By ALLIE MYSZKA
In light of the recent deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, the conversation surrounding mental health is swelling up across our nation once again. Life gets tough, there’s no doubt about that, but there is help for those fighting internal battles of their own.
Sometimes we ignore our own distress, but now more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to our own mental and emotional states. Counseling is a wonderful, accessible way to restore mental and emotional health in our lives, and it’s not just for extreme circumstances (like following a death or traumatic event). Listening to the smaller warning signals from your body and mind can help you proactively address any struggles before they threaten to completely overwhelm you, so that you can get back to a healthy state of living much sooner.
If you’ve been thinking about seeking out a mental health professional (or wondering if you should encourage a loved one to do so), here are a few signs that now is the time to reach out for help.
You’re overindulging in food, alcohol, drugs, or other behaviors.
We’re all human, which means we all have our own vices. But here’s the thing—sometimes we unconsciously try to immerse ourselves in those things to numb or avoid something difficult. Take an honest look at your own behavior over the past few weeks or months and see if you notice any patterns.
You don’t feel like yourself.
This can take any number of forms, from lack of motivation. to feelings of constant tension, to just feeling “off” somehow. Sit down with a friend or your journal, and record how you’re feeling for the next several days. If you see that a week or two goes by without any positive change, reach out to a counselor.
Friends or family members repeatedly ask if you’re okay.
Those closest to us will likely know us the best. Even if we ourselves don’t notice that we’re acting different from our “usual” selves, our roommates, friends, and family members likely will pick up on those changes. If someone asks if you’re alright (or kindly encourages you to seek help), don’t ignore those words.
Your body is run-down and you’re getting sick often.
Your body and mind are deeply connected, and nothing makes this more obvious than times of distress. Your sleep quality and stamina to make it through a day can be affected by the state of your mind. Have you had headaches or a nagging cough that just won’t go away? Do you feel like you’re in a constant state of mental and physical fog? Visit a doctor to rule out any specific bodily illnesses, and then seek out a counselor to help you regain balance with your emotions and better care for your body.
You’re feeling hopeless.
Again, life is tough. But it isn’t hopeless, no matter how difficult it may seem. How are you speaking to yourself? What kind of thoughts are you having? Whether it’s through meditation, writing, or connecting with a loved one, try to examine the thoughts you’re having each day. If they have themes of hopelessness, complete defeat, or even apathy, it’s time to take the next step in restoring your wellbeing with therapy.
If you’re ready to seek out a counselor or therapist, try contacting your insurance company to find in-network providers in your community. You might be surprised to find that many insurance plans cover a significant portion of the cost of psychotherapy and counseling.
Ask trusted friends, coworkers, and loved ones if they see a therapist who might be a good fit for you. Use the internet to your advantage, and search for someone who aligns with your religious beliefs, or who specializes in something you’re dealing with. You can also search within a database (like this one) to see therapists in your area.
Whatever you’re dealing with and however big or small it may seem, always remember that you’re not alone. Help is always near—just take that first courageous step to ask for it.
Allie was born and raised in Georgia, and moved to Nashville after graduating from the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!). She’s a freelance writer, Pilates instructor, old soul, and chronic DIY-er. Connect with Allie at alliemyszka.com.