How do I know when I need help?

14 OCT 2020

How do you know when you have crossed the line from needing to focus on some good self-care rituals to needing outside support?

When we are not feeling our best there is a thin line separating what we can do for ourselves and what may need outside counsel and support. Some of us are so focused on staying strong and quiet about our mental health that we may not understand or even notice when we have crossed that line. We are exploring the ways in which we can self-assess and figure out when it’s time to speak up and ask for help.

Checking in and assessing

According to Lifeline WA DBTeen program coordinator and provisional psychologist Emily Parker, a good place to start is assessing if your feelings are affecting your daily life. Health Direct have listed nine signs that something needs to be addressed for your mental wellbeing to be at its best: feeling stressed or worried; feeling depressed or unhappy; emotional outbursts; sleep problems; weight or appetite changes; quiet or withdrawn; substance abuse; feeling guilty or worthless; and changes in behaviour.
Remember this does not mean that you are suffering from a mental illness, but it might mean that you are not functioning as you would if you were the happiest you could be. We all feel this way from time to time but if you have been experiencing these feelings for an extended period or you are regularly/consistently feeling anxious, stressed, or sad then it may be a good time to look into more professional help.

Self-care practices

So maybe you are at the point where you have just been feeling a little more stressed or anxious than usual. The term self-care has been thrown around a lot and its meaning wrapped up in the culture of ‘treat yourself’ when really at its core it’s about you focusing on what will make you the most happy and healthy and dedicating time every day to check in with yourself and your health needs. Self-care isn’t a one size fits everyone solution but here are a few that everyone can try. The important thing to remember is not to engage in unhealthy habits, such as sleeping all day or drinking alcohol, that won’t help you feel better in the long run.

  • Spend 20 minutes in a quiet room meditating. If you are new to this try the Smiling Mind app to help guide you through this.
  • Plan a week’s worth of exciting but healthy food. The food fuels the body and can make us feel so good.
  • Tick something off your to-do list. Procrastination can be a sign of anxiety and most of the time the item/s can be ticked off quickly. Just schedule some time in your diary and prioritise getting this done. Remember to be proud of yourself afterwards.
  • Plan a relaxing activity that you will love. This can be anything if the activity brings you joy, is healthy and only includes people that make you feel great.
  • Get outdoors. The fresh air offers a jolt to our system to feel more energetic and positive. Go to the bush, to the beach or to the beautiful rivers and lakes all over WA and spend some time enjoying nature.

Needing more than self-care?
Life can sometimes be overwhelming and stressful and it’s important to recognise that there is nothing wrong with realising that we need help to cope. According to the Black Dog Institute, “One in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year”.
Lifeline WA counsellor and provisional psychologist Nynke Vlietstra compares mental health to a physical injury; if our leg was cut, we would look after the wound (self-care) and if we thought it was broken, we would seek medical advice on how to best look after it (seeking professional support). Our mental health is no different, but we understand it can be daunting to make the call and set up an appointment. Here is a short guide to what happens when you make an appointment with your GP and what you can ask . Remember your GP appointments are confidential and seeking help is not about admitting a weakness but being assertive and ensuring you are your happiest, healthiest self.  
So many times in our busy manic schedules we push our mental wellbeing to the back or our priority list but if we are able to schedule in some time every day to check in with our self and then either take steps to better look after ourselves or to seek further advice and support we can become a more happy and resilient version of ourselves.

Other self-care ideas here.

Finding support in your area:

Someone to talk to now: Call 13 11 14 for support, to have someone to talk to and keep you safe.

Written by Karen McGlynn

Image Credit: Photo by Finn on Unsplash