November 27, 2013
This might sound simplistic, but seeking help is vital to your health and wellbeing. Seeking help is the foundation of effective mental health care. As you can imagine, there are two sides to this relationship, the person looking for help, and the person giving support. Our listener community knows that when you support someone and help him or her feel better, you also feel better. It’s that sense of meaningful satisfaction and altruism, like a huge pile of warm fuzzies climbed into your arms.
For the one helping, it's easy to talk about the good feelings that come from helping out, but what about the person who is seeking help? When you’re struggling, is seeking help itself something that can make you feel better?
The short answer - yes. For many people, seeking help is intimidating, scary, or just plain awkward. Put yourself in the shoes of someone looking for help, and imagine the inner dialogue below. Following each statement is a practical tip for making the help seeking process easier, while making you feel better at the same time.
Overcoming Fear & Insecurity
You think, “How can I seek help?”
Me? Seek help? There’s a lot of courage required to overcome stigmas and stereotypes. Instead of thinking about “how can I” do it, turn the question around and remove the burden from yourself. Asking for help is really just a matter of saying “Can I talk to you for a few minutes?” Already, the doors have opened and you have the other person’s attention.
Overcoming Inadequacy & Helplessness
You say to yourself, “If I cannot help myself, how can anyone else?”
We all desire to be the masters of our own lives. But we often forget that being responsible for our own lives also means being responsible for our wellbeing. By seeking help, we help ourselves and get the ball rolling. So really, you already are helping yourself just by asking for help. Confused? Don’t be. The key insight here is that we already know how to help ourselves, and many times it’s a matter of reaching out to someone else for validation and exposure. Don’t be so hard on yourself; you can and will help yourself.
Overcoming Doubt & Disqualification
You wonder, “What if I get the wrong help?”
Every outreach is a step in the right direction. It’s not a matter of right and wrong help; the more help you receive, the more options you have from which to choose. Variety is the spice of life, and you might try several things before learning what helps the most. Listen to every suggestion, try several, and then decide what’s best for you. You’ll know what that is when you start feeling better.
Overcoming Judgment Woes
You question, “What will others think of me?”
If we admit to owning our problems, then we also own the responsibility to try and fix them. Some people around us may be judgmental, but we are helping ourselves here, not trying to appease or impress others. Additionally, mental health issues are often private, requiring sensitivity and compassion. Make clear your boundaries when seeking help, and a respectful helper will not cross them.
Overcoming Insecurity & Unnecessary Comparisons
You debate, “Is my problem is too trivial or stupid to ask?”
If it is a problem, it is not trivial or stupid. Problems need solutions not labels. We need to focus on the roadblocks and inhibitions and work on getting them out of the way. Sometime we think our issues are unique to us, but they can be quite common. Many people suffer from loneliness, sadness, and low-periods. The ways to address them are also common, by reaching out, sharing experiences, and seeking support.
A good way to embrace help seeking is to think of it as a way of coping instead of as something that evokes a stigma or stereotype. When we shift our attention from the problem to finding the solution, we decrease our stress levels and start on the path to feeling better. Talking, sharing, and reaching out is the best help we can give to ourselves.