Building systems of support
If you have any experiments, experiences, ideas etc that have been helpful and might help others please send them to me.
These systems were set up by me, with a lot of support from Chloë Lund
(and a lot of other supportive ppl 💛 )
This is an exploration in SURVIVAL that took place throughout my intense and most severe crisis times in 2020/2021,
Some of these support practices literally kept me alive.
This is a live journey, experiment and exploration in building and creating systems around support. These systems are being designed to support people who are struggling from a variety of traumas.
Asking for support can be scary and vulnerable: vulnerability builds connection.
Capitalist patriarchal colonialist culture IS NOT supportive of human life. So if we want to survive we must work out how build unshakeable systems for ourselves and each other.
There is often enough willingness, but not enough knowledge or organisation.
People are often so willing to support each other
We often don’t know what supports us (as we might be so used to being unsupported) so we need to work this out and learn
People often don’t know how to support others and what works best for each person
People who are in need of support don’t have energy/capacity to organise support
Lots of people don’t know how to organise support
What is a system?
A group of interacting ,interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole,
What is support?
To help someone emotionally or in a practical way. To hold up or serve as a foundation for.
What is a support system?
A network of people, [practices and processes] who provide an individual with practical or emotional support
"When times are easy and there's plenty to go around, individual species can 'go it alone'. But when conditions are harsh and life is tenuous, it takes a team sworn to reciprocity to keep life going forward. In a world of scarcity, interconnection and mutual aid become critical for survival. So say the Lichens" - Robin Wall Kimmerer
The Idea: share numbers of the people who support you with all of the other people who support you. This will make it easier for them to communicate in a difficult situation or crisis moments. This is especially helpful for people who are supporting and are not physically present, so that they can contact someone who is physically present.
Step one: write down the names and numbers of the people who are close to you, this could be friends, people you live with and see regularly, neighbours you trust etc and put them in one place, you could write them on a google doc/email or get people to save them on their phones.
Step two: distribute these numbers between all of the people's numbers you have written down.
WHO TO INVITE IN
The Idea: Write down a list of the people in your life then organise them into categories, thinking about who you feel safe with and close to and supported by. Think about who you would like to bring closer into the support circle.
Step one: Write down a list of people that are in your life, community, who you know, like, hang out with etc.
Step two: organise them in a diagram around you.
Central ring: you
Orange support ring: your closest friends, partner/s, family members, where a lot of trust already exists.
Blue ring: people who are friends, you might hang out with them but there might be some trust lacking and you might not be able to or feel comfortable asking them for support or trust that you will be supported by them.
Outer ring: people in your community and people who are less close to you.
Professional support: therapist, counsellor, bodyworker, doctor etc. You can put this in a different section but include them on your diagram.
Step three: think carefully about who you would like to be where in relation to you. Draw arrows to indicate who you want to focus your energy on and where you would ideally like people to be.
People you might like to bring closer in might be someone you like but don’t know so well, or someone you can imagine being very supportive.
People you may want to allow to move further away may be people you hang out with a lot where there is less trust that they will be able to support you, or they are actively harming you in some way.
Step four: the people who now sit in the orange circle are the people you want to be invited into any support groups you create. Ideally you want to have at least 6 people in that circle, and this will grow over time. Asking people for support is vulnerable and will build trust between you.
The Idea: mapping all of the things we find supportive in one place. Doing this will help us get to have an understanding of all of the
things we find supportive, and will create something we can reach out for when we need some support.
Step one: write down everything and anything you can think of that supports you.
Step two: collate and order the ideas into categories. It can be good to do this based around needs, when we are not feeling good we can ask ourselves what we are needing and then go to a list under that need, these are strategies that might help.
Here is a list of needs, you can pick a few that might be most helpful.
Here is an example of a support map:
Care strategies: warmth meditation, speak to friend, bath, walking outside, going to the sea
Nourishment strategies: asking someone to cook for you or cooking, going to buy some nice food, sleeping outside, making a tincture or remedy or picking herbal plants, herbal tea, tidying my room, massage
Expression strategies: dancing, shouting, drawing, writing, making things for myself or others, talking to people, check ins, playing,
Safety strategies: being around someone we trust, being at home/in bed (if home feels safe), going outside with someone we trust, having clear boundaries, imagining safety around where we are / safe space meditation
Purpose strategies: making things, foraging, being outside, learning plants, drawing, photographing, preserving, learning neuroscience, retreats, making gifts, going away, sleeping out, getting up and getting dressed.
Highlighted on the map on the right: Rest strategies
Meditating, napping, going to bed early, having a lie in, watching TV, reading fiction, having a bath, cuddling, being alone, being silent, being in nature, visualisations.
The Idea: to create a written/ visual/ recorded document with supportive things and processes that will support you when you are struggling or in crisis. This will support people to know how you like to be supported, and will help them to support you both with more ease and knowing that what they are doing is helpful. Step one: remember, record and research supportive processes that people could go through with you. Step two: create an easily accessible place where these supportive processes live. Make them clear and easy to use.
Step three: share this with people in your support circle.
Here is my live support document as an example:
SPECTRUM OF SUPPORT
We can work out how much support we might need and which support systems to use by using a spectrum of support. You can write out a spectrum that makes sense for you and your difficulties and preferences.
Here is an example of a spectrum, this is used to define the support system ideas on this post.
1 - Low level distress, mild discomfort, feeling a bit low.
