Reaching out for help is always hard, but the pandemic takes things to a new level.
Asking for help is critically important when you’re having a hard time with recovery, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Plus, the pandemic has just about everyone struggling in some way, making the task of asking for help even more daunting.
If you’re hesitant to reach out because you’re wondering how you can ask someone for support when they’re likely struggling as well, you’re not alone. Asking for help is harder right now, but there are ways to make it easier.
If you need help now
If you’re considering suicide or have thoughts of harming yourself, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 800-662-HELP (4357).
The 24/7 hotline will connect you with mental health resources in your area. Trained specialists can also help you find your state’s resources for treatment if you don’t have health insurance.
Fear, shame, and guilt often make it difficult to reach out to others. What if you’re rejected? What will they think of your needing to leaning on them again? Shouldn’t you be able to handle this on your own by now?
“Unfortunately, a lot of people who’ve experienced long-term recovery are struggling right now,” says Adam D. Scioli, DO, FASAM, FAPA, associate medical director and psychiatrist at Caron Treatment Centers.
“But giving yourself permission to ask for help is important,” Scioli continues.
“It’s not a moral failing. It’s not a weakness or something you can exert your will over and overcome. Addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing, remitting, potentially fatal disease process that requires help and support.”
Add a pandemic into the mix, and now there’s another layer of fear, shame, and guilt to overcome. What if your request for help is too overwhelming for them right now? What if they think you’re being selfish or ignoring the challenges they’re experiencing?
Plus, recovery is typically a “we” program, not an “I” program. Pre-pandemic, you could meet a friend for coffee, attend a meeting, or invite someone over.
But now, those options are limited or nonexistent, and it feels like that essential “we” component is missing. Guilt plus isolation isn’t a great combo when you’re in crisis.
“However, it is important for people to find creative ways to remain connected to others in order to protect their mental health.”
Having and maintaining a broad support network filled with trusted, reliable friends and family isn’t just important — it’s essential. But when you’re not feeling particularly great, picking up the phone might be the last thing you want to do.
Try thinking of it this way, though: Asking for help is much less awkward when you’re in regular communication. When you continue to pick up the phone for casual conversations, it’ll be a lot easier to ask for help when you’re really struggling, and it may even be a seamless part of your chat.
“When you keep talking to people, the likelihood of you talking to them when you need help increases. Routine is key for people with a substance or alcohol use disorder.”
It can be really hard to imagine what help looks like when in-person options are so limited. But, with a little creativity, there are ways to receive meaningful help.
“Help definitely looks different right now,” says Erica Spiegelman, a certified alcohol and drug counselor and author.
Video calls are a great way to connect a bit more deeply than you could on the phone, but it’s not the only option, she adds.
“You can take a socially distanced walk with masks or even meet in someone’s backyard, as long as you sit far enough apart.”
Yes, there will be some level of risk with any in-person meeting, but balancing risks and benefits is key.
If you think that an in-person meeting with a close friend or family member would be a game-changer for your recovery, there are a few precautions you can take:
- Mask up. This is a no-brainer at this point, but make sure you and the other person wear a mask that fully covers your nose and mouth at all times.
- Take it outdoors. Go for a walk, meet in a park, sit on the porch — whatever you decide to do, keep the meeting outside.
- Mind your distance. Even outdoors and with masks, it’s important to keep at least 6 feet of distance between you.
- Keep it short and sweet. Try to keep your meeting as brief as possible. If you have a lot you want to get off your chest, consider breaking the ice in person and picking up where you left off over the phone.
Help can also look like:
- connecting with a support group online or through social media
- having a virtual appointment with a therapist or addiction counselor
- calling a hotline
- receiving a homemade meal from a friend
- calling an in-patient treatment center — most have remained open during the pandemic.
Scioli adds that you can also visit a crisis response center or local emergency department in a pinch. There, you’ll speak with someone in person and they can help you figure out next steps.
Since help looks different right now, how you ask for it is also different.
Instead of waiting for someone to decide what they can do and how often they can do it, try to determine what it is you need and be specific in your request.
For example, ask if you can call them once a week or meet in a local park for a walk every Saturday morning.
“When you ask for help, you need to be prepared to hear, ‘I’m sorry, I do care, and I’d love to be in a position to help, but I’m kind of tapped out,” Scioli cautions.
“Although it can be really difficult to hear that after you’ve finally mustered up the courage to ask, they’re giving you an honest answer, and that’s a good thing. It’s better that they don’t promise something that they can’t deliver.”
