The usual drill, when we bump into someone we know, is to ask how the other is, both say we’re fine and then, after some polite small talk, move on. In reality, during these brief exchanges, it’s likely that at least one of you is not totally ‘fine’. And the chances are that, given the current widespread anxiety around the coronavirus pandemic, neither of you is feeling completely happy.
We generally presume other people don’t have the time, headspace or simply won’t want to know how we’re really feeling. And perhaps we’re worried about what they might think if we did open up.
But one thing is for sure, suffering in silence is not the answer.
How can talking help my mental health?
It might be that you’re feeling totally fine and there’s nothing to tell. In which case, that’s great, in fact, that’s brilliant. But what if you’re not ok? What if you’re feeling down, depressed or find yourself struggling? What do you think would happen if you told someone how you were really feeling?
With the right person (see our tips on ‘questioner’s intent’ below) and in the right situation, opening up and telling someone about your feelings can really make a difference. Talking can help you feel supported and less alone. It can help you process emotions and take charge of your wellbeing, and it might also help others open up and share their feelings and concerns with you.
Three tips on how to handle the question ‘Are you ok?’
While it’s good to be open in answering questions about how you’re doing, sometimes it can be difficult dealing with someone’s curiosity around this. Even if that curiosity is well-intentioned. The whole dilemma around what to say, and how much to tell, can fill us with dread on hearing those three little words.
So, here are a few tips to help you to decide how to answer:
- Work out your questioner’s intent
To a large extent, this very much depends on who is asking you the question. Is it a good friend or a close family member? Do you think the person genuinely wants to know how you are? And is it someone you feel can be trusted with ‘inside information’ about your situation and feelings? A good rule of thumb is that if it’s someone you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable confiding in, then it’s probably best to keep your answer brief and move on to a different topic of conversation.
- Decide how answering honestly will affect you
Again, how you feel about this will also depend on who you’re talking to. But opening up about something you’re finding difficult can be painful, so it’s wise to think about how this will affect you. Assess if they’re the right person to be there if you do get upset. If you’re feeling vulnerable and don’t think you’ll be comfortable being honest with them, or worry how they’ll respond in return, it’s best to stick to short answers.
Some people can be persistent in their questioning. Perhaps they already know about difficult periods you’ve had in the past. Or it might be someone you’ve confided in before and since regretted doing so. If you don’t want to answer their questions, you can let that person know you appreciate their concern and reassure them you know they’re there if you need them. Then gently request you keep to lighter topics rather than every chat becoming a serious conversation.
Why counselling can help
Sometimes we don’t always feel we can open up to those around us. We might fear feelings of shame, be concerned we’ll be burdening others or worry our feelings will be dismissed.
One of the benefits of talking therapy is that you enter into a safe and confidential space, where you will not be judged. Here, your therapist helps you to explore and understand your feelings, and he or she will empower you to make your own healthy decisions. You can learn how to improve communication, change your thought patterns and overcome issues that are causing you emotional pain.
Ultimately, being open and sharing how you are really feeling with the right person can be a great relief and help to bring about lasting change.
If you’d like to find out more about counselling, simply get in touch or give us a call on 0292 010 3173, we’d love to listen and discuss how we can help you reach a positive outcome.