Asking for help
As children, we look to others as we learn and understand the world around us. The people in our lives help us navigate things we come across that are new and often hard to make sense of, from learning to tieing our shoelaces to first fall outs with best friends. When we get stuck with something, we ask our parents, guardians or teachers for help. It is something we are encouraged to do in life from an early age, so why do people find asking for help so difficult?
So many things can influence our views on asking for help, and some of the most common reasons are rooted in our social identity and sense of self.
Fear is a powerful driver when it comes to thoughts and behaviours and asking for help is no exception. Often times asking for help is assumed to be a sign of weakness or failure when in reality it demonstrates great self-awareness and strength. Being strong enough to ask for help -whether you are a new parent in need of some shut-eye, a student struggling to understand course material or simply someone who is not tall enough to reach the top shelf- requires a level of self-awareness to identify what you need.
This sounds simple but figuring out what we need is not always easy. Having a good understanding of your needs is a key part of asking for help. Knowing specifically what we could use a helping hand with, makes it easier for those around us to understand how we feel and also to offer the support we need.
Independence and Identity
Asking for help can sometimes feel like you are relying on others, rather than being capable of doing things alone. These thoughts can lead to feelings of low self-worth and hopelessness and can threaten our sense of independence and identity. However, it is important to remember that everyone needs help sometimes and that no one can do everything alone. Getting support to achieve our goals, or even just to get through a tough day, doesn’t make you any less independent. In asking for help, you are taking control of your situation and how it is handled.
Why asking for help is important
Asking for help is important because it is one of the first steps we can take to truly accept ourselves. Acknowledging our limits and understanding our imperfections allows us to grow. Brené Brown, who is based at the University of Texas, carried out research in vulnerability, and her work found that being vulnerable is a key part of self-acceptance and knowing our worth.
So we can help others
“When you cannot ask for help without self-judgement, you are never really offering help without judgement”
Another important part of being able to reach out to others is that we can create an environment where we are able to help others. Seeking help and being able to offer it, with empathy and compassion, provides a network of support for and between the people in your life. But first we need to treat ourselves with that same compassion; if we are able to accept ourselves then we can begin to offer unconditional and non-judgemental support to others.
You are not alone
The saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and in asking for help there is definitely truth in that.
Sharing a problem or issue with someone you trust can really lighten the load of working through a problem on your own. Opening up in this way can also let someone know that you are willing to listen when they ask for help. Often when we share problems we realise that many others have similar experiences, feelings and needs with us, which can make us feel less alone.
It can be daunting to ask for help, and even if you have decided that it is the right thing for you to do, knowing where to start can be tricky. Depending on what kind of help you are looking for there may be a different starting point, but there is no shortage of people who are willing to help and want to help.
Friends and family are a big part of our support network and can be a good place to start. Talking to someone you trust and asking for support might feel more comfortable if it is someone you know well.
There are also community groups and charity organisations that can offer a multitude of resources that can help, for example, local meet-ups, legal advice, and helplines for people experiencing suicidal thoughts or loneliness. Community groups normally post information on local notice boards in public spaces, and of course, most of these organisations and information can be found easily online.
Talking to your GP is also a great way to ask for help if you are struggling with physical or mental health problems. Your GP is there to listen and advise you in a confidential setting and can help you get the treatment and support you need.
Whichever way works best for you, the most important thing to remember is that asking for help is not a weakness, it is a strength. No one gets through everything alone, and it’s ok to get a little help in making sure your needs are met.
I started my YouTube channel GetPsyched just over a year ago. The object was for me to engage with a wider audience, to take on the role as a voice for psychology students and people just generally interested in psychology.
As I developed my YouTube channel, I also invested in developing my social media accounts.
I put more time into sharing content on Twitter, I started a GetPsyched Facebook page and an Instagram account under my own name.
This was all in an effort to network, to reach more people and to potentially create new opportunities and share ideas and content.
It was tricky at first, being in front of a camera felt very unnatural.
I had no idea about recording or video editing and so learned as much as I could from YouTube videos and articles.
Initially, the engagement was slow. I struggled to gain much traction and saw little development.
However, I had made a commitment and really did not want to fall at the first hurdle. As the months went on I developed my website frasersmithcounsellingpsy.com.
This brought more traffic and engagement to both my written blog and my YouTube channel.
