I just returned from a long Memorial weekend in Phoenix. It was not a vacation. In fact, I need to take off the rest of this week in order to recover.
I was in Phoenix for a travel swim meet for my kids. Ms. Financial Slacker stayed home to tend to our new additions (two 11-week old labrador retriever puppies). That left me to manage the weekend without my primary support system.
As tiring as the long weekend was, it was still a great chance to spend time with my kids away from the daily challenges of being at home. I really enjoyed the experience, but I’m also glad to be back home.
Functioning Without a Support System
I have a pretty good support system in place – Ms. FS, family, friends – but this weekend stretched that system.
If you haven’t been involved with the sport of swimming, it’s probably difficult to understand what it’s all about. In this case, my two kids were swimming at different pools that were 20 minutes apart. One had preliminary swims at a pool that was 25 minutes from our hotel beginning at 7am every day. That preliminary session lasted until after noon. We then had a few hours to eat, rest, and get ready for the finals session in the evening. The finals session was at a different pool that was about 20 minutes away from the hotel and lasted from 4pm until after 7pm each day. And these are outdoor pools in near 100 degree weather. Obviously, I wasn’t swimming, but I was still exhausted. I can just imagine how tired the kids were.
And it wasn’t just kids swimming. Although the youngest was probably 6 years old, there were swimmers in their 50’s also competing. And there was a strong showing from college swimmers looking to qualify for the upcoming Olympic Trials where they will select the US Olympic team. That’s one thing that makes swimming such a fun sport. In addition to the health benefits and relatively low risk of injury, the average athletes get to swim side-by-side with potential Olympic athletes in the same meet. How often does that happen?
Not only was I feeling the stress of managing this process on my own, but as the sole contributor to this site, during that time I was in Phoenix, it was difficult to do any blogging-related activities. Prior to leaving, I did plan ahead and had a few articles already drafted that could be posted without much effort, but beyond that I didn’t have the energy to do anything more. I didn’t reply to comments consistently. I didn’t read and comment on other blogs. And it reminded me of how important it is to have a strong support system for all of us.
In addition to not having my usual personal support system with me as she was supporting another aspect of our life, I really missed not having a support network to keep this site operating at full capacity.
Benefits of a Strong Support System
It’s easy to find yourself spending all your time focusing inward. And while it is perfectly fine to be introverted and draw your strength from within, it’s also important to not completely isolate yourself.
There are a number of benefits gained by engaging a strong external support system including the following:
Improved productivity. This is probably the most obvious benefit of a strong support system. There’s only so much you can accomplish individually. The time you have available to work on any one thing is limited. Even having one additional person you can draw on to leverage your time can drastically increase your productivity. Additionally, by splitting up work among more than one, you can get more done in a shorter period of time.
Enhanced quality. They say, “two sets of eyes are better than one.” Having someone review your work, someone to ask questions, someone to bounce ideas off can improve the quality of your work. If you have worked much in groups, you have seen how brainstorming sessions done with others can often lead to many more ideas than when done alone.
Greater social interaction. Spending time with others, assuming they are supportive and have positive attitudes can improve your own sense of happiness.
Stress management. Having a support system in place can help reduce the stress of feeling like everything is on your shoulders.
Building a Strong Support System
A support system is a two-way street. Part of having another available to help you is providing support to that person when they need it.
As you go about building a support system, consider the following:
Start with your family. This is your best place to begin building your support system. If you are close to your family, you can start by discussing how you can help each other out.
Extend to include friends. Find people with common interests.
Learn to use technology. Depending on your needs, you probably shouldn’t have your entire support system be virtual as there is something to be said for actual human interaction, but the use of technology can certainly extend the reach of your support system.
What support systems do you have in place? Is the system primarily for personal support, or professional?