You’re wondering - is it worth the anxiety to get help?
If you are too anxious to click a button, send an email, or make a call to get help, this one is for you. Even when you don’t think of yourself as an anxious person it can be highly anxiety-provoking to reach out for help. Maybe you’re worried you’ll sound dumb. Or you think you’ll feel worse after making contact. Perhaps you just aren’t sure if you are ready to reach out.
I’ve helped many friends and clients with getting started. I’ve researched places to get help, helped people make the call, gone to intake screening appointments with friends, taken people to the hospital, and encouraged many people to get help. I know how it can take weeks, months, even years for some people to get help. I get it - It took me multiple searches over months and then even more weeks after to reach out to a counselor when I thought I needed one.
You can calm your nerves enough to do it, even if you are still anxious. It is totally normal to feels this way. In fact, I’ve met very few people who haven’t expressed at least some nervousness about reaching out. In my own practice I try to make it as easy for you as I can, you click a button, provide some very basic contact information, and schedule a call at a time that works for you. I work hard to keep this schedule up to date, so I never have to reschedule your initial call. Then, I call you at our scheduled time. If for some reason I don’t reach you I leave you a voicemail and send an email, just in case you really still need a call. If not just ignore me 😊
The good news is once you make the call or click the button you usually feel a little relieved afterwards. And it is definitely a weight off your shoulders when you find the right person. The bad news is you have that anxiety now. Here are my suggestions on how to get yourself to reach out based on my personal and professional experience.
1. Break everything into small chunks or goals
You are already thinking about all the pieces of finding the right person and getting the help you need so break it down into each little piece. Deciding if you really need help , getting an idea of what you need , searching for that person, making a list of people to contact, actually contacting as many people at a time as you are comfortable with (even if it is just 1). Make sure your goals are reasonable. How much time do you need to decide if you need help? Who (if anyone) do you need to talk to, to help you make that decision? How much time do you have or want to dedicate to searching for someone? How “perfect” does this person need to seem for you to take the next step? How much time do you need to work yourself up to click the button or make the call? How much time do you need to calm down afterwards? How many times can you realistically reach out in a day, week, or month?
2. Ask a friend or loved one
I’ve already hinted at this one in the first step but, reaching out to someone you know first can make it easier to reach out to a stranger. You can do this at any step in the process. Maybe you need help breaking things into small chunks. Maybe you want some help for deciding what you need or who would be a good fit for you. Or you want some moral support beside you when you make that first click or call.
3. Do your research
Figure out what you think you want or need. Then, think about who would be a good fit for you – what do you NEED in a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist? Maybe you care about their gender, religious affiliation, race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, acceptance or understanding of certain pieces of your identity. Maybe you are more concerned about their approach, availability, or insurance. When you are ready to search, consider multiple options – suggestions from friends, family, or doctors; google searches, and directories such as psychology today and therapy den. As you are searching make your list of people you think could be a good fit for you. It is okay if this takes time, especially if you live in an area with tons of mental health services.
4. Rehearse your call or draft your email if necessary
You probably write and re-write your emails or texts and say what you want to say in your head before you make a call. (I promise, I am not in your head, it really is that common!) You can do this before making your call or email for mental health services too if it is not as simple as a click. You might practice it on your own or pretend you are making the call with a trusted person.
5. Try some calming strategies
You might want to think about some calming strategies. My go-to is deep breathing for at least 2-3 minutes. You should do what works for you. You can use apps such as Calm or Headspace to help guide your breathing or meditation. You can also look on youtube for things like “guided meditation” “guided imagery” “progressive muscle relaxation” and “calming music.” There are other strategies too, but these tend to be the easiest for people to use quickly.
6. Make contact
Immediately after using your calming strategy, make the contact. You can do it! The worst that will happen is you rule someone out on your list. Even if you panic on the phone, the person will either 1) be able to manage it and you know they are probably a good match or 2) can’t handle it and you take them off your list of people. If your contact is me, you can schedule your call here otherwise, head over to that list you were making!
7. Relax again if needed and reward yourself for taking such a big step!
You did it, hooray! If you are still really amped up, go back to those calming strategies that worked for you. Then, do something to celebrate because you already are on your way to feeling better. Every step big and small matters.