"Are you OK?"
We say it all the time but it’s become one of those automatic, simplistic question and answer interactions.
“Hey, how you doing?” “good thanks, you?” “yeah good!”
Rarely do people actually sit down and want to know the ins and outs of how you’re feeling. It’s probably the uncomfortable factor as well as the British way of not knowing what to do when any emotions spill out.
A lot of people don’t know how to be that “Agony Aunt” to talk to or they don’t know how to give bomb ass advice. The realisation is, you don’t have to be or do either of those things. All you need to do is ask, then listen.
I think that inherently, people like talking about their problems. Sharing between humans can strengthen the bond of a social group and helps us form more of a “pack”. My experience, is that the more a group communicate and share, the stronger the bond. Some days, we just need a little push to be honest and look a bit deeper than the auto-response.
We’ve all seen the insta quote of “Treat your mental health like your physical health xoxo”, but the fact is, they are different. You can’t see Mental Health Problems like you can see a broken leg. Yes you should nurse them at the same importance but one is much harder to identify. Your pal could be quietly suffering behind closed doors but nobody would have a clue because they never ask.
Not to be too dramatic, but it’s one question that could literally save your friends life.
Of course, the conversation will depend on your friend’s openness to discuss how they’re really feeling but there are a few things you can do to make it easier.
Approach them in a “safe” space. The middle of Glastonbury isn’t an ideal place to chat about your emotions and struggles. Choose your moments and make sure they feel comfortable.
Show genuine concern. As I mentioned before, the usual response is “good thanks, you?”, so be prepared to ask twice. Showing genuine concern will immediately make them think about that question with weight behind it.
Be prepared for their answer. If your friend decides to unload their burdens, you have to be ready to support them. They’ll be looking at your reaction so if you tell them to “man up” (gross, who says that nowadays), or anything dismissive, it could hurt more than help.
When it comes to asking other people, it’s much easier than asking yourself. Asking other people, means you’re going to get the answer they want to give. Most likely, it won’t be the full story of all of their feelings, emotions and thoughts. When you ask yourself the same question, you’re forced to face and recognise all of those feeling, emotions and thoughts you’re having.
Self awareness can be vital when it comes to your mental health. Knowing the signs of when you’re suffering or in need of some self-care can help you nip it in the bud before it becomes an anxiety attack or something else.
When you assess yourself, be honest. You’re the only one that can hear your thoughts so instead of burying it, address them and work towards mending your mental health. On that note, don’t be afraid to chat to someone about it. Use the links of my Resources page or reach out to a friend. We’re all human!
I challenge you to ask this question today.
To somebody else, and to yourself. You might find it brings a new side to your relationship or, if anything, it’s a conversation starter.
Have a great day,