Mental Health Discussions: On Stress, Resilience and Crying For Help
BY: Joanne Trina Moreno • Aug 30, 2019
Mental health awareness goes beyond the discussion of mental health disorders. It encompasses mental wellness that points to a quality of life because of considerations of holistic wellbeing. Three important considerations of staying “mentally healthy,” are discussed. Stress, Resiliency and detecting “cries for help.”
Stress is inevitable. No one is excused from this. It is uncomfortable state that connotes a number of unwanted feelings and physical difficulties.
However, does stress always mean that it is bad for us? Can stress be our friend? According to Kelly McGonical, a reknowned health psychologist, who has been researching about the “upside of stress,” YES it is possible.
She emphasizes, that, YES WE CAN MAKE STRESS OUR FRIEND. “The implication of any major incident stress in one’s life like financial difficulties, family issues and what nots, increased the likelihood of dying by 30%… BUT, it was not true for all people. People who spent a lot of time caring for others, showed absolutely no stress-related increase in dying. Caring created resilience.” While it is true that the harmful effects of stress could not be avoided, you can transform your experience of stress. When you view your stress as helpful, you create the biology of courage. Moreover, when you choose to connect with others when you are stressed, you create resilience. Of course we do not necessarily ask for more stress in our lives, but science is giving us a whole new appreciation of stress. Stress gives as access to our hearts, the compassionate heart that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others.
Ms. Kelly McGonigal has mentioned an important factor that is highly important: RESILIENCE. We have heard of this word in the past decade. How do we define a resilient person? Taking on a perspective of a leading psychologist, Susan Kobasa, she identifies three elements that are essential to resilience:
- Challenge – Resilient people view a difficulty as a challenge, not as a paralyzing event. They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and as opportunities for growth. They don’t view them as a negative reflection on their abilities or self-worth.
- Commitment – Resilient people are committed to their lives and their goals, and they have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning. Commitment isn’t just restricted to their work – they commit to their relationships, their friendships, the causes they care about, and their religious or spiritual beliefs.
- Personal Control – Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events that they have control over. Because they put their efforts where they can have the most impact, they feel empowered and confident. Those who spend time worrying about uncontrollable events can often feel lost, helpless, and powerless to take action.
Knowing the importance of resilience, it is just right to learn about ways in which we can build on it. Here are some possible ways we can do it:
- Set goals – this includes acknowledging your personal strengths, recognising roadblocks and identifying skills you might need to develop.
- Consider a support of a mentor, life coach, counsellor – this may come in the form of a trusted friend, a parent, teacher or someone whom you look up to but you still are able to reach out and seek consult with for discussions on varying aspects of your life.
- Have a support group to share ideas with – this is essential to have the “connection” which is part of human needs. A sense of belongingness, according to Abraham Maslow, is a need that needs to be fulfilled after Basic and Safety needs. Support groups may also be a venue to allow yourself to be in a “safe place,” no matter how “unsafe” you feel.
- Smile more/laugh more – a simple yet very powerful tool of springing back is to choose to smile and laugh. Always a personal decision, it is essential that you consciously take this stance. It does not mean that rough times are disregarded. Smiling and laughing are ways to remind yourself that you are capable of choosing this position.
- Ask for help – Consider these reflective questions: a) Have you ever asked for help? B) When have you last asked for help? C) To whom did you ask for help? D) Why did you ask for help? E) How did you ask for help? These questions are important to consider because it is part of “wellness.”
Being holistically well, means we are healthy physically and mentally. When we talk about mental health, we as Filipinos, have always dwelled on having a strong social support, through our family and friends, being a collective society. Yes, we do benefit from this culture. That is why, asking for help from professionals or admitting that we need help, hold a particular stigma. In recent years, however, asking for help has started to gain recognition and acceptance. However, we should not discount the idea that people show different ways of asking for help.
Now, this is where the challenge is for some. Because the crying for help may be very different from the actual, “asking for help.” Some of us manifest our need for help in varying ways. Let us explore some of these forms of crying for help.
In the recent years, we have loosely used the word, depressed, traumatized, panic attacks, PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder), ADHD, Autism among other labels. It concerns me, because these labels are actual clinical disorders that warrant more factors and aspects to consider before being given as diagnoses. Moreover, these are not labels that should be taken lightly, which will have a lifetime implication on someone’s life. It is very important to remember to VEER AWAY FROM LABELS. It does not define a person. What we can do, to foster this healthier mental health environment, is to identify the symptoms, or otherwise called, the “cries for help” of these people. This way, we advocate a helping environment, not a labelling one.
What can you do?
- Be there: learn to listen. If your spouse/friend/someone who needs help is not ready to talk, do not force him/her to. Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart.
- Foster an atmosphere of acceptance – keep your judgments to yourself, but be honest; people who are crying for help may not know that they need help, or worse, deny help at all. Allow them to feel the acceptance from you since they themselves are having a hard time accepting the help that they need.
- Refer to next-of-kin/professionals for better guidance – you do not have to have the solutions to the problems of the person. Accept that the person may be helped better by someone if you feel that you are unable to do so. This referral is the “help” that you can extend. No need to feel bad that you have asked other people to help out the person in need. This is strictly required if you sense or know that the person has tendency to harm oneself or others. It is imperative that the safety of the person is of utmost priority.
Most importantly, have this basic notion: Asking for help does not make you a failure…
In summary, it is essential to understand the essence of mental health. It is important to know that these are some of the important aspects that may help us to stay mentally healthy:
Stress happens to everyone. No one is exempt. It is but a normal process. However, these stressors may become opportunities for you, if they are handled well. Taking note of the coping mechanisms within your reach may help you hurdle these adversities.
Being emotional resilient brings you a long way. There are also a number of ways where you can continuously build on this, as you go through life.
Finally, foster a good mental health environment. Be sensitive to your own cries for help, as well as the others’. This does not mean that you label all these indicators as a mental health issue right away. Look at the indicators; find a way/s to do something about them.