5 September 2012

Talk it through and feel supported

By Chloe Liong Siau Wui

We often comfort and support friends or family members in times of need, but do you ever think of asking for help when you are faced with a dilemma or indecision? Perhaps the thought crossed your mind but you hesitated, thinking you could settle the situation by yourself. Instead you end up in a mess.

How could this happen? Well, pride could be one of the contributors. Human beings are, by nature, problem solvers but this is not true at all times. There are instances when stress gets too much to bear and we wishfully hope that someone will take it off our shoulders. Nonetheless we have too much pride to let others help, and perceive asking for help as an act of weakness. It would also be shameful if others knew about the situation we are in, we tell ourselves.

We may not be aware of it but it actually takes more courage to ask for help. It takes inner strength to acknowledge that an issue needs to be resolved. A person needs to have good insight to proactively and sensibly deal with the matter before the negative impacts hit one’s physical and emotional wellbeing. So, seeking help is not a sign of weakness.

At times it is our own fear that stops us from getting help – specifically, the fear of stepping out of our comfort zone. In our comfort zone we are in control and we know what to do. We are afraid to get help because we fear the loss of power and control over the situation. The uncertainties that lay ahead make us uneasy.

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone does not have to be a terrible experience.  As self-help and motivation speaker Brian Tracy said, “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Although we might not know what the outcome may be, be prepared because you won’t regret the new experience.

Not trusting the people around us may also be a barrier. We are not sure if they can help resolve our problem, or trust them to keep our little secret. We don’t feel comfortable talking to someone who has a different background, and tell ourselves that they don’t understand our feelings, concerns or needs. Moreover, the thinking that others might not know the situation makes us worry if they can provide the help we seek.

Despite all these reasons it could be in your best interest to ask for help. Lookers-on see more than the players. Friends and family members who are not involved in your issue are able to see things objectively and so are able to guide you to resolving it.  However, although they are great support systems, sometimes the dual relationship of being a helper and friend does not help. If talking to them does not seem to bring any change you might need professional help, especially from a trained counsellor.

Time with a counsellor is all about you. A counsellor can offer you impartial, unbiased insight and support that will help you speak more openly about your situation and remove any fears about being judged.  Your issues are resolved based on your best interest.
Although ups and downs are an expected part of life, sometimes life can throw us off balance. If we don’t think twice about going to the doctor to treat a bad cough, we should consider the same approach with our emotional and mental health.

Here are some tips on when to seek help:

  • When your emotions are getting out of control – you are easily moody or angry, or start crying for no clear reason.
  • When you feel lonely, sad or hopeless most of the time.
  • When you worry a lot.
  • When you are not performing well in your life – academic grades are dropping; working late for work or appointments; sleeping more than usual.
  • When you lose appetite or eat more than usual, lose weight drastically or gain pounds significantly.
  • When you feel bored most of the time, lack of interest and motivation in life.
  • When you lose interest in being with friends.
  • When you are thinking of using alcohol or drugs to feel better.
  • When you are thinking of hurting yourself, or suicidal.

So talk it through, and get the support you need.

Chloe Liong Siau Wui is a Student Counsellor with the Student Operations Unit at Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus. She is contactable at swliong@swinburne.edu.my