R U OK? Day turns ten this year!It is the day where social spaces turn yellow, we are reminded to check in with those around us and encouraged to start the conversation that could ultimately save a life. Checking in with those around us is such a vital skill and days like these are perfect reminders. They also provide great resources and handy tips of how and what to say when starting these conversations. With Suicide Prevention Day earlier this week, today got me thinking, how open are we at responding to such questions of how we are going or allowing ourselves to not be okay?
With this being said, what would you say if someone asked you ‘Are you okay‘? Personally, I find this part of the conversation that I find the most difficult. To respond honestly requires quite a bit of strength. To reach out to someone who has offered to listen to anyone struggling requires courage. To respond with something other than ‘Good’ requires vulnerability. Being able to respond when someone asks you if you are okay is hard, especially if you’ve had a negative past experience opening up. Despite how hard it may seem to respond honestly, speaking up about how you are going in a safe space is crucial.
I believe that it is also equally important to ask ourselves ‘Am I ok?’ The reality is, life gets busy and we need to create the space in our lives to check in with our health regularly without the prompts from others. It is important to not always be driving in the fast lane without putting the brakes on and stopping periodically to refuel – if we don’t expect our cars to always be operating at peak performance, why do we expect it from ourselves? You are more important than a car! If we aren’t regularly checking in with ourselves, how can we possibly know when we need to reach out to people or even notice if something has become detrimental and we have become comfortable with just classifying it as ‘life’s unfortunate struggles’.
We are not immune to challenges, tough emotions, and struggles that life presents. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some small things to remember or consider:
- If you find it difficult or are unable to communicate what is going on verbally to someone, try writing it down. This may allow you the space to process your thoughts/situation to the point where you feel comfortable about sharing with someone
- It is okay (and sometimes necessary) to start with sharing something small. Brené Brown mentions that “we need to trust to be vulnerable and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust”. Whilst it would be great if we could trust everyone, that isn’t the case, and that is totally okay. Surrounding yourself with a few people that you trust can make the world of a difference
- If you are finding things in life difficult, seeking professional help can be a great place to start. Not only do psychologists and counsellors provide a safe space to talk but they also have an abundance of strategies to navigate life
- It is okay and very common to not be okay. It may feel uncomfortable or bring up moments of guilt and shame, but these feelings do not discredit your needs and the fact that these needs may be unmet and need attention
When asking someone ‘R U OK?’ it is important to ask, listen, encourage action, and check-in (above image). When asking ourselves ‘Am I OK?’ we can apply the same string of actions. Ask yourself how you’re feeling, what is happening around you, any changes in your life, or any other open-ended, explorative questions. Listen to what comes up when you ask yourself these questions and even if some questions lead to unexpected and/or difficult emotions. Encourage action and seek help either by reaching out to those around you, seeking support from a professional, or even using the resources online. Lastly, Check in with yourself over the coming days, weeks and months.
We are a constant work in progress. Some days, weeks and years are better, and some are more challenging. The important part of life is that we continue to be aware of who, how we are going, and learning to not hide away when things are not okay. This can all start with asking yourself – Am I OK?
“Do not think less of yourself if you can’t be fearless… doing it afraid is just as brave.”
-Morgan Harper Nichols