Being better at offering and accepting help

30 SEP 2020

“As humans we are not supposed to be perfect, as people we are not supposed to succeed independently of others and, as intelligent beings, we should be better at accepting help and asking for it when it’s needed.”

Lifeline WA wants to see our communities supporting each other which means we need to become more comfortable accepting help.

In a world where people are constantly putting their most proud moments, accomplishments, and happiest times on social media, it makes sense that many people are feeling pressured to be ‘living their best life’. But if we always strive to mirror the cookie-cutter lifestyle presented on media platforms then we leave very little time to check in with ourselves. We are focused on the inaccurate notion that someone else is doing everything right and we should too, so we are feeling the pressure to do better and go it alone.

Asking for help is a strength
It is important that we readjust our expectations and know that a photo and a short caption does not sum up a life. It is a very small, edited fragment that should not be put up on a pedestal. Think about how much of your life would be better, how much stronger you would be and how much happier you would feel if you did not try to do everything yourself and then beat yourself up when you failed. Asking for help means you have intelligently assessed your limits and identified what cannot be done. If you need more convincing you should check out Michele O’ Sullivan’s TED Talk. In this video Michele reminds us that we are all a part of each other’s support systems and that there is strength in asking for help, not weakness.
Why should you not feel guilt for accepting help from a friend?
Simply because we are human. We may be able to survive by trying to go it alone, but we all want to thrive. As our load increases and decreases in ebbs and flows we should feel comfortable accepting help from others, knowing that we can return the favour when we are in a better position. If it makes you feel better, imagine how you feel when you can take care of a loved one by helping them in some way.
Some tips from Lifeline WA’s DBTeen Program Coordinator and Provisional Psychologist Emily on accepting help are:

  • Try not to judge yourself, your thoughts, or emotions, simply let them be
  • Do not make assumptions about what the person giving help is thinking about you
  • Keep an open mind, welcome suggestions and offers of shared activities 

Offering help made easier
Human beings love to help others, but it seems we have rehearsed the ‘I am fine’ line to the point that it’s a knee-jerk reaction when someone offers their help. How do we get our loved ones to accept? Emily says, that some people may feel like they are burdening others by asking for help, particularly in the current pandemic, but friends and family are people that we can rely on in times of distress as they know us best. Here are some tips that can making asking them easier:

  • When aiding someone, firstly validate their struggles, then offer support. It could look something like “I have noticed that you're finding it difficult to get to the shops each week, it can be stressful going to the shops now. Would it be useful if I took your shopping list and dropped some things off?”
  • When someone is stressed or anxious it is also important to validate what they are experiencing. If you are with the person, it could help to practice some breathing techniques or use other self-soothing strategies to bring down their level of distress. Encouraging someone to engage in self care and following up with them about it is also a great way to help. 

How do you know when you need to ask for help?
Sometimes it is not always obvious where the line is between coping, hanging in there and struggling so Emily has some great signs to look out for to determine that line:

  • When you feel overwhelmed 
  • If you notice yourself getting annoyed or frustrated by things you usually would not 
  • If your day-to-day life is being impacted e.g. tasks not getting done, finding it difficult to get out of bed
  • If you notice yourself withdrawing or wanting to be alone a lot of the time 

There are situations when friends helping us is not the support we truly need, or we may see a loved one struggling and are not sure how to help them. In these cases, you can always call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for advice, support, and a direction so that you and your loved ones can remain safe.

Written by Karen McGlynn

Image Credit: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash