I’m not a mental health expert. I haven’t had any medical or professional training, and personally, I have experienced with undiagnosed stress and minor anxiety. So I’ve never really ventured into deep mental health discussions. Despite my recently-discovered interested in understanding how the mind works, I’ve always felt that talking about mental health was outside my area of expertise. And nothing has changed, really. But as I’m writing a book about quitting distracted living, I feel it’s only fair to touch on the subject. And what I AM going to say is that us women need to get better at asking for help. Because we seem to find it SO hard (and I’m putting myself in the same group here). So why do we resist asking for help, even when we’re struggling?
Is asking for help a sign of weakness?
It seems that women, in particular, feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Is making things easier for ourselves ‘cheating’. It looks like society (social media?) seems to condition us to think that we should be able to do it all. And by ourselves. Women are praised for their ability to successfully multitask and to keep going when we feel under the weather, for example. Traditionally, we are the ones whose role is to raise families, manage homes and hold down successful jobs and careers.
Subconsciously or otherwise, we all seem to buy into this ‘super mum myth’ that leads us to believe that if we put our hand up and admit we’re struggling, we become weak and inadequate. If we say out loud that we’re finding it all a bit too hard and we’d welcome a bit of help, we end up looking like we’re ‘giving up’, ‘throwing the towel in’ or failing as mothers, partners, and women.
But this isn’t true though, is it?
Because, for starters, multitasking is the ultimate myth. It doesn’t work, and it’s not great for our brains and our productivity. And pushing yourself over and over again both mentally and physically ultimately leads to break down and burn out. And no one wants or needs that. Our families and children won’t thank us for running ourselves into the ground. If you’re interested in exploring these topics a little further, I can recommend the books The Supermum Myth by Anya Hayes and The One Thing by Gary Keller. Or listen to my podcast interview with Lisa York, host of the SuperMum podcast.
So I think can we agree to put the martyr mentality aside for a moment. Because we don’t really believe in it, do we? Then we can get over this ask-for-help stigma, and agree to ask for help when we need to. Deal?
But how do we know when it’s time to ask for help?
When I talk about help here, I’m not just talking about asking a relative or a friend to babysit your children for a few hours here and there. I’m also talking about asking for professional help, if we think we need it. As hard as it may be to spot the sign or admit we may be struggling, if we have even a small inkling or doubt that something may need attention, I hope we all know that we have an option to see our GPs as a first point of call.
The truth is that we can’t and shouldn’t do everything by ourselves. Sometimes asking for help isn’t just the best or quickest way to deal with a situation (and perhaps even resolve it once and for all). In some cases asking for professional help could be the only right (and safest) thing to do. There are things we can’t process or deal with on our own, so please, if you take anything away from this, let it be that we have permission to ask for help.
We have permission to ask for help.
We deserve to ask for help in order to get ourselves better. I know that when I experienced stress back in 2016 I didn’t even allow myself to think or accept that the symptoms I was experiencing were linked to stress. I thought stress just wasn’t for ‘someone like me’ (I didn’t have a job that was high-profile enough, in my mind, to ‘qualify’ for feeling stressed). It took me a while (and it took breaking my leg) to really see what was going on.
I didn’t know I needed to ask for help.
I didn’t know where to ask for help.
Or that help was even available…
Asking for professional help – what are the options?
Thankfully help IS available. So let’s explore some of the options we have if we decide it’s time to ask for professional help.
Therapy or counseling
Therapy, also referred to as psychotherapy or counseling can come in handy if you’re looking to change any particular behaviours or resolve specific feelings or relationships that affect your present but are rooted in your past. When working with a therapist, either individually or in a group, you’ll be expected to share your feeling and experiences and take specific steps designed to help you accomplish a particular goal.
An example of therapy that proves successful and is fully backed up by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) is CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT is a form of ‘talking therapy’ and can help address a huge range of emotional and physical conditions by helping us look at the way we think about a situation and understand how this way of thinking affects the way we behave. This approach is based on the principle that our actions affect the way we think and feel, so if we can reframe our thoughts and feelings, and see things differently and from a different perspective, we can slowly start to change our behaviours and, in turns, our thoughts and feelings.
