As a gestalt psychotherapist working with people who are facing challenges in life, I am likely to have “support” in mind in some way. One way of framing support is to think of it as resources within ourselves or the environment, that help us stay well in life and negotiate challenge.
What is supportive is likely to be highly individual. This article is a starting point to think through what support might look like for you.
Support may be connections with those we’re close to, for example having a coffee with a friend, dinner with a family member(s), or a warm loving embrace with a partner. Support may be time spent with others who are important in our life, for example members of a local faith group, work colleagues, or being part of a local club.
Support can also be moments or time spent in more free form causal relationships, for example taking part in evening classes, going to a talk, a momentary conversation in a café, or a shared smile of acknowledgement as you pass someone in a shop doorway. Connections with others can help us feel calm and satisfied, or less burdened by life’s challenges.
Other “environmental” support could include a safe, secure and warm home; or access to nature, for example countryside, parks, gardens, can provide a sense of nurture and relief, a tangible experience of life outside of our inner troubles. The colours of the seasons can lift our spirits, a spell of sunshine or long waited for rain can engender new and different feelings.
Support can be time alone with a book or listening to music, it can be absorbing ourselves in a painting, drawing, gardening, cooking. It can be singing or writing, or one of a thousand other creative pursuits that can help us refocus on an activity beyond our day-to-day struggle.
Support can be doing something different to our usual routine, to surprise and enliven our sensory capacities. For example, taking a different route to or home from work. Or if we are finding the world overwhelming and chaotic, support may be to find more routine, by for example introducing a quiet 15 minutes of sitting or walking each morning before tackling the day ahead.
If we are feeling sluggish or low in mood, support may be a form of physical exercise; for example, a local walk, a cycle ride or jog, time in the gym, yoga or pilates at home or through a class. On getting out of bed, stretching each morning can provide a transition from sleep to a more awakened state.
Support may be meditation, mindfulness, or regular self-compassion practice.
Support may be silence, or if silence brings up discomfort, support may be listening to a podcast, music, or watching a series on TV.
Support may be engaging in chats with friends via social media, or it may be taking routine breaks from your phone and other electronic devices.
Support may be holidays, travel, adventure. Support may be a hundred different ways of playing.
Looking back at what I’ve written, I see two aspects of support. Firstly, support that we may find in and from the world around us; secondly, support that we may find in our daily habits and practices.
I would like to add a third element of support, that which we find within ourselves. For example, I stop in this moment and pay attention to my chest and the in-and-out of my breath. I deepen my breath a little and lengthen my out-breath to release a build-up of tension I feel in my shoulders. I then become more aware of the rest of my body. I sit more upright in the chair, drop my chin towards my chest and stretch the back of my neck. As a consequence perhaps, I feel a little clearer in my head. I notice the cool of my bare feet on the floor, I enjoy this sensation somehow. I exhale deeply, releasing air that seems to have got caught inside my chest.
I stop typing, stay in this moment, moving from my thoughts and cognitions to the sensations I feel in my body. I think of the many years of personal development work I’ve done. I feel compassion, love and respect for myself, that I can now reap benefits from the fruits of my daily sensory labours. My writing becomes freer, there’s a new type of creativity emerging in the words I’m using. There is a greater sense of self-expression and a clearer communication of who I am.
I feel lighter in this moment, liberated somehow. This will change as I finish this article and move on to other activities, and that’s OK too.
Hopefully the writing in the past three paragraphs highlights the benefits of the support we can find, in the moment, within ourselves. Support that is entwined with that which we find in the world around us, and that which we establish through our daily habits and practices.
The different aspects of what could be considered support is limitless. You will only know what is supportive for you by trying things out. Hopefully though through enquiry and experimentation you will find support in the world that helps you feel better, not just in the moment, but also today, tomorrow, and through the coming week and year ahead.