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I always knew I had a good support network around me, but I never realised just how fortunate I was to have these until the going got tough!

Let me take you back to September 2021. I had just returned from holidays after a very difficult work period of working long hours with little rest, life-work balance tipping in the wrong direction, approaching the burnout stage. I had been looking forward to a proper break for about a year and now my batteries were recharged, the weather was good, I was feeling optimistic about what lay ahead and started making plans for the next short break.

However, a few days later I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible pain, was admitted to hospital that night for an emergency operation to remove my appendix. All went well and I was discharged home a day later, with advice form the doctor to take it easy for a few weeks. Now, for a child post appendectomy, recovery is generally uncomplicated but for a 43-year old adult, it is not as simple as that…

I found myself feeling very tired, despite my recharged batteries post-holiday. I was stiff and sore and moving around was slow at first. It is during these unexpected times of sickness that you realize those support networks are very important. I could not have managed without my family. They took care of me, kept quiet when I needed a nap every 2 hours, made sure I felt loved and cared for. They motivated me to take short walks with them, where I walked so slowly a snail could overtake me. They did not complain about giving up their time to look after me.

My support networks extended further than my family though and included my work family. I returned to work after a week but working from home (or to be more precise, working from my bed to start with!). They took care of me there too, reassigning as much as possible and encouraging me to take adequate rest to recuperate properly. I felt valued and confident that I would not be letting my team down if I took the necessary rest to recovery.

Reflecting on this situation, which can happen to anybody at any time, I realize the importance of supportive networks to help you through those challenging times. It is not a failure to seek help and support. There is evidence to suggest that social support is essential to help maintain physical and psychological health and protect against stress. Resilient people, understand and appreciate the power of asking for support. It is not a sign of weakness to lean on support networks when needed. Thinking back over the last few months, it is my family (at home and at work) that helps me to be more resilient!

Ozbay F, Johnson DC, Dimoulas E, Morgan CA, Charney D, Southwick S. Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007;4(5):35-40.

Acknowledgment – Efi Mantzourani

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