Jun 06

In our world of individual achievements and the importance of a stellar reputation, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that you need to do things on your own. Be independent. Handle it yourself. Take care of business on your own. Make it happen. And the pep talk continues. The truth of the matter is that none of us have learned to do anything in a vacuum. We all have needed and benefited from the support of others. Whether it was learning to talk and walk when we were wee ones or learning to make a compelling oral argument, we did it with the help of many people in our lives.

The most healthy and competent people in this world do not “go it alone,” they identify and use social supports in various areas of their lives on a regular basis. Instead of waiting for a crisis to emerge, these people regularly utilize the supports in their lives, thereby preventing many crises from happening.

Here are some common social supports that are essential to well-balanced and successful life:

  1. Professional mentors: Whether you are fresh out of law school or a seasoned trial attorney with over a decade of experience, consulting with a mentor (or multiple mentors) on a regular basis can broaden your perspective, add much needed knowledge, and help you adjust to changing environments or expectations.
  2. Coworkers and peers: Talking to peers who understand firsthand the stress of the job is very helpful. You can give and receive understanding without having to explain all of the details (as you might need to if talking with someone outside of your profession). NOTE: It is important to vent to peers/coworkers in a positive way. This means that you share your stresses and concerns and offer support and solutions. Negative venting on the other hand just piles up the complaints from everyone involved and increases the collective weight of the stress. Not so helpful.
  3. Family and friends: Despite all of the time we spend at work and the significant role our professions play in our identity, it is important to have relationships and activities outside of work. Spending time with family and friends not only provides much needed support, meaning, and respite from the work you do, but being engaged in activities and relationships that are completely different from your work can help your brain think differently and more creatively.
  4. Therapists: One of the most common experiences of people in very stressful jobs is that eventually they stop sharing their stresses with family and friends for fear of burdening them. Talking with a therapist can be a tremendous support as the therapist is trained not to be burdened by your stresses. You can get a professional, experienced point of view from someone whose job it is to offer you a safe space to process those problems.

This is far from an exhaustive list of helpful social supports. So whether you regularly utilize one or all of these resources (or many others), be sure to remind yourself that you, like everyone else in this world, need the support of others to thrive. So go and receive the support you need and give that same support to others. We’ll all be better off as a result.

 

Shawn Healy, PhD

 

 

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