I know of people who successfully used CBT for a range of different scenarios, including post-natal depression and anxiety (PND and PNA), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) triggered by a traumatic event in someone’s life, illness and health issues and concerns, bereavement, phobias, eating disorders, and self-confidence and self-esteem issues. CBT is proven to help with a whole range of other conditions too though, including chronic fatigue or pain, sleep difficulties, anger management and many more.
If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know I’ve shared a few interviews with Life Coaches to help me understand what coaching is all about. But what I’ll say here is that your working relationship with a coach will focus on helping you move forward from where you are now with the intent of reaching a specific future goal or objective. Coaching is different from therapy or counseling in that it doesn’t necessarily have a focus on your past. Your coach’s role isn’t to help you unearth and uncover facts from the past that may have affected the way you feel or behave, for example.
So if you feel you have unresolved feelings or situations from your past that you need professional help to unravel and process, you may choose to combine coaching with therapy or counseling, if you feel that’s the right path for you.
Foundations and charities
If you’re affected by a particular cause or issue, you can also look for a foundation or charity to get involved with. These organisations are often non-profit and support people by providing direct help, raising awareness and sharing useful information. They’re also a great way to meet and connect with other like-minded people who may be going through similar experiences. Or they may just be further ahead in their journey and could offer you helpful insight.
Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs)
Complementary and alternative medicines and treatments (known as CAMs) are those that fall outside of mainstream healthcare. The practices that are referred to as ‘complementary’ are those that can be used in conjunction with traditional medicine. So, for example, you could be having IVF and using acupuncture as a type of complementary therapy to help you increase your chances to conceive. ‘Alternative’ treatments are the ones that are used instead of a traditional approach. So, for example, you could decide to cure a chesty cough with homeopathic remedies instead of taking antibiotics. The outcome and speed of recovery may be different, but so is the impact and effect of the products used on your body.
CAMs include practices like acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology, meditation, reiki, traditional Chinese medicine, massage therapy, tai chi, etc. Whether you decide to resort to any of these practices will depend on your individual circumstances. It will also depend on the issues you’re trying to address. But ultimately these are options that are available to you. Of course, before you start any treatment, you should be fully informed about any pro’s and con’s. And you should also ensure you are working with a qualified practitioner (more on that later).
Group courses and classes
If you’re looking to make some changes to your lifestyle, a specific course or class may be just the thing. So you could sign up to a local gym or start a new pilates or yoga class, for example. Or you could take a mindfulness course either in person or online. The possibilities are really endless when it comes to learning a new skill. You can find courses or classes on pretty much anything that takes your fancy. Plus, if you’re looking for support and accountability a group course or class could be perfect for that. Whatever you’re interested in learning or doing, you will find an expert for it.
Working one-to-one with a specialist
Taking group courses or classes is perfect if you want to meet and interact with other people. But if you can, you also have an option to work individually with a professional. Whether it’s a nutritionist, a personal trainer, a running coach, a chiropractor, a hypnotherapist, or anything in between, just be clear about what you want to achieve. Finding the right person could be just one click away.
If you decide to work with a professional of any kind, you should always do your due diligence. You should thoroughly check people’s credentials and qualifications before you sign any contracts. And before you hand over your hard-earned cash. The last thing you want to do is to put your mental and physical health on the line! This is true for any professional, whether you’re working with them face-to-face or remotely and in the online space. Whenever you can, ask for recommendations from people you know and trust. And don’t base your decisions just on price – make sure you check testimonials and case studies.
In some cases (especially if you’re looking for medical help) checking qualification should be a must. With other types of professionals however, you may just want reassurance and social proof that the person you’re about to work with has the right experience and skills to help you achieve your objectives. This is particularly true in the case of coaches. Not all coaches will have taken specific courses to qualify. But they may still have the relevant professional experience you are looking for. Whatever you do, you should go into the working relationship knowing what the other person can and can’t help you with. At the end of the day, you need to be sure that the specialist you’ve chosen can safely guide you through the transformation you’re looking to achieve.
Over to you – have you worked with any of these professionals? Would you be open to if you found yourself in need of some help?
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