Why Is Instrumental Support Important for You?
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Written by: Sabrina Sourjah
Date Updated: 6/18/2021
Reviewed by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
Most of us take on too many tasks at work and home, sometimes even volunteering our time at the soup kitchen or babysitting a friend’s baby. As a result, we’re consistently exhausted.
How we wish someone would take on one of our tasks at work or load the dishwasher at home for a change. Or someone would at least appreciate the load that we are perpetually carrying.
When we’re going through loss and grief, it becomes really hard to function and take care of our basic needs. We don’t feel like cooking or walking the dog because our sadness is too much to bear.
What Is Instrumental Support?
Instrumental support includes all tangible forms of help that we receive from others. This can be a voluntary service or product that makes a tangible difference in our lives and eases some of our burdens.
Instrumental Support vs. Emotional Support
While instrumental support is all about helping others in tangible ways, emotional support is when one acknowledges our struggles with empathy. In emotional support, you feel heard and supported, and your emotions are validated.
Examples of Instrumental Support
- Running an errand for someone
- Providing a transportation method
- Shopping groceries for an older person
- Lending someone financial support when needed
- Cooking for someone who’s sick
- Mowing the lawn for a disabled neighbor
- Helping your partner cook
- Staying back to help a host clean up after a party
- Finding someone a job
- Helping an older person cross the street
- Covering work for a co-worker
How Instrumental Support Can Help You
1. Overall Health
Instrumental support at a trying time can reduce stress for the recipient. As stress is connected to diseases in respiration, central nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, digestion, muscles, reproductive system, and immunity, it’s advisable to keep stress at a minimum.
2. Surgery Outcomes
One of the instances that we need instrumental support the most is after surgery. For example, it may not be possible to cook for yourself or take care of your personal hygiene if you have surgical wounds. Instrumental support can help you take care of your basic needs during postoperative recovery.
3. Mental Health
Although some assume that instrumental support is tangible and therefore void of emotion, research confirms that the meaning of instrumental support can be emotional to the recipient when the providers are family and friends. This means that there is a positive impact on one’s mental well-being when receiving instrumental support.
A study showed that when the elderly (67 years or older in this study) received and provided instrumental support, their life expectancy was prolonged. When the elderly receives instrumental support, they don’t expose themselves to unnecessary health risks.
On the other hand, when the elderly provide instrumental support, they feel like they have a purpose in life — a challenge for many older people as research confirms that there is a general decline in the sense of purpose after late adolescence.
5. Life Satisfaction
When we get instrumental support in life, we feel like we’re not alone and that we have a strong support system to fall back on. This helps us face challenges with gratitude and optimism.
Research has found that when one provides instrumental support to others and pairs it with emotional support, the provider witnesses improved overall well-being. This is because when we do simple things that others appreciate, we feel good about ourselves.
How do we get the instrumental support we need? Perhaps we can start by providing instrumental support to others in any way we can, and then others will reciprocate.
If you’re not clear on how to provide support, you can also reach out to your loved ones and ask them what type of tangible help they need.