We all have strategies and coping mechanisms for handling life’s challenges. Sometimes our methods are on the healthy side like exercise or journaling. But sometimes, those strategies we regularly use simply don’t work effectively. Examples of this would be having an angry outburst to manage frustration or playing negative events over and over in the mind. The support of counseling can provide a boost to positive strategies and a reworking of the negative ones.
But the reasons to not seek counseling help are endless. Here’s what some of them might sound like:
Only crazy people go to counseling. I don’t want anyone to know how bad my life really is. This situation is hopeless; there is nothing I can do. I can manage without anyone’s help. My symptoms aren’t that bad. This is just the way I am. Why bother, nothing will change anyway. How can talking to someone help anything? I don’t want anyone to know I can’t handle my problems! I’m managing well enough. I’ve read all the self-help books already.
Or maybe the truth is…. the process of counseling seems scary. Realizing that change requires addressing what isn’t working and moving through emotional pain can feel impossible and terrifying.
In counseling we find, time and time again, the power of connection with another to be the way change finally begins to take root and blossom. Human beings are social creatures and when we find therapeutic connection with another, we begin to find solutions to what previously seemed impossible. Counseling is a different experience from talking with a friend or loved one. Counseling involves a trained professional who challenges what isn’t working to make room for what will. Whatever the reason, there are some real benefits people often report after having counseling.
You move through and find perspective for negative emotions
Therapy provides a safe place to work through negative responses to both the large, life-altering events as well as the chronic, small repetitive events. Learning how to gain a new perspective or to alter a typical response can be liberating. Imagine being able to participate in your most dreaded life requirements minus the negative feelings. Shifting your own perspectives changes you and then the details of life don’t have to change.
You find a solution to a problem
How often do we think we need to decide between A and B, but we don’t really want either option? Counseling can help to dissect a problem and find possible solutions that you haven’t been able to see. Being able to see the situation from a broader perspective can often make moving forward much easier.
You find a increase in general life satisfaction
As you begin to change self-defeating patterns or optimizing positive ones, the natural bi-product is an overall increase in happiness and life satisfaction. Relationships become more satisfying and being comfortable in the world and inside your own head becomes a daily reality.
Improved overall wellness
Research continues to support improved physical health when mental health improves. Depression, anxiety, chronic stress and trauma are well documented as causes of high blood pressure, gastrointestinal distress, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia, muscle pain and more. When we uncover and release emotional pain, we allow the body to relax and repair.
Psychotherapy increases life success
Counseling actually rewires the brain. Brain mapping studies demonstrate that after counseling multiple areas of the brain are firing in different, and more effective, ways. This remapping helps to prepare you for future curve balls life might throw as well as to be able to optimize your every day.
What are you waiting for?
This morning is still following the chaos that was Hurricane / Tropical Storm Irma. Looking outside my window I can only see a few small leaves with any movement at all. It becomes quite difficult to believe that we have lived under the threat of a major hurricane and the reality of a tropical storm for the past week.
I’m usually quite confident in a storm. I wasn’t this time. Maybe it was because we had such a bad hurricanehere just 11 months ago. Maybe it was because we all just watched a massive city, Houston, flood in ways none of us thought possible. Maybe it was because it was the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic. Maybe it was because evacuation didn’t seem possible as it was going to hit the entire southeast. And maybe it was because my parents and my daughter were in the direct path of the storm and none of us were together. Maybe it was all of it.
As our community begins to breathe a sigh of relief that we seem to have made it through with minimal property damage, I am aware of how we WERE impacted and the very necessary next steps of recovery. The internal turmoil of uncertainty created by a physical storm needs to be felt, processed and released.
The impact of trauma on our psyche cannot be seen, but it is very real. Just because the event has passed doesn’t mean the feelings have moved along quite yet. The emotions are still swirling and screaming of danger even though the threat has passed.
Others may feel guilt or embarrassment over their behavior during the storm or the inability to have helped others. It is easy to look back and Monday morning quarterback decisions made during the past few days, but probably you did the best you could with what you knew at the time.
As a defense mechanism, it can become quite common for us to tell others, and even ourselves, to “let it go” and to negate the experience by saying something like “at least nothing happened”, “you are upset over nothing” or “it could have been worse”. All of those kind of statements are the exact opposite of empathy and rather than helping they fuel negative feelings and prevent their release.
Allow yourself to spend time thinking about how you felt before and during the storm. Notice where your body may ache from carrying the stress, notice where your emotions may still be high or where you feel irritated or angry, notice the thoughts that may be swirling in your head. Take some time to simply breathe and let yourself settle. Let this day get easier and cut yourself some slack for however you feel. Whatever that might be is so OK.
I vividly remember a class in grad school where some brave soul raised their hand and asked this question: “What is mental health anyway?”. At first I thought “well that’s a silly question”! Today I smile at the woman I was who, when I realized I couldn’t answer the question, I let the question gain value. My professor answered it this way… He believed mental health was simply being able to move from one life crisis to the next without being knocked down and staying down.
I held that same belief for a long time, but my definition has continued to evolve. I believe my professor was right about mental health being skills like this:
I also believe there’s a little more to this conversation.
Mental Health is all about wellness. It is most definitely about healing what hurts inside, and it is about growing stronger mentally and emotionally.
Mental Health is also full of qualities like this:
The work I do as a counselor often bridges this spectrum of mental health.
I am so grate for for the work being done to remove the stigma for seeking help and mental illness. I am honored each time I sit with someone who reaches out for healing. My hope is everyone feels empowered to reach out when that help is needed. I also hope folks feel equally empowered to grow and increase their mental heath as that is some of the most life changing work anyone will ever do.
Are you ready to increase your strength?