If you do receive a “no,” remember that it’s not about you, and don’t cross them off your friend list. Instead, keep in touch and ask someone else.
There’s no sugarcoating it: Asking for help is hard, especially right now. Here are a few ways to make it a little bit easier.
Stay in touch with multiple people
Make it a habit to keep in touch with at least 10 people,” Metz advises. “That way, if you really need to speak with someone, it’s likely that at least one person will answer and be available to talk.”
Don’t have 10 super close friends? Most people don’t, but family members, neighbors, an acquaintances you’d like to know better all count, too. You also don’t necessarily have to discuss your recovery with all of these people — simply maintaining some line of communication can be a big help.
And you never know, you may just find that they’re in a similar boat and need support, too.
Arrange support for exactly when you need it
Is there a specific time of day or week that’s hardest for you? Make sure you have support at those times.
“I encourage you to say, ‘I’ve noticed that I start to get in my head and engage in a lot of negative self-talk at 2:00 every afternoon,” Scioli recommends. “Would it be OK if I reached out to you tomorrow at that time to see if it would help me?’”
Take the time to help yourself
There’s nothing wrong with leaning on others for help, but your own company can be a surprising source of support.
If you aren’t very comfortable being alone, aim to create a daily solitude plan (there’s really never been a better time to do this). You can read a book, watch a movie, exercise, take a bubble bath, begin a gratitude practice — whatever it is, make it a special activity that you do alone.
“Having a healthy routine around solitude and cultivating a better relationship with yourself is self-love and self-compassion,” says Spiegelman. “And when you get to know yourself more, you’ll feel happier and be freer.”
Develop a routine (and stick to it)
“Establishing daytime structure and routine is incredibly important during these uncertain times when it feels like so very little is in our control,” says Crawford.
“Identifying areas of your life in which you do have control can reduce the anxiety that comes along with uncertainty. Set up a daily schedule which incorporates time for self-care, socializing, and work-related duties.”
Make a list
Inevitably, there will be times when no one’s free to chat (or you just really don’t feel like talking to someone you know).
Make a list of virtual meetings or hotlines you can rely on when these moments strike.
These groups are all offering virtual meetings:
The following hotlines can also offer support:
It’s a challenging time to be in recovery, but the pandemic doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.
Remember: Those who love and care about you don’t mind helping when they can. Chances are, they’re happy that you’re reaching out for help when you need it because they’d much rather you be happy and well than struggling on your own.
Gia Miller is a freelance journalist, writer, and storyteller who mainly covers health, mental health, and parenting. She hopes her work inspires meaningful conversations and helps others better understand various health and mental health issues. You can view a selection of her work here.
Some people may fear that asking for help would make them appear incompetent, weak, or inferior – recent research from Stanford doctoral student Kayla Good finds that children as young as seven can hold this belief. Some people are concerned about being rejected, which can be embarrassing and painful.How do you ask for help without being a burden? ›
- Know when you need help. Learn to recognize the signs that you need some extra support (and any patterns of social withdrawal). ...
- Be mindful of boundaries. You should absolutely ask for help when you need it. ...
- Ask for what you need. ...
- Give yourself permission to ask. ...
- Follow-up afterwards.
If you're facing a difficult time or situation, something that's causing depression, high stress and anxiety, and is making it difficult or impossible for you to enjoy life, it may be time to seek out professional help.How do you get people to ask for help? ›
- Share Your Vulnerability. ...
- Set The Tone Up Front With Them. ...
- Demonstrate How It Is A Sign Of Strength. ...
- Be An Ultra Efficient Listener. ...
- Be Appreciative Of Their Questions. ...
- Remind Them That Asking For Help Builds Social Capital. ...
- Lead By Example By Telling Your Own Stories.
The psychological reason why it's tough to ask for help
People are hardwired to want to do things on their own and be independent-minded, Bouchard says. Asking for help often makes people feel uneasy because it requires surrendering control to someone else.
I read this too, but the word altruist is used to describe someone who never asks for help, not for someone who can't say a "no" to someone else who asks them for help (which means that they may frequently ask for others' help too).Why do we refuse to help others? ›
If the emotional costs are deemed too high, such as when individuals feel overly threatened, insecure, or not personally accountable for offering help, they will be far less inclined to exhibit adaptive helping behavior. A robust field of research indicates when people are willing to offer help.How do I stop being a burden on everyone? ›
- Repeating positive affirmations daily.
