So why is this not something we do as regularly for ourselves?
In the age of self-care, many of us have become better at looking after our mental wellbeing, yet unfortunately we seem to reserve counselling as a last resort.
We wrote about the myth of counselling only being for really distressing times, among 9 other myths about counselling here and these things can often be barriers to people seeking support. However, we didn’t discuss the barrier of not knowing or accepting that we’re at a point where support is needed.
Your mental wellbeing is important, so is asking yourself questions like:
- When was the last time I felt happy, or content?
- Do I feel able to cope if something was to go wrong?
- Is there something I’m hanging on to that I need to let go of?
- Am I where I want to be?
- How do I handle X, or how do I get to XYZ?
In the times we’re all going through at the moment due to Covid-19, feeling that something isn’t quite right might be more obvious through increased stress, feeling tired or more anxious. But are there other things we should be looking out for?
Based on our experience supporting people with their mental wellbeing, we’ve made a list of 6 key signs that you are overdue a check in with yourself and may need some additional support.
1. Issues are building up & you feel overwhelmed
Many people come to counselling and say “I don’t know where to start!”.
This is because when we let our issues pile up, it starts to feel messy, confusing and overwhelming. There’s that ‘thing’ we didn’t deal with when it happened a few years ago, a relationship issue that’s been bugging us for some time, a missed opportunity, maybe a loss and the ups and downs of physical and mental health.
Eventually, life starts to add up and feel heavy.
There is also the knock-on affect that external things can have on us, like Covid-19. In times where change has been unavoidable for most people, it can force us to acknowledge issues that may have been there for quite a while. Sometimes they’re related to our current situation, but equally they can be nothing to do with it at all. When this happens, consistently feeling overwhelmed can lead to avoidance – why go to counselling? That’s just one more thing to think about, organise and ‘do’!
If this is something you’re feeling, trust us when we say – getting support won’t add to your plate, it will help you balance the ones you’re already spinning.
2. You’re going over things again and again
This is called rumination.
If you are dwelling on something or can’t get it out of your head, it leads to repetitive thoughts circling around in your mind. This can happen at work, whilst chilling out watching TV, or for a lot of people, when they’re trying to sleep at night.
These thoughts can feel “big” like worrying about safety, relationships, health or work. Or they can be about something you feel is smaller but it won’t go away, like your to do list or going over the same conversations in your head. They can also just be the repetitive sense of ‘something’, like feelings of isolation or worry just circling round.
Whatever they are, they all have one thing in common – this rumination is a symptom of increased anxiety and it interferes with you actually addressing the things you’re thinking about. This can understandably make us feel unwell and exhausted.
Counsellors help to break these patterns by supporting you in making sense of why they’re happening and putting you in a better position to change them.
3. Something big happened, or is going to happen
We are always going through changes in our lives, but some have more of an impact than others.
When we hit ‘life milestones’ or something big happens to us (Covid-19 counts too!), it can change how we feel about things. It can also change our environment, priorities, opportunities and even sometimes our values and beliefs.
When life changes, you have to move with it and in times like this it’s important to check in with how you are feeling and what you want. Speaking to someone, like a counsellor can help you make sense of changes, understand your options and feel more in control of your life.
It can also be helpful to check in with yourself before something big happens. For example, if you’re planning on having children, moving house or taking a new job. Talking through big life decisions can help you feel clearer about your choices and prepare for them.
4. You don’t feel like “yourself”
Have you, or other’s around you noticed you seem a little less like yourself recently?
You might be feeling less motivated, less social or started to lose interest in things you’d normally enjoy. It’s normal for us to have ups and downs and it’s also normal for us to change, grow and become interested in different things.
However, you might also notice that periods of feeling low or anxious have started to last longer, feel more intense or the usual stuff you do to make yourself feel better isn’t working.
If you’re experiencing this, just feeling a bit “off” or something is bothering you and you’re not sure what, you would benefit from checking in with yourself. It’s likely that there’s something you’re not addressing, or you perhaps need to make a change of some kind – speaking to someone can help you work this out.
5. People are telling you to speak to someone
Our loved ones can be a great source of support and we should all be able to lean into these relationships with friends, family and our partners when things feel a bit much.
However, it can’t replace professional support (one of the myths we bust here).
When friends and family suggest you should talk to someone else or start counselling, some people think “oh, they don’t want to hear about my problems anymore” or feel they’re talking about it “too much” and then withdraw.
But actually, the people around you are trying to help. Whilst they cannot be fully objective, they’re still not going through exactly what you are which means they can see things differently, recognise when things keep coming up and importantly – when you might need some extra support.
If your loved ones are suggesting you talk to someone, they’re looking out for you. They’ve noticed you need to check in with yourself and are trying to help you do that.
6. Finally… you’re exhausted
If you are feeling exhausted or like you’ve tried supporting yourself in other ways and it’s just not working… then it may be time to check in with yourself in an environment that can support this.
We said at the beginning that counselling is not just for distressing times, but that you can check in with yourself before it gets to that point. However, if you are feeling tired, stressed out and don’t know which way to turn next, that’s a key sign that speaking to somebody could be beneficial.
It’s becoming increasingly accepted that taking care of our mental health is as important as taking care of our bodies. So, if you’re relating to any of the above or it’s got you thinking, it may be helpful to try to notice your emotions and patterns and speak to a counsellor about how you’re feeling.
This can help you in the short and long-term, as our mental wellbeing is something we have to nurture. After all, we can’t pour from an empty cup.