Has anyone ever figuratively (or literally) patted you on the shoulder for being a “tough cookie” after bouncing back from challenging situation? This may feel nice in the moment, but navigating difficult events alone may result in increased levels of stress over time. Whether we’re comfortable admitting it or not, we all need help and people in our lives to lean on. Even if we feel more at ease turning inward instead of toward each other nine times out of ten, there are still moments that will require – or benefit from – the insight of others.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Reframing help-seeking behavior as a sign of strength is important, on both an individual and community level. When asking for help, focus on transparency and directness. Be open in your “ask” so others feel assured they can give you the care you actually need.  If you need someone just to listen to a situation you’re navigating, tell them. If you need someone to give you an option of different tools you can use, tell them. If you need help completing a task, tell them. Right when you start to feel stressed, consider who you can reach out to and how they can help. 

By asking for help, you may even empower people around you to come forward and request support themselves. The more connections we have in our lives, the stronger we become. Having each other’s back when times gets tough helps us address common goals and may help fuel a culture where everyone feels valued, respected and confident.

If asking for help still feels tough for you, take the approach of curiosity: encourage a friend to share their ideas for improving different hypothetical situations or ask a family member to share a story of overcoming a stressor. Like any good skill, asking for help takes time and practice. The more you do it, the more habitual it’ll become. Remember: you are not alone.

The Navy’s Suicide Prevention Program empowers Sailors to reach out to their shipmates and ACT (Ask, Care, Treat) if they notice something out of the norm. Even just one conversation – 1 Small ACT – can open the door for support. For more stress navigation resources, check out this Stress Navigation Plan.

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