You Need a Support System. Start Here.

My mother used to say, “You can always make time!” This was her go-to scold when I was too busy to accept a social invitation. I worked full-time, attended law school at night, and even had a part-time job in the law library. Attending a ladies’ luncheon with my mother’s friends was something for which I had neither the time nor the inclination.

My mother represents that segment of the population rich with down time and spoiled for choice in how to spend it. But for many, squeezing 30 hours of obligation into a 24-hour day is like Cinderella’s ugly stepsister trying to cram her foot into that glass slipper. Try as she might, it just won’t fit.

The truth is that most of us can’t always make time for all the things we’d like to do. Friends and family may not be supportive when we are too busy to spend as much time with them as they (or even we) would like. Still, we can make time for the most important things. It just might require some creativity, and a support system to help carry the load.

Making connections may seem overwhelming. If you aren’t sure how to build your team, here are some tips to get you started.

1. Get Involved – Connecting at School.

Join a study group. Not only will your grades improve, but you’ll have a ready group of friends who understand how stressful school can be.

You can even use the study group as your jumping-off point into a larger student network. Your new friends may already have their own social or support circles, in which you may now also be included.

2. Get Involved – Connecting at Work.

If you are able to interact at work, start small. Smile at your neighbor. Strike up a conversation at break time. If you find someone with whom you feel a connection, invite them to share your lunch break.

Some of the best friends I ever had I met through work, even if I initially thought we’d have nothing in common. Often, we think we don’t care for someone when we really haven’t taken the time to get to know them.

3. Let Go of Toxic Relationships.

Certain relationships, no matter how much we want them to work, will only drag us down. Some connections can be salvaged with some honest conversation, work, and a plan. Others will waste your time, or worse.

Listen to your gut. Sometimes you need to leave someone behind so you can move forward. If you are spending time with someone who can’t be part of your support network, you’re missing out on time with someone who can.

4. Try Social Media.

This may sound counterintuitive, and it’s not for everybody. But social media can be a great starting point for someone in need of a network.

Facebook, for example, is home to thousands of targeted groups, many of them limited to members in your geographic area. Local parenting groups will often have live meetings or periodic social activities, while providing a daily outlet, sounding board, and advice source.

5. Practice Time Management.

Trying to fit everything into your schedule is already like trying to shove 10 pounds of sausage into a 5 pound bag. I get it. But self-care is important, and part of that is cultivating and nurturing your support group.

Remember, some activities naturally overlap (such as your school work and meeting with your study group). Figure out where you can kill both those birds with just the one stone.

Robyn Frank Smith is a retired attorney and mediator who now teaches Conflict Resolution at the university level. Though originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Robyn has lived in a variety of places (some more interesting than others), including Memphis, Washington, D.C., and the Republic of Singapore. Her hobbies include weightlifting, creating upcycled furniture and décor from found objects (she is currently working on a project with an Amish buggy door), and fighting about politics with strangers on Facebook. She also enjoys pretending she’s happy being a vegan, and traveling the world with her husband and teenaged daughter. She lives in Pennsylvania.

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