When you’re overwhelmed or at your wits’ end, do you ask for help? So many of us wind up suffering in silence while help is just a request away.
Resisting reaching out
Whether it’s for extra child-minding or assistance with a work project, many of us find it difficult to find the courage to ask for the support we need.
Why? “The last thing many of us want to do is to make a request for help,” says naturopathic doctor and reiki master, Caroline Meyer. “Rather than risk exposing ourselves, we work doubly hard to hide the gaps—our needs … Most of us even go so far as to refuse assistance when it’s offered to us.”
Meyer explains that many of us are reared into the belief that requesting help is a sign of weakness. “We are led to believe that highly successful people are just more capable of taking action on their own.”
Help and health
“Feeling overwhelmed and lost, needing help yet not asking for it, is extremely stressful,” explains Meyer. “And unchecked chronic stress has myriad negative health outcomes.” Luckily, she says, “Asking for help comes with profound relief, which can in turn reduce stress levels significantly.”
The inverse is also true. “Each of us knows how good it feels to provide help to others,” Meyer points out. “By not asking for help, you deprive those around you of the opportunity to have this experience of generosity. By asking, you can actually improve the health of other people in your social circle and larger community too!”
How to ask
Like mindfulness and gratitude, asking for help is a practice. A solid place when beginning to ask for help, Meyer says, is to start with smaller requests—something less pivotal, less front and center. As well, it might be easier to “first ask the people whom you trust the most.”
That said, practicing “asking a wider group of people, making your request more public, can bring surprisingly positive benefits. Just think of the innumerable examples of crowdfunding generosity from acquaintances and strangers.”
“Before seeking help, [we] often wonder, ‘If I ask for help, what are the chances I’ll get it?’” says Meyer. “Part of the risk,” she explains, “is not receiving the help asked for, or at least not in the way that you expect. Acknowledge the pain of not getting what you requested, and aim to separate the answer from the person. Maybe your family member would like to help, but timing is impossible.”
“The act of asking,” Meyer points out, “gives you feedback on the best people to ask.” Asking can offer clarity on the nature of your relationships.
Asking for help is good medicine
“Unchecked stress is one of the most common factors in chronic disease,” says Meyer. Asking for help “increases our connection with others. Everyone’s health improves! It feels just as good to be helpful as it does to receive help.”