As time progressed I was getting contacted by different organisations that liked my work and wanted me to write some guest blog articles.
PsychReg contacted me a few months into the development of my online content. They were a developing psychology organisation that published research and online material.
I wrote an article on men’s mental health and one on top tips for psychology undergraduates.
A few weeks later, I was invited to be interviewed about men’s mental health on the PsychReg podcast, The Mental Breakdown.
You can check out the video here.
From there, things really took off for me. I was seeing weekly growth and deeper engagement with a larger audience of psychology students and professionals and people just generally interested in psychology.
However, about six months into the development of GetPsyched. PsychReg invited me to speak at their upcoming international conference in the Philippines.
I was blown away. After an incredible amount of work and extra effort, I was gaining enough recognition to be asked as a speaker at a huge conference.
The conference itself with incredible. There were speakers and delegates from all over the world that sought to communicate revolutionary findings in psychology and education, as well as network and experience a new and diverse culture.
The Philippines and New Era University in Quezon City, Manila welcomed us with unapparelled hospitality.
The students and delegates that attended the conference had such an interesting background of experiences and a strong desire to learn more.
Throughout the conference, each speaker had the opportunity to engage with attendees that wanted to learn more about their topics. Seeing such an enthusiasm for psychology and education was amazing to witness.
It made me think more about the responsibility we hold as people that work and study in psychology and education. Our research and our learning outcomes are not only applicable to the country where we work but all over the world too.
We live in an age where we can share ideas, thoughts and findings to massive audiences across the world. As a result, new collaborative approaches to things such as mental health, schooling of young children and human rights can be shared and developed. This conference was an illustration of all of this. It was an opportunity to share amongst new colleagues and witness new ideas unfold.
My presentation was on my recent findings on a widespread literature review of men’s mental health.
I covered concepts such as toxic masculinity, male identity and issues with therapeutic uptake in men.
The opportunity itself was genuinely life-changing. I found myself on the other side of the world with some of the most prominent and inspiring figures in the field of psychology and education.
After being unsure as to whether developing online content in psychology was a good idea, I cannot describe how grateful I am to PsychReg and all others that have supported me in developing GetPsyched.
I suppose this post is not one of new information or insight, or perhaps for some, it is. I hope that this article can be utilised as motivation for anyone considering stepping out into a new domain, or those willing to think outside the box a little.
Taking a step of faith and being consistent with what you develop and the passion you show for what you do will always work! It will always provide you with what you hope for and so much more! There is no downside to working hard, showing extra effort and developing your passion for something you care about. There will only always be positivity, and at times opportunities that you cannot believe have presented themselves.
It New Year, so of course people are trying to think about the best ways to improve themselves, how they can lose that holiday weight, how they can increase their salary, how they can be a better partner and an all-around improved version of the person they were last year.
I am passionate about people, I love their interactions, their perceptions, their emotions, their beliefs of the world and of others and how all of this connects together to create a whole worldview.
When it comes to self-development though, this fascinating interaction of emotions, thoughts, behaviours and upbringings create unique perceptions about the world and about the self.
In short, what I am getting at here is that everyone has their own perceptions of how they are going to be better than they were last year, in whatever area it is they want to improve.
Over the next few weeks, self-help book sales will increase, gym memberships will double at least and some may even consider quitting their job and starting something up for themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of all of the above, and each has a place at times in our lives, but how do we truly create lasting, deep, positive change in our lives?
About 6 years ago I got into lifting at the gym. I found the process of working out almost therapeutic. Physical activity and weight lifting had always been a part of my life, but I now wanted to focus more on it.
I bought some new gym clothes and joined the gym at my university. I had heard that in order to really put on muscle, I had to eat more. So, this is what I did.
In truth, it ended in me gaining quite a bit of fat as opposed to muscle, at the time I thought I was doing well, I was working out quite a bit and eating as much as I thought I needed.
The reality was that I was doing the opposite, I was heavier, not as healthy as I had been and feeling unhappy with how I was looking.
Until I pointed the finger back at myself in every situation. You see, I was great at being able to point the finger at others and convince myself that I was in the position I was in because of them. “I have the wrong workout programme”, “I go to the wrong gym”, “the government is putting hidden sugar in my milk”.
