Several years ago, I had to rescue a family member while we were on a snorkeling excursion while on a cruise in the Bahamas. From the time we left the port in Florida, the boat rocked almost constantly because the weather was so bad. In fact, they ended up canceling one of the ports because they wouldn’t be able to dock the boat because of the wind. On our way to the excursion, the bus driver warned us that getting out to the rocks to snorkel would be fairly easy-it was about a ¼ mile from the shore-but getting back was going to take some effort because of the wind. I’m skipping a lot of details in between but long story short, my family member got out to the rocks, my husband was nowhere to be found, and I found myself having to tow the family member into shore, using a flotation device I had around my waist. After trying for about 45 minutes to get us both back to shore to safety, I realized that I needed to call for help. After several more intense moments, we both got to shore safely. I’ve never really loved open water like that, so the fact that I was able to keep my head on straight during a crisis in the water was pretty impressive.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m highly sensitive or because of my personality, but I typically don’t like to ask for help. Partly because I like to figure things out for myself. And partly, I don’t want to inconvenience anyone else. I like a good challenge but sometimes can get overwhelmed by it quickly which is why I think it could be a highly sensitive trait. I’m also stubborn enough, I want to prove myself and others that I can do something on my own-which could be my personality. Either way, when I was rescuing my family member, I had an internal dialogue about whether to call for help, and how much longer I should try before calling for help.
This experience reminds me of the importance of asking for help before it’s too late. I could have easily kept trying to get us both back to shore, but obviously it could have ended with us both drowning. Many times, when I’m working with clients, they’ve waited almost too long to ask for help. Not just with mental health concerns but any of life circumstances. Many people don’t have a good idea that they’re getting pushed to or over the edge until it’s too late. And soon everyone around them is paying for it because they’re getting yelled at or the target of their frustration. Then they come to me completely overwhelmed and have no idea where to start and it takes a while to unpack what’s going on and discern next steps for healing and repairing themselves and those around them.
While individual, marriage or family counseling are areas that people have permission to ask for help, there are many other areas in life, where asking for help sooner rather than later could save you from a lot of frustration.
Here are some ways you can ask for help before you get too overwhelmed:
Have a daily check in with yourself
While this seems obvious to some people, it’s one that often gets overlooked. Our world is filled with so many distractions now with having a tiny computer (phone) at our fingertips full of social media, news, music, audio books and podcasts that can be a constant distraction from what’s happening internally for us. Sitting in silence is one of the best ways to check in with yourself and see if you notice any One of my favorite ways to do this is a quick body scan. Starting at the top of your head and moving all the way down to your toes, notice any distress or discomfort. If you notice any, see if you can take 3-5 deep breaths, focusing on that area and releasing any tension with each exhale. There are many benefits to checking in with yourself but one of the best is that you have a better understanding of the things that are bothering you before it’s too late and your frustration boils over. Often, people tell me that they don’t recognize the signs their body is giving them until it’s too late and they explode and say or do things they quickly regret. Here are a few other ways to check in with yourself:
Mindfulness exercises (like the body scan)
Doing anything in silence-dishes, laundry, driving
Find a community
One of the benefits of social media is that you can find people who have common interests. Finding good friends and community can be hard in real life but it’s important to make the effort. Some of my best friends, started because we had something in common and our friendship grew from there. A community of friends can give us the relationship with others and give us the opportunity to ask for help when and if we need it. And then we can reciprocate that for others when they need it. I believe we were made for community with others. I think we all felt and saw the effects of self-quarantine last year when we were forced to isolate from our communities! Building a community might include:
Join a book club
Join a mom’s/dad’s club
Be social/friendly at your child’s sporting events
Ask someone to meet you for coffee, lunch or dinner
Join a Bible Study
Join a club-hiking, biking, walking, etc.
Find someone older to mentor you
This also can be a tricky way to get involved with people who are older than you. Even when I have made comments in passing to those who are older than I am about the difficulties that are happening with my children or trying to find work/family balance, my older friends are able to give me some advice for the stage I’m in because they’ve already been there and survived it! Plus, it gives you the opportunity to ask for help when needed and when people have been there done that, they usually have great advice. Any of the ways in #2 would be helpful in finding an older than you mentor.
Find someone younger than you and be their mentor
One of the things I love about my job, is that when I work with some people who are in a difficult stage in life and I can relate, I can reassure them that they are equipped to handle the things that are happening and that they will get through it. I remember one particularly difficult stage of parenting a dear friend basically said the same thing to me. That I was equipped and there was hope that this stage wouldn’t last forever! Finding someone to be a mentor to, gives you the opportunity to help others in ways that you’ve been helped along the way. Again, the ideas for finding a mentee from #2 apply here as well.
I hope this helps you find ways that you can give yourself permission to ask for help before it’s too late! We’ve all been there and know how difficult it can be to get back to center when we’ve boiled over. Don’t be afraid to ask for help this week!
I love working with highly sensitive people. If you think you might need counseling or coaching, and especially If you’re highly sensitive, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling or life coaching. If you are looking for help with burn out, depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.