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How to Build a Strong Personal Support Network

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U.S. Air Force photo by Lance Cheung

Less stress; stronger sense of belonging; greater peace of mind; and more self-confidence are benefits to having a strong personal support network. And your support network should include people you trust and care about and who likewise care about you — friends, family and peers. For service members, your military unit is just one part of your support network.

We depend on our support system to provide some kind of practical and emotional support on a daily basis and in emergencies. Having a solid support system makes it easier to cope with the unique challenges of military life — preparing for deployment or relocation; work-related stress; reintegration concerns; and balancing the demands of military and family life. There are so many advantages of having a personal support network — learn how you can strengthen and expand yours with these simple tips from the Real Warriors Campaign:

  • Keep in touch. Call, write, video chat or send emails frequently. It’s crucial for close family members and friends to understand military life and the psychological health stressors service members face in order to provide support when needed.
  • Remember special days. We don’t mean to, but sometimes we forget a loved one’s birthday or special occasion. To help you remember events like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other days that are important to the people in your network, take a few minutes to fill in a calendar with important dates and program reminders on your smartphone.
  • Maintain a positive outlook. If you think positively, positive things happen, right? Not always, but it helps to maintain an optimistic attitude when faced with challenging situations.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Limit time spent with people who tend to complain or are pessimistic because their attitude and behavior can affect you.
  • Show family and friends they’re important to you. Who doesn’t like to feel appreciated? When we’re constantly being pulled in several directions, it’s easy to forget people we care about. So take time to show people they’re important — return calls and messages promptly when possible and let people know they’re appreciated.

But what if you don’t have a solid support system established? Start building one. And it doesn’t matter if you’re single or married with kids — there are resources for everyone. Check out single service member programs like Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers; Navy Liberty; Single Marine Program; Single Airman Initiative Program; and the Army family program Strong Bonds. These resources are a great way to develop new friendships as well as strengthen existing ones.

To build your network, be open to relationships with a variety of people; find an enjoyable activity that involves others (volunteer or professional organization); and explore online networks (social networking sites, forums, discussion groups or blogs) to engage with people who share your particular interests. You don’t know what can happen until you reach out.

Even better, developing strong bonds with others can help you become more resilient. For more ways on how you can benefit from a personal support network, read this Real Warriors article.

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