Finding Support in Challenging Times

It is Ok Not to be Ok

“Hey, how are you?” This is a pretty common and seemingly innocuous greeting.  However, often, we are not really listening to the answer. Generally, we expect the answer to be “fine thanks, how are you?”. This conversation is not usually for the purpose of finding out someone’s actual emotional state, and doesn’t even leave time for a larger conversation. We do this almost automatically, which poses a significant problem. When we ask someone how they are, but don’t listen to the answer, we become accustomed to not providing or taking time to support each other. 

Picture this: you ask someone how they are in passing, and they respond “Actually I’m doing terribly”. What emotion does this bring up for you? Anxiety? Fear? Can you picture yourself saying this? Likely not. Most of us do not know how we would respond in this scenario because it so rarely happens this way. 

Support is crucial to getting through challenging times, and not being able to express how we are doing can lead to further mental health problems. Reaching out for help is hard, and not everyone feels capable or ready to do that when they need help. If we are not really listening when we ask people how they are doing, we are perpetuating a dangerous cycle.

We, as humans, often assume that to be happy is to be content with life 100% of the time. This is not true, nor should it be. Emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, and disappointment are normal parts of the human experience, and healthy expressions of emotion. When we are “not ok”, often we are just experiencing what is in the realm of normal emotional range. 

So why is it so hard to let others know we need support?

Sometimes it comes from not feeling emotionally safe or secure in a relationship. With a person we don’t know well, or who has proven to not be supportive or trustworthy, keeping your emotional experience closed off is a means of self-protection. The key is not to let everyone know exactly how you are feeling all of the time, the key is to know who is an emotionally safe person. 

Another reason for not expressing how we truly are has to do with not wanting to burden others. Sometimes we feel that venting to someone will cause them to experience negative emotions or feel weighed down. This is not necessarily true. However, this is where professionals come in. If you don’t feel comfortable expressing your emotions to a friend, reach out to a therapist or other mental health support.

Here are some ways to reach out for support:

  1. Tell someone you trust that you are struggling. It can help to know what kind of support you need, whether it just be a listening ear, advice, or a distraction. Having people in your life that you trust can make a big difference, and if you ask for help, others may ask you for help in the future. 
  2. Ask for a referral to a therapist. If you know of someone who sees a therapist, they may be able to help point you in the right direction. Also, acknowledging that you are struggling can help others to be more comfortable with this idea as well.
  3. Seek out a support group. There are a plethora of support communities both online and in person. Not only are these groups often tailored to fit specific needs, they can help you feel validated, less alone, and may even be able to recommend an individual therapist. 

Knowing where mental health supports are can be a huge part of allowing ourselves to truly be not ok sometimes. Expecting yourself to just be fine and content all the time is not only unrealistic, but can be damaging. Normalize listening when you ask someone how they are, and normalize being honest when they return the question.  

If you feel that you may need more support, please contact us here or call (217) 203-2008 to schedule an appointment.