Let’s face it. Stress is a part of life and the idea of living a completely stress-free life is wishful thinking in our day and age. We need to learn how to work WITH stress and perhaps even get to a point of using it as positive motivation.
But when stress becomes DISTRESS, that is when it becomes most harmful.
Men generally find it a lot more difficult to share what’s going on in the inside – we seem to be wired to bottle things up and keep pushing our feelings down – but that’s when stress can become distress.
I shared openly at our Hillsong Conference 2018 network lunch that I have gone through many seasons in my life where stress has been acute. At one point in 2012, I suffered a panic attack and although by the grace of God I haven’t had one since, I became very aware of how important it is to check in with each other and ask for help.
In Australia, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety and around 3 million will face depression at some stage in their lives. An average of eight Australians take their lives each day (BeyondBlue.org). These are sobering statistics, and each represents someone who just couldn’t see another pathway through.
We were made for relationship and community and each of us need to be bold enough to be vulnerable and intentional about inviting trusted people in our lives to ask the hard questions, and if things are getting overwhelming, to ask for professional help.
Our church in Australia supports R U OK Day – a national awareness campaign that is all about making sure the people around us are doing OK. It all starts with a very simple question: “Are you OK?”
Let me encourage you to be mindful of the people in your world – even the ones that seem like they have it altogether – start a conversation; ask them how they are. The R U OK? Campaign outlines 4 easy steps to engage someone around this question:
1. Ask R U OK?
Start a general conversation; preferably somewhere private.
Build trust through good eye contact, open and relaxed body language.
Ask open–ended questions
“What’s been happening? How are you going?”
“I’ve noticed that… What’s going on for you at the moment?”
2. Listen without judgement
Guide the conversation with caring questions and give them time to reply.
Don’t rush to solve problems for them.
Help them understand that solutions are available when they’re ready to start exploring these.
“How has that made you feel?”
“How long have you felt this way?”
“What do you think caused this reaction?”
3. Encourage action
Summarise the issues and ask them what they plan to do.
Encourage them to take one step, such as see their doctor.
If they’re unsure about where to go to for help, help them to contact a local doctor or other health professional.
“What do you think might help your situation?”
“Have you considered making an appointment with your doctor?”
“Would you like me to make an appointment or come with you?”
4. Follow up
Put a note in your diary to call them in one week. If they’re desperate, follow up sooner.
Ask if they’ve managed to take that first step and see someone.
If they didn’t find this experience helpful, urge them to try a different professional because there’s someone out there who can help them.
“How are things going? Did you speak with your doctor?”
“What did they suggest? What did you think of their advice?”
“You’ve had a busy time. Would you like me to make an appointment?”
If you are facing circumstances that are stressful or overwhelming don’t try and carry it by yourself. Find trusted people who can help you understand where you are at and help you find healthy pathways through.
Stress does not have to become distress and looking out for each other, being brave and beginning a conversation and listening to each other, will, amongst other things, enable you to effectively manage your mental health and increase your capacity in all areas of your life.
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kidshelpline: 1800 55 1800