Does Self-Help Always Help?

When is it right to ask for help and to seek support?

Magazines, social media, well-meaning friends; all have advice on how to feel better, calmer, more positive etc. But does this advice work? Can you walk, meditate or superfood your way to happiness?

I’m going to give a typical therapist answer here – It depends who you are to begin with and how you are at the time.

You don’t have to be an expert to see that it’s a good idea to take care of yourself mentally and physically. And there’s good evidence for the benefits of some popular remedies such as gentle exercise, time spent outdoors or breathing exercises.

At the same time, encouragement to help yourself can feel much the same as an instruction to ‘pull yourself together’, if in gentler language. And sometimes we have issues to deal with that cannot be resolved in such a way. We may, for example, be stuck in grief or suffering ongoing depression or having to deal with unresolved trauma.

Self-help may also set unrealistic goals for us such as ‘feel better in fourteen days’. It can also make us feel that we must feel good all the time when that is neither natural nor healthy. And, for people prone to drive themselves too hard, self-help can be just one more punishing routine alongside the others.

It is perfectly normal for human beings to feel tired or down every now and then. Indeed, sometimes the best thing to do is live with the unsettling feelings for a little while and maybe view this as a clue to whether we have a bigger problem to resolve.

So please, feel free to try some self-help but don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work for you. And remember that sometimes the best way to help yourself is to ask someone else for help.

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