2 - Having a bit of a shit time
3 - Ongoing emotional/physical difficulty
4 - Ongoing emotional/physical overwhelm, trauma responses (often unable to function/eat/move etc)
5 - Extreme danger + CRISIS e.g moving towards self harm / suicidality
If we are at level 1 it might be enough to look on our support map for ideas that might help us.
If we are at a level 2 or 3 we might want to begin to implement our support ideas (that we ideally set up when we were not on the spectrum).
If we are on level 4 or 5 we want the system we have built to be fully supporting us.
The chart below is a helpful example of a spectrum:
Set these up when you are not in a crisis. If you are in crisis ask others to help and to set these groups up for you (and just ask for help anyway). Many of these ideas were set up in the COVID 19 pandemic, so revolve around digital communication.
SMALL GROUP CHECK IN
Create a group with 2-3 people in to do a voice recording check-in each day. You could also do it via message, email or in person if you live together or close by. What is a check-in? A space where you get to say how you are, name emotions and what's going on for you. This space is yours and anyone else listens in silence, (this means you will not be interrupted or given advice etc).
This format creates a space where people can connect and co-support each other, as well as a space to say how you are and have others know how you are. If there is anyone you would like to bring closer into your support system this might be a nice way to build more connection and vulnerability with them.
Step one: Setting up a group
Identify a couple of people from your support network and ask if they would be up for being in a check in group in which every day you all send a voice message saying how you are doing. This could be short (1 min) or long (up to 15 mins) you can decide between you, make sure you will all have enough space to listen each day.
You can set a time scale to do this: two weeks, a month etc
Step two: Check in
Check-in every day. The beauty of this is you both get to share and be heard and hear how the others in your group are. This means that everyday someone else will know how you are, and everyday you will know how the others are. Allowing support to co-arise and be easier and more accessible. For example when i am having a bad day and I check in others often ask if i would like to talk later on in the day for support.
Step three: Revisit
As your agreed duration to check in comes to an end revisit the group together and see if and how you want to continue.
- Vary the frequency, it could be: every other day, weekly, whenever you need to.
- Vary the time you check-in for
SUPPORT GROUP FOR ONE PERSON
Create a support card, then add as many people as you wish/trust to a whatsapp (etc) group, give them access to your support card and ask if they are willing to be in this group to support you. Reach out for someone in any moment of need, either for right now, asap or later in the day.
This format can help to create a sense of having multiple people around to support you (they can also communicate together to create more support), it can mean that people are only responding to a call out if they can and can see that you are being supported if they don't have space to reach out to you.
Step one: create support card
Step two: set up the group
Create and name a group on whatsapp, add people who you trust and find supportive.
here is an example of a message you could send:
Hello dear ones,
I am trying to work out ways to make reaching out for support more easy for me, and ways that people can easily see if I am being supported. I’m setting up this whatsapp group where i can send a message out if i am needing some support, and if you have any space to support you can send a message back in the chat.
I have also created a document with different practices that i find supportive. Sometimes it’s just really nice to talk and be heard and sometimes these different practices are really helpful. Let me know if you can't be part of this group for any reason and I can remove you.
Here is the link.... (add link here)
Sending all of you a big hug 💛💛💛💛
Step three: Reaching out for support
The next step (and a potentially challenging one) is to reach out when you need to...
The Idea: Ask around 7 people if they would be up for having a day of the week each where they intentionally contact you to see how you are and offer support on that day. This person can also be someone you can reach out to if you need anything on that day. This format can help to create a sense of community around you and that someone will be there every day. It can help to create and maintain close connections with people if you are finding it hard to stay in contact. And it can create a level of safety if someone is needing support but is not reaching out when they need help for whatever reason. Prior agreements can make it much easier to reach out for support. Step one: Choose seven or so people that you would like to ask if they would be up for being a supporter. You could have a think about backup people if someone doesn't have capacity to do this. Step two: Send them a message explaining the system and asking if they would like to join, here is an example: ----------------------------------------------------------- Hey there, below is a slightly vulnerable request.... ❤ I'm working on building support systems and broadening out as I have noticed whilst I have been struggling that it can be very very difficult to reach out for support (esp when I most need it) and generally hard to stay in contact with people I love. I want to ask if you would be up for having a day of the week where you intentionally contact me to see how I am, this could just be via a little text, voice message or you could call me, and the conditions are that I must respond to you on that day a bit about how I am, even if it's a small response. It might be helpful to set a reminder on your phone for that day. I also would like it if on that day you are someone I can reach out to, just knowing we have an agreement that I can text in the morning if I'm feeling a bit sad, or organise a call with you (or something like that) is nice for me and I think will make it easier for me to reach out too. I think probably I would like to try this out for a month, to see how it works. It may be that I'm still In a place where I need quite a lot of support then and it might not be, I don't know! But we can revisit it and check how it's going for everyone. If you're up for this then let me know a few days of the week that could work better for you, and if you're not (that's very ok too) then let me know so I can ask someone else.
🌿✨🌿✨🌿✨🌿✨🌿 ----------------------------------------------------------- Step three: Now that the system is set up it should mostly come to you in the form of a daily text or call or message from someone. Do also reach out, you could send a text first thing when you wake up or organise a call or to see that person. Step four: Revisit the system after an agreed amount of time, and ask if people are still willing to be involved if you still need every day support. It's possible that some people might step out due to capacity etc, this is a chance to bring in fresh support from someone else, and build more connections.
- Have someone supporting every other day.