All of this went on in my head as to why I wasn’t getting to where I wanted to be. It wasn’t until I made my self accountable for everything, and I mean everything, that I started to see change. Now, you might this that this sounds like a massive strain on a person to hold themselves accountable for everything, sometimes people don’t have control over their circumstances.
I completely agree. Take the weight situation for example, people might get ill, or medication that they need to take may cause weight issues. What I would say in circumstances such as these is to hold yourself accountable for the factors you do have control over. You’ll be surprised, when fully honest with yourself, just how much of an impact accountability can have.
When I pointed the finger back at myself and said, “it’s not the gyms fault, or the workout programmes fault, or even the government’s fault, it’s my fault”, I started to see change. I realised I wasn’t reading the labels of my food correctly, I realised that although I was eating more, I wasn’t calculating how much. I held my self accountable in the gym, working harder than I had the previous week and working around injuries and illnesses.
After doing this, I saw real change. I felt happier with myself and with my workout regime. What’s more is that This accountability led me to feel pride that I had pushed myself to achieve what I had. I didn’t rely on self-help schemes or even a personal trainer. I held myself accountable and made the changes that way. It led to consistency in my workouts and fed into other areas of my life, such as my academic studies.
The reason for this post is simple. Over the next few weeks, we will hear a lot of professions, and those that maybe aren’t professionals, talk about how to make your new year’s resolutions last, how to keep them going for a full year rather than just a full week. Holding yourself accountable for the situation you want to change, even when it may be the case that others should be more accountable than you, it’s what will develop lasting change. It will drive you to continual growth a feeds into all other aspects of your life…I off to the gym!
I first went into therapy when I was 14 years old. I had been self-harming; my mum found out and she took me to the GP who referred me to the local CAMHS. There I saw a Psychotherapist for a year but whilst seeing her for self-harm, I developed anorexia and subsequently got referred to the eating disorder service. I saw a Clinical Psychologist who offered CBT and alongside this, I also had family therapy with my parents. Eventually, after reaching rock bottom, things improved and I began to recover. However, when it came to my 18th birthday the ‘not so smooth’ transition from CAMHS to adult services left me falling through the net and I was left feeling alone and rejected at a time I very much still needed that support.
Over the years, and various moves, I continued in and out of the different mental health services and private therapy. Over the last 13 years, I have definitely seen my fair share of mental health professionals from counsellors to Psychiatrists. This, coupled with the fact I have a degree in Psychology, taught me how therapy worked; especially CBT. I learnt to give them exactly what they wanted to hear. I answered all their questionnaires and did all the homework like the perfect service user and when they discharged me, a few months down the line I was back to square one. Whenever I presented to my GP with various degrees of anxiety and depression, they would either increase my tablets or refer me to yet another 6 sessions of CBT. I learnt two things: CBT doesn’t work for everyone and GP’s hand out anti-depressants like they are sweets.
I have always struggled to talk about my feelings or to bring up anything sensitive that I couldn’t bring myself to say but so needed to. In adult services, no one really bothered to ask. CBT focused on changing negative thought patterns and the therapist would get me to do tasks like applying for that job I wanted but thought I might not get. Any mindfulness techniques left me feeling more anxious than before because I was suddenly noticing and feeling emotions I had pushed away for so long. And then they told me that I was too closed off and not willing to open up, to try harder or come back when I’m willing to emotionally bare all.
Counselling and trauma-informed care
Up until a few months ago, I was seeking help from an alcohol service to tackle my drinking. Over the year or so that I was there I had been passed around a few different key workers and every time I saw them it felt rushed and I felt like a burden. They even gave me anti-craving medication which I took for a few weeks then stopped. Again, like the perfect service user, I told them I had cut down on my alcohol intake and it was no longer a problem. I would leave the appointment feeling worse, often going straight to the shop to buy alcohol. Then I was passed onto a different key worker for my remaining time in the service and for the first time it felt like I was being listened to. I stopped lying and I started to open up more because I felt like I somehow mattered. He taught me what compassion really was and I realised that it was something I lacked in my life; I needed to learn how to be kind to myself and I needed the space to explore my thoughts and feelings and to discover who I am. And so I found counselling.