- Spending more time with people who make you feel loved and appreciated.
- Setting achievable goals and tasks and completing them.
- Challenging negative thoughts when they appear and replacing them with positive ones.
You may also struggle to accept help if you feel like you don't deserve it. If you struggle with low self-esteem, you might feel guilty for accepting help or worry about imposing on others. This can cause you to bottle up your feelings and endure problems on your own, rather than ask for the help you need.Is asking for help giving up? ›
Asking for help means you aren't giving up. Instead, you're reaching out to find new ways to solve problems, think creatively, and rise to meet life's challenges. In other words, you're doing hard work. And when you let others help you do that hard work, everyone is better off.
- Excessive worry, fear, or sadness.
- Problems concentrating or learning.
- Irritability or anger.
- Extreme mood swings.
- Isolating themselves or avoiding social situations.
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits.
- Intense concern over appearance.
When you don't ask for help, you're not only at risk for making a reputation-ruining mistake, but you prompt people to believe you don't know what you're doing (and that you don't know when to ask the right questions).Why do depressed people don't ask for help? ›
Feelings of inadequacy: Many people believe that they are inadequate or it would mean failure to admit that something is wrong. They believe they should be able to handle it. Distrust: Some find it difficult to share personal details with a counselor, and may worry that information will not be kept confidential.What is the root cause of social anxiety? ›
Some of the most common causes of social anxiety include: Poor self-esteem or lack of confidence. Negative core beliefs about oneself. Inefficient coping skills.Why do people shut down emotionally? ›
Why People Emotionally Shut Down. Trauma, prolonged stress, anxiety, depression and grief all contribute to feeling emotionally shut down. Nemmers says medication, while lifesaving for many, can also trigger a side effect of emotional numbness.Is not asking for help selfish? ›
So in not asking for help when you need it most, you're depriving the people in your life the opportunity to give back to you. In any relationship, the give and take needs to be equal. Asking for help every once in awhile will enrich your relationships in a more authentic, balanced, and intimate way.How do you deal with someone who doesn't want help? ›
- Listen and validate. If your relationship is iffy, it doesn't hurt to just listen. ...
- Ask questions. Ask your loved one what they want! ...
- Resist the urge to fix or give advice. ...
- Explore options together. ...
- Take care of yourself and find your own support.
Tenacious is a mostly positive term. If someone calls you tenacious you're probably the kind of person who never gives up and never stops trying – someone who does whatever is required to accomplish a goal. You may also be very stubborn.Why helping too much can be harmful? ›
We all want to help our friends and loved ones but sociologists have found that helping too much—substituting our efforts for the efforts of those we're trying to help—tends to blunt their chance of success.Is it rude to refuse to help someone? ›
It is ALWAYS okay to reject help. You control your own ship. If you end up on the rocks due to stubbornness or a refusal to accept that something may need to change, that is also fair.
Many people put themselves last to make sure their loved ones are taken care of. Although considered a noble act and at times a necessity, neglecting your personal needs over a long period of time to please others can lead to resentment, overwhelm, burnout and even depression.Why am I lashing out at everyone? ›
Individuals with undiagnosed anxiety may find themselves lashing out and becoming frustrated over everyday occurrences that usually do not warrant an emotional reaction. Road rage is a perfect example of this. Traffic and crowds are often triggers of anxiety, which can result in becoming angry with people on the road.Why do I always feel like I'm a burden to people? ›
Feeling like a burden is a common symptom of various mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and CPTSD. But many other physical and mental health challenges can leave a person feeling like they are a burden to those around them.What are signs of being a burden to other people? ›
- 5 Signs That Your Biggest Fear is 'Being a Burden' ...
- A belief that relationships are contingent on you being 'in a good place' ...
- Discomfort when you receive empathy. ...
- Isolating when you are struggling. ...
- A focus on helping others. ...
- Apologizing for having basic needs.
It is ourselves. Psychologists refer to this particular problem as agency addiction, or The White Knight Syndrome. It is defined as a need to rescue others through helping — with our advice, coaching, or ideas — in order to bolster our feelings of self-importance.Is it bad to ask for help? ›
Realize that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. It's not a sign of weakness or laziness. Asking for help and helping can save human lives and can help relationships flourish.What percentage of people don't ask for help? ›
Half of respondents wait to ask for help until it starts to become too overwhelming, eight percent ask when it's too late and they can't continue, and 13 percent say they never ask for help at all. Only 27 percent of Americans ask for guidance before they start something new.Is it humble to ask for help? ›
We think asking for help is a sign of weakness and that being self-reliant is the key to success. But the opposite is true: Realizing we cannot do something and need help shows both humility and strength. Relying on others can help us better reach our goals.Is it OK to give up on people? ›
Giving up on people is about recognizing that your efforts are not reciprocated, and that your time is valuable. If someone doesn't want to spend their time with you, just stop offering them so much of it. Save your time for yourself, and for the people who do make an effort to be in your life.What are 3 signs of poor mental health? ›
- Feeling sad or down.
