**Asking for Help – Do You Know How? Barriers? Who Can Help? Helping Others**
As a follow on from our topics of Connection, Resilience and Self-Care this week we focus on the topic of Help. Asking for help or giving help can help to build our connections with others, it can also help us to stay more resilient and be a form of self-care.
Working in Health and Social Care, many of us would rather give help than receive it! Reaching out for help of any kind, while it may seem simple, isn’t always easy. Asking for help can be really hard, especially if you feel stressed or confused – we look at seeking help if you are struggling with your mental health later in this piece.
The Benefits of Asking for Help
Getting the support you need during tough times can help you get through the situation, give you strategies to deal with the situation and can provide some different perspectives. The benefits of asking for and accepting help (whether that is practical help or something that supports your mental health or emotional wellbeing) include:
- Feeling less stressed
- Relief about sharing your thoughts/feelings
- Finding strategies and ways to cope
- Gaining some perspective
- Reducing your sense of loneliness and isolation
- Building stronger relationships and connections with family, friends, colleagues and your community
- Prevent problems getting bigger
- Can learn to help others
We all go through tough times and sometimes can’t solve problems by ourselves. It is courageous to recognise and ask for help if you need it for any sort of problem. Think of some of the most talented and successful people that society celebrates – when receiving awards the common factor in their speeches is to acknowledge all the people that helped them. Start to accept that everyone needs help.
Listening as a form of help
Helping people is not always about solving problems but having someone that listens, understands, someone who gets what’s it like for us as this can reduce our stress levels considerably. Having someone who truly listens to hear our story, is so key for us all.
Barriers to asking
Many of us find it difficult or impossible to ask for help – this typically applies more to males than females but not always. Asking for help is not something we are taught how to do properly. If you have asked for help in the past and done it badly eg by using guilt, coercion or solicited pity when really all that that we wanted was assistance and this backfired on you.
Maybe you asked the wrong person to help us or have memories of feeling humiliated when you asked for help and you don’t want that to happen again.
Just as with any skill, ‘asking for help’ gets easier the more you practice it. Being able to identify your needs and act accordingly are essential skills for being successful. The most common barriers are often:
- Thinking a problem will go away by itself
- Being embarrassed or afraid to ask for help
- Thinking you should be able to cope without help
- Thinking no one wants to help or will understand
- Thinking things aren’t bad enough to seek help
- Not knowing where to find help
- Lack of support services nearby
- Thinking you’ll be judged
- Thinking help is too expensive/time consuming
- Fear – losing control, getting more help than we need or the wrong type of help, letting your guard down, being vulnerable, getting hurt or rejected, having to reciprocate – what’s the price you’ll have to pay, it could be used against you
- Dislike of feeling indebted, shifting the power balance in a relationship
- A belief that:
- I don’t have trouble asking for help
- I don’t need help
- I should do this
- I don’t want to bother anyone
- Asking for help makes me look weak, lazy, incapable, selfish, stupid, deficient
- It won’t be done right
The Illusion of Transparency
We have a cognitive bias that social psychologists call the illusion of transparency, or the mistaken belief that our feelings, thoughts, and needs are obvious to other people. Too often, we wait for someone to notice our telepathic plea for help and inevitably get frustrated when no one does.
How we can reframe asking for help
- View it as a sign of strength and good judgment.
- Asking for help is modelling good behaviour for our children, communities and society.
- Most healthy individuals want to help and need to help and derive pleasure from it. It gives them a sense of accomplishment, pride, respect, appreciation and goodwill.
- It can make life easier for you and your family, and in the long run give you more reserves and opportunities to help others.
- Your friends, family and colleagues want the opportunity to support you. They may feel helpless watching you struggle. Be generous and give them the opportunity to help you.
- What are you gaining from taking on all of the work, worry or burden? Being strong, capable and in control of some aspects of your life doesn’t define you.
- A job done is still a job completed. Sometimes we need to accept good enough.
- Not asking for help, or asking too late, can turn a manageable situation into something more serious, which ultimately may require more care, and therefore more time.
- Not asking for help or asking too late can affect not just your health and wellbeing, but also that of your family.
Tips on how to ask for help
Accept: This is perhaps the most difficult but most important step. Acknowledge the need for assistance is important, but equally important is the willingness to accept help. Being able to freely ask for help requires accepting limitations and believing that you are truly deserving of the help.
Assess: Take the time to think through exactly what you need. This allows you to think about what is ‘most important’ and help shape your request. Most people will be willing to help when you ask. Help them by being specific on how they can help. Be straightforward. Ask in specific terms, but do not micromanage.
Ask!: Take action and make the request in person face to face or via the phone using the actual words ‘Can you help me?’. Studies show that this more personable approach achieves much more success compared to emails or texts which can appear more transactional.
Again: As with any skill, it requires practice. So, if it helped, do it again! A nice final touch would not only be to thank the person, but also to share about how much he/she has helped.
Be resourceful - Consider who may be able to help you (even those who might say no).
Be courteous - Asking nicely goes a long way. Most people are willing to help with both big and small tasks. Whether they agree to help you or not, always thank them.
