September in the UK traditionally marks beginnings and endings. The start of a new school year, the end of the summer. The end of the growing season and the start of harvesting and storing food for the winter ahead. Unfortunately not the start of a new series of Doctor Who this year, but we can’t have everything.
While beginnings and endings like these are part of a historical and shared experience, we also go through beginnings and endings which are more personal. While it may be easy to share joyful beginnings and endings with our social groups – marriages, graduations, moving home – it can be much harder to reach out when times are tough. A ending such as the death of a loved one, or a beginning associated with starting over after leaving a bad relationship, are times in which we most need support but can find ourselves most unable to access it.
Often the biggest hurdles to getting support are both finding a support networkand being able to actually ask for help from the people in it. What might hold you back from seeking support? Do you fear what people will think about you if you ask for help? Have you had bad experiences in the past of needing help? Do you believe you can, must and should do things alone? Are you scared by vulnerability?
Part of the process of going through a beginning or an ending is the change associated in our identity. For example, when you have left school you are no longer a student (and some might be very glad of that!) and you might then be an employee (or similar) instead. Some changes to our identity can be much harder to get used to and process – for example, the ending of a marriage and transition from being a spouse to being single. These changes in identity can be very difficult indeed if the change was sudden, unexpected or unwanted – for example, a bereavement.
How many different ways might you describe your identity? Mother? Brother? Friend? Employee? Retiree? Sportsperson? Artist? Volunteer? How might these identities begin and end, and how will you manage the transition and new identities? What changes are welcome, and which are not? How will you acknowledge and enjoy the good while managing the bad?
What beginnings and endings are happening for you right now?
Circles of Influence and Concern comes from Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989).
It can be very useful if you are worrying about several different things, or one big thing which has lots of different factors.
A Circle of Concern contains all the things which have an impact on us and which we worry about. These can be anything on your mind, from big to small. These might include the weather, the economy, work, family worries… Some we can do something about, some we cannot.
A Circle of Influence sits inside the Circle of Concern and contains the things we are worried about, but which we can do something to change. Hence sometimes it is called the “Circle of Control”.
You can start by just drawing your Circle of Concern and dumping everything inside. Then add your Circle of Influence and start moving things into it – those you have some influence over. You can do the whole exercise with pens on a big sheet of paper or you might like to use sticky notes to make it easier to move things around.
By focussing on your Circle of Influence, you can begin to be more active in making things better. Identifying areas where you can do something is the first step in planning what your actions will be. This exercise might also help you to accept that there are some things you cannot change right now.
You might feel more empowered and even discover your Circle of Influence grows bigger as you feel able to take on more challenges. If you only look at your Circle of Concern, you could end up feeling powerless and demotivated instead.
Here and here are examples of how the exercise works. You can use the provided template or draw your own. You need not restrict yourself to drawing on paper, either – feel free to experiment with small objects, craft materials, sand… It’s yours!
Support networks can be very valuable in helping us get through problems – but what do we mean by “support networks”?
Humans are a social species, we all need some degree of human interaction in order to be well physically, mentally and emotionally. A support network is made up of the people around you who offer you time, energy, care and practical or emotional help when you need it. These people might be family, friends, coworkers, members of hobby groups or even therapy group members.
It can be difficult to know where to begin to build a support network if you feel you don’t have one. Theselinks give some tips on how to build and maintain support networks.
If you are a member of someone’s support network, it can be hard to know how to offer and accept support with in it. The network is likely to end up as more of a “web”, with relationships criss-crossing all over.
I like the “Ring Theory“, which is a model of the directions in which to offer an accept support. The idea is that the person going through the problem is in the middle with concentric rings around them. The closer someone is to the person, emotionally, the further in they would be in the rings. For example, family members and friends are likely to be on an inner ring but coworkers are more likely to be on an outer ring.
The mantra is “comfort in, dump out”. Offer comfort and support to people on a ring which is further in than yours. Seek comfort and support in doing that from people who are on a ring which is further out. It will be easier for people further removed from the problem or situation to help care for you.
You might be part of several different groups in different ring positions, as well as being the centre of a ring yourself. This is where it is important to remember selfcare.