By Jenn Bovee, LCSW, CRADC, CCHt, EMDR Trained
How does a person know what is “normal” stress versus overwhelming stress; feeling “down in the dumps” versus depression; or having a “rough patch” in your marriage versus something much worse? These types of questions are very common. While they sound a bit different for everyone, it’s often in the first ten minutes of a new client’s first session that these questions manifest as, “Do I really need to be here?”
There’s often no clear-cut event or specific time that indicates exactly when a person should reach out and get professional help; which causes more confusion—especially when people are often in the midst of difficult, overwhelming, or exhausting times. I believe that every human being could benefit from some therapy or counseling. And I desperately wish we lived in a society in which this was normalized so that it was just as common as going shopping for groceries. I long for a culture in which mental health is de-stigmatized.
Until that time, however, I’m going to provide you with a list of symptoms to help you differentiate “normal” feelings, emotions, and situations from those that indicate the need for professional help. I also want everyone to realize and understand that getting professional help doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. It can be short-term, perhaps just a few sessions; or it may be longer-term, lasting several months or years. It all depends on your individual needs. Following are some things to consider as you contemplate and evaluate your level of mental wellness.
Everything feels intense or life has lost its joy
Often times, a sense of fatigue and apathy takes over where joy and freedom used to reside. Other times, a sense of stress and resentment feels super intense and no longer allows for any down time and freedom. When these feelings are added together and are ongoing, life becomes pretty toxic fairly quickly. If you are experiencing something similar to this on a regular basis, it’s normal to deny the intensity of it and how it is affecting your life. Seeking outside guidance to deal with this situation is always helpful.
Withdrawing or not engaging with friends and family
While less social activity is somewhat normal in the Midwest during the cold winter months, there is a point where you may be spending more and more time alone. It’s true that some people “recharge” through time alone, and others “recharge” by being around other people. However, maintaining important social connections is vital. If you find yourself avoiding or turning down social situations that you used to look forward to, please do not brush this off as “no big deal.”
Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, or sleep issues
When people have unexplained physical health problems, it is often due to an emotional component or emotional root. Stress has a toxic impact on our physical body and often times, if we don’t talk about that stress, we just keep perpetuating it and creating more and more stress. Therefore, having a non-emotionally involved person in our life, which a professional represents, is absolutely valuable.
Struggling to meet your goals or set goals
When our ability to set or achieve goals becomes too distant it can become overwhelming. It’s easy to just give up on ever accomplishing our own desires and goals. It’s at this point that it becomes extremely important to begin seeking outside guidance. Having a neutral third party to listen and give feedback on our lives is beneficial in many different ways. By helping us see where we are “stuck,” we can then discover ways to move forward.
An increase in days when you feel “down in the dumps”
When people begin to experience more depressed, down, or blue days, seeking out mental health counseling may help avoid spiraling down into clinical depression. Keep in mind that at your first appointment, you may find that your feelings are perfectly normal or very easily corrected. But most people will benefit from some amount of therapy and guidance.
Experiencing more anxiety or panic
Any time a person has an increase in anxiety or panic they should consult a professional. It might be a temporary increase, but it’s always a good idea to have a discussion with a licensed provider about what’s causing the increase in symptoms and develop a list of effective coping skills.
One very easy guideline to remember is that if you have considered setting up an appointment with a therapist, it’s probably a good idea to actually set up an appointment with a therapist. Everyone can benefit from mental health therapy at some point in their life.
For more information on any mental health issue, you may contact The Mental Wellness Center, Inc. at 309-807-5077 or e-mail at Info@TheMentalWellnessCenter.com. Their office is located at 205 N. Williamsburg Drive, Suite D in Bloomington. They are invested in empowering you to return to—or achieve, possibly for the first time ever—a state of complete mental wellness.