I’ve had a few sessions now with a counsellor and some days it’s harder to open up than others but I’m getting there. It can be a struggle to be ‘me’ when for so long I have given therapists what they want; the perfect, compliant patient all neatly boxed off. I’ve been able to talk about things I haven’t ever spoken about and it’s completed person-centred. I can talk as much or as little about anything I want to. It’s taught me to not over-analyse everything. That sometimes things just happen beyond our control and you just have to ride the wave and talk through the feelings that brings up. It’s not structured, there’s no right or wrong answers, no homework and no questionnaires to ace. She understands that my self-destructive behaviour is, and has been, a reaction to certain events in my life or things that have happened to me. I’m no longer seen as a set of symptoms or, as my GP once called me when I told him I felt suicidal, ‘highly strung.’ For the first time, I feel validated and understood.
If you are seeking therapy then know that it is different for everyone, what works for one doesn’t always work for another. It’s important to find what’s right for you at that time. But if something doesn’t feel right then don’t be afraid to try something else or to ask for a different therapist. Often, the relationship you have with your therapist can have a greater impact than the therapy itself. When you do find what works for you then stick with it. It can be incredibly difficult but so worth it. It’s not a magic cure, you do have to put work into it and talking about unpleasant things can be extremely difficult. But a good therapist will guide you through it and offer a safe space to explore your feelings. Always keep yourself safe and practice self-care. Do things that you enjoy. Treat yourself after every therapy session, whether that’s retail therapy, gaming, coffee with a friend, a Netflix binge or journaling. I find that a bubble bath, a good book and then a binge of ‘The Blacklist’ in my onesie works wonders for me.
With university classes starting back this week, I thought it would be an idea to give a perspective on what it is actually like being a psychology doctoral student.
Without stating the obvious, it’s hard work, it requires advance commitment and plenty of sacrifices. All in all though, it is totally worth it, my journey so far has been one of skill acquisition, self-development and expansion in learning.
When thinking of what to write for university courses starting back, I was thinking of what I would have wanted to know before I started this journey.
Understanding a day in the life of a psychology doctoral student would have been great to have had, so this is what I aim to deliver to you here:
- Wake up (I am an early riser and always have been) – at this time I either head to the gym (and if not then ill go later in the day) or I start some reading in my flat (usually looking at articles in prep for classes or assignments).
- Breakfast and coffee (again, if I haven’t been to the gym).
- Heading into uni (to study or work at my job as a researcher and seminar tutor).
- Begin study/work (I usually will be in university at this time every day, whether I am studying, working or if I have classes that day).
- Every day is different on a doctoral course. This year a lot of my time will be taken up with placment, so there will be days that i will be in a psychology or therapy centre all day.
- Social media time – I normally set aside time to keep my twitter and other social media account that I use for networking up to date. I have found this to b really beneficial and recommend spending some time on this every day for those keen to network in the field of psychology. Mid-morning is also a good time for me to stay up to date with my YouTube and website work. By this time I have already done quite a bit of work so I can spend time doing some extra things.
- I normally have a working lunch where I continue working at my job, or on my studies for classes and assignments.
- Staying on top of work consistently has been the key to succeeding on a psychology doctorate I have come to learn.
- During the afternoon I try and do something a little different rather than reading articles like I have been doing in the morning. However, I still might have a look at one or two.
- I might read a book (primarily focused on psychology and/or therapy).
- I might watch some YouTube videos on the same topics (I have actually found this to be a really engaging form of learning).
- I also use some time in the afternoon for planning. I will think out some strategies and ideas for future assignments and/or make sure I have all the information together that I need for my log book or other data I need to collate for the course.
- I will likely leave the university around this time and either head home (if I haven’t been to the gym yet), or head to the gym.
- The gym is a really big part of my day, I have found it a necessity for me to clear my head and maintain some focus for the coming day’s work.
- I’ll normally head home around this time post gym and get dinner
- Depending on how busy I am and how much work I still have to do, I might do a little bit of extra work in the evening, or I will just chill out with my wife and watch some TV.
I know that this schedule seems a bit hectic and full on, and in truth it is. I have found that understanding what I do each day better really helps with planning and getting the most out of my day. I make a priority of staying organised over everything else and this really has paid off. I plan my day out in such a way that I have enough time to get tasks done and that I don’t spend too long on one job, I like to mix things up a bit.
Hopefully, this layout has given you a better understanding of what it’s like to be on a psychology doctorate. It’s a challenging road but one I have no regrets in taking.