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
- Withdrawal from friends and activities.
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
feel overwhelmed — unable to concentrate or make decisions. be moody — feeling low or depression; feeling burnt out; emotional outbursts of uncontrollable anger, fear, helplessness or crying. feel depersonalised — not feeling like themselves or feeling detached from situations.What are 4 warning signs of poor mental health? ›
- Feeling anxious or worried. We all get worried or stressed from time to time. ...
- Feeling depressed or unhappy. ...
- Emotional outbursts. ...
- Sleep problems. ...
- Weight or appetite changes. ...
- Quiet or withdrawn. ...
- Substance abuse. ...
- Feeling guilty or worthless.
Asking for Help is Not a Cowardly Act
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, many still view asking for help as a cowardly act, and yet, the reality is it takes real courage to take the risk and admit that we cannot do it on our own.
- Talk to someone you trust. Is there anyone you can think of to confide in? ...
- Write it down. ...
- Know that you don't need to have everything figured out. ...
- Talk to a hotline.
One of the greatest reasons why it is difficult for men to ask for help is they do not want to appear burdensome or needy to their friends and family. Many think that they are putting someone out when they ask for help. That is rarely the case. People are more willing to help than you realize.
Asking for help, weakness or strength? Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it's actually a strength. The key is to name, claim and aim the strengths you possess and leverage the talents of others in areas in which you don't have a natural interest or capacity.How do you ask for help without being annoying? ›
- Start with a positive tone. ...
- Identify the type of advice you're seeking. ...
- Come prepared with specific details. ...
- Ask the right person. ...
- Don't ask everyone. ...
- Don't assume you already know the answers. ...
- Be grateful.
Not only is it okay, but it's really necessary in order to live a full life connected to other people. When you don't ask for help, you isolate yourself from others, which can lead to difficulties in relationships and even mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. Asking for help is not a weakness.Is it selfish to not ask for help? ›
So in not asking for help when you need it most, you're depriving the people in your life the opportunity to give back to you. In any relationship, the give and take needs to be equal. Asking for help every once in awhile will enrich your relationships in a more authentic, balanced, and intimate way.Why do some people never offer to help? ›
If the emotional costs are deemed too high, such as when individuals feel overly threatened, insecure, or not personally accountable for offering help, they will be far less inclined to exhibit adaptive helping behavior. A robust field of research indicates when people are willing to offer help.
Seeking help may be viewed as a “weakness,” leading men to be hesitant about seeking psychiatric help. Difficulty expressing emotions. Men may struggle to verbalize their feelings or share them with others, coupled with the ingrained belief that they should “man up” and deal with it themselves.Do men like when you ask them for help? ›
Ask for his help
As 1950s as this sounds, men really like being helpful. Open up about a challenging situation at work or ask him for an app recommendation. "Think of whatever you can ask him that makes him thinks he's smart — other than his stomach, through helpfulness is the best way to get to him," said Tessina.
- Be Gentle and Kind. Your approach to the situation will have a huge impact on how it plays out. ...
- Address Potential Underlying Factors. ...
- Try to Attend Counseling Together. ...
- Attend Online Counseling. ...
- Encourage In Whatever Ways You Can. ...
- Take Care Of Yourself.
However, fear of asking for help isn't just fear of not being capable, it's also fear of being a burden, fear of imposing, and fear of being too needy. But the weakness in asking for help is in not asking for it. Asking for help shows signs of strength, confidence, and resourcefulness.Is it a weakness to care too much? ›
Caring is not a bad thing as it shows how much you understand others. However, the ultimate sacrifice when you care too much is your own mental health and emotional sanity. Caring too much can lead to additional stress and anxiety that you could have prevented if only you set proper boundaries on caring.Is being too polite a weakness? ›
"You can never be too nice to people, but you must nonetheless, be vigilant, as some will see it as a sign of weakness and try to take advantage of you," warns Quora user Christopher Kosel in one representative answer.