Why You Need A Help Practice
The world is stressful AF right now, no? (Excuse my language.) Work, in general, can be stressful on a daily basis. While there are many tips and tricks to help manage this stress, one suggestion I hear on loop is to start a gratitude practice.
From my experience I can say it's actually super helpful. I’ve been in formal gratitude practice land since 2015(ish). It began at a healthcare conference I was speaking at. I snuck into a session where a gratitude researcher and expert was telling a room of physicians how gratitude could change their lives. Inspired, I thought, “Well, I wanna change my life.”
When I returned from that trip I started my gratitude practice, and while it didn’t really change my life like I expected, it’s definitely helped. I’m grateful for that help. And in times of increased stress and chaos, we can use all the help we can get. Which got me thinking... what if the help we need to get through this stress monster of a year can be found in the act of helping? What if, in addition to the gratitude list, we start a helping list?
By a “helping list” I don’t just mean a list of when you help others (though that is super helpful because it decreases stress). I also mean a list of when and how you help yourself.
So, your helping practice could be broken down into these buckets:
“Helping others takes the mind and emotions off the self, allowing the mind to move past anxieties and rumination,” said Stephen G. Post, PhD, director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. “Even when helping others as only external action, our emotions over time tend to shift to joy and kindness, especially with good role models.”
This makes sense. As human beings, we are wired for connection. When we go out of our way to help each other, we are fostering stronger connections. And there are so many ways to help others throughout the day, at work, at home, and out in your community. In corporate America that often looks like group volunteer opportunities, which is great! But giving comes in many different forms: giving your time, giving your money when you have $10 to spare, or giving your coworker an extra ten minutes to prep for your meeting.
Ask for help
When we’re stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed it can be increasingly difficult to ask for help. Our brain can go into lizard mode and we start doing everything we can to protect ourselves which can turn into a thought process of: I have to do this on my own. I don’t want to be a burden. If I ask for help, I’ll be seen as someone who can’t get the work done. We clutch at every ounce of control we think we have and refuse to simply admit: I’m struggling.
It may feel physically painful to tell yourself, “It’s ok to not be ok, and it’s alright to lean on others for support.” Do it anyway. Delegate. Seek support. Get vulnerable. Not only will it ultimately benefit your mental health, it’ll make people you lean on happier. As Lorie Corcuera, CEO and Cofounder of SPARK Creations, says, “When you ask for help, you allow others to experience the happiness that comes from giving.”
The work world is too demanding, especially in times of crisis, and it often tricks us into believing that we’re selfish, self-obsessed, or bold if we choose to prioritize self-care. Unless you’re actively narcissistic and choosing yourself over other people all the time, then none of that other stuff is true! Fight for your time to practice self-care because no one is going to do it for you.
Set boundaries. Block time in your day for deep work. Take a long lunch so you can make something nourishing. Take the afternoon off to go for a hike. Ask for help. You deserve to take care of yourself first. And, you need to! If you don’t take care of yourself, how are you going to extend care to those around you?
As you write your list o’ help, don’t neglect this last point. Helping others at the expense of your health can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion which prohibits your future ability to help… so, don’t do that. Help yourself. You deserve it. And help others.