Going from realising you need help to getting in touch with a therapist or doctor can be difficult. Susannah Shaw works at Thinkaction miapt (Merton Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 she shared advice for being kind to yourself and allowing yourself to seek help if you need it.
I’d like to share some tips for thriving that focus on how we be kinder to ourselves and embrace our humanity, referencing three writers that have influenced the way I work.
1. Watch out for your inner bully of ‘shoulds, oughts and musts’
In our high pressure world we have to meet different demands every day. It’s easy to find ourselves under even more pressure, this time coming from inside ourselves. This comes from the expectations we have of ourselves, others and our experiences.
It’s good and healthy to aim high, but often this habit can slip too far into unhelpful or unrelenting pressure if we are not mindful. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy offered by Thinkaction counsellors. It aims to help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.
Albert Ellis was a psychologist who helped to develop the ideas behind CBT. He identified a thinking habit people often fall into – a cycle of pressure-pot feelings of stress, irritation, and discontent. He called this ‘demand thinking’. He encouraged people to notice when they are having these thoughts – ‘I should’, ‘I ought’, ‘I must’ – and soften their rigidity.
2. Cultivate compassion for yourself and others
Many people are afraid of self-compassion – it might seem like letting yourself off the hook. But true compassion is a courageous and kind balance of facing the music and having patience with yourself and others.
It’s important to accept that you have strengths and limitations, resilience and vulnerability.
Kristin Neff has researched how we have compassion for ourselves – her website has a tool for testing how self-compassionate you are. It’s about adopting an attitude toward your difficulties and imperfections that combines realism with warmth and empathy.
With this approach, rather than making excuses, you are likely to see things more clearly or in a more balanced way. You can then take helpful action to move forward.
3. Build up the courage to seek help
It is normal for feelings of shame or inadequacy to hold us back from asking for support.
If you are struggling, please know that:
- you are not alone
- it is okay to feel out of your comfort zone if you’re thinking about speaking to a professional such as a doctor or therapist.
In our society it can be really hard to face the truth that we are not self-sufficient. Allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable, and perhaps to embrace the reality that something is wrong, can be incredibly liberating.
It takes courage to do this.
Writer and researcher Brené Brown believes that being vulnerable is not weakness – it can be an indicator of great strength. She writes that ‘asking for help is one of the bravest things we’ll ever do.’
How to contact Thinkaction
Thinkaction provides mental health services across Kent, Medway, Surrey and the London Borough of Merton.
We can support you if you’re feeling low, stressed or anxious – and you don’t need a doctor to refer you.
Susannah Shaw is a counsellor at Thinkaction miapt (Merton Improving Access to Psychological Therapies).