVID might mean and how individually – and together - we can prepare for it.
AUTHOR: Lana de Kort.