Be specific - Most people are willing to help, they just need a steer on knowing ‘how to help’. Being specific allows for best results. It helps others understand how they can best help you. You are in the position of knowing what you need. Others can’t read your mind.
Be concise and clear – In asking for or offering help, clear communication is vital. There is no need to give a backstory. Just describe what help you need, why it matters, and how the person you’re asking can contribute. In this way the person knows exactly what it is they will need to do and can accurately judge how much time and energy the task will take.
Don’t apologize –apologising implies that by asking for help you are not doing something wrong. We all need help at some time or another. The person who can help would much rather feel happy or excited about helping you. By apologising or by downplaying your need this casts ‘the ask’ in a negative or trivial light and may rob the helper from the joy they would feel by helping you.
Be flexible - Your plan of how others can help may not be the only one. If different ways to help are suggested, take time to consider these.
Consider timing - Give people as much notice as possible if you need help and make your request at a sensible and thoughtful time.
Be grateful - Most important for completing the cycle of “asking” is to say “thank you.” This recognizes another’s contribution and strengthens the relationship (just in case help is needed again).
Follow up with results – as well as expressing gratitude, if you can follow up with the person that helped you to let them know the outcome and results achieved because of your help this will increase their wellbeing. As much as we’d like to think that acts of generosity are their own reward, the reality is that everyone longs to feel effective. We want to feel that the work we do and the help we give matters and makes a difference.
Using these steps and reminders will enable you to engage individuals and a variety of available resources which can impact on many aspects of your health and wellbeing including your mental health care, financial health, physical health, emotional health, your spiritual wellbeing and in your relationships within the workplace, at home and in your community.
Click on the link to watch this Ted Talk 'Ask and you will Achieve' | Denise Fay | TEDxDrogheda.
Denise took a 31-day "asking for help" challenge, find out what she learned.
Click on the link to watch this Ted Talk 'How to ask for help and get a 'yes'' | Heidi Grant | Social Psychologist
Asking for help is tough. But to get through life, you have to do it all the time. So how do you get comfortable asking? Social psychologist Heidi Grant shares four simple rules for asking for help and getting it -- while making the process more rewarding for your helper, too.
Asking for help when you are facing difficulties with your mental health
We all know that someone with a broken bone or the flu doesn’t usually hesitate to call their doctor, but why is it so hard to ask for help? With mental health, this process is a little more complicated.
First, mental health problems still have a strong stigma attached to them. People may fear they will be labeled “crazy” if they see a mental health professional, and may worry it could impact on their livelihood or reputation if anyone found out.
Sometimes people believe they are inadequate or a failure if they have to admit something is ‘wrong’ with their mental health. As a result of this stigma societally and on a more personal level, many people don’t seek out the help that will support them to feel better.
During the Coronavirus pandemic many of us have had to juggle our already busy lives to adapt and many have experienced additional worry and anxiety about loves ones. Now more than ever we need to recognise that we can’t do it all and that simply asking for a little help could support us to feel good and function well.
When to Seek Help
People seek out help for a number of reasons, and you don’t need to wait until there’s a crisis to get support. It could be a little nagging feeling in the back of your mind when weighing a big decision, struggling with a relationship, noticing you feel more worried lately, feeling unhappy with your job, or even wanting to grow as person. Sometimes the signs are obvious but at other times, something may feel slightly off and you can’t figure out what it is.
You may consider seeking help from others if you're:
- worrying more than usual
- finding it hard to enjoy your life
- having thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with, which have an impact on your day-to-day life
- interested in support or treatment.
- The wide selection of self-help books that available through the ‘Read Yourself Well’ scheme
- Self-help toolkits. The newly launched Mental Health Hub has an extensive range of resources and tools and is available from: https://covidwellbeingni.info/Self-help-toolkit.html
How to Ask For Help
Actually reaching out for help is a big step, and one that shows not weakness, but significant courage. Though it may seem overwhelming at first, when you’re ready, the good news is there are a lot of supports available including trusted friends and family members, your GP, community wellbeing programmes, counselling services and helplines.
Learn more about supports available to you including:
When in Crisis
If you’re in a crisis situation and have thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself or others, take action right away:
If you can talk to a trusted friend or family member
- Call Lifeline free on 0808 808 8000 – 24 hours a day 7 days a week
- Visit your GP or nearest Emergency Dept. or call Emergency Services.
- Your safety is the number one priority.
- The Samaritans Tel: 116 123 or download their new self-help app
While not every moment of our lives can be happy, we all deserve to feel like there’s somewhere to go when we need help, whether with the small things or the big curveballs life sometimes throws at us. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional mental health support, and know it’s a courageous decision to make for yourself.
The newly launched COVID Information Hub provides information and practical guidance and sources of support if you are helping someone else who has mental health concerns.
The Recovery College
‘Seeking help’. Ann and Lisa discuss how self-awareness and education is central to knowing what support we might need and where to find it. They talk about why it might be difficult to ask for help, how to overcome this and the benefits of reaching out. You can view this video here or
Remember that not asking for help, or asking too late, can turn a manageable situation into something more serious…