Do I need a therapist right now?

Caring for your mental health is as important as looking after yourself physically. This applies even if you do not have access to a Psychologist. When life feels overwhelming some people tend to develop Coping Mechanisms that may be of benefit or could contribute to a pattern of self-destruction.

Coping Mechanisms are strategies people use to manage their stress, stressful situations, trauma, or any form of psychological distress. These are found to be ‘useful’ to relieve any overwhelming emotions such as anxiety or low mood. Even rejection, self-esteem, or difficult relationships can benefit from them.  Some examples of these techniques may include: sleeping, meditation, drinking a glass of wine after a stressful day, eating more than is necessary, or isolating themselves for hours or even days. Smoking or compulsive spending (retail therapy) could also be added to the list.

While some mechanisms may work, they may not all be beneficial. Harmful strategies could include behaviour or a specific thought to avoid your emotions. However, this relief is only temporary and the distress itself remains unresolved. On the other hand, effective coping techniques allow you to understand what you are going through and to deal with it differently. These techniques, generally require you to be vulnerable and courageous to resolve the difficulty.

Here are a few examples:
• Relaxation exercises such as breathing and meditation are helpful for coping with anxiety.
• Exercising can help lighten your mood, besides the other health benefits it has.
• Practising self-care when you are feeling low ensures you are not worsening the problem by neglecting your well-being. Doing what you love is a way that you can practice self-care.
• Talking about the problem within a safe space allows you to express what you feel instead of ignoring or suppressing it.
• Learning the art of saying “no” and identifying and expressing your needs is helpful, especially when your anxiety stems from taking on more than you can handle.

It is important to seek professional help when you feel that life is spinning out of control.  Speaking to a Therapist may help you find more effective ways of coping with your everyday problems. One such professional is Laurian Ward, a Counselling Psychologist based in Pretoria East.