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Feeling Out Of It? Here's When It's Time To See A Mental Health Professional

Sure, resilience, self-sufficiency, and emotional strength are great—but a helping hand wouldn't hurt either

Here's the real deal about bad days and really bad days.

Everyone has bad days; everyone, more than just a few times in their lives, will feel pangs of loneliness, experience bouts of anxiety, get overwhelmed by stress, and yes, even claim that they might be going crazy feeling all the negative emotions chipping away at them.

The thing is, this is normal

These occurrences form a big part of what makes you—us—people, and that negative emotions and experiences are part and parcel of the full range of human experiences. Feeling down, worrying about the future, wanting to cry, and even wanting to be cloistered in your room for some time to take a break from the world are all perfectly acceptable things to go through. 

There is, however, a line that exists that delineates a bad day from a really bad day, or days. And crossing that line might very well tell you when it's time to see a mental health professional

Which brings us to right now; on World Mental Health Day, we at Metro.Style advocate for improved attunement to one's self, in other words, knowing when a bad day is something you manage on your own versus needing the help of a professional to help you see things through. It's definitely one of the most powerful psychological tools to have in your arsenal you'll need to care for your mental health on a daily basis.

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Before proceeding to this article's second half, take the time to do a bit of self-reflection and examine your own emotional and mental state. Is it a bad day today, or, have you been having a series of bad days? What did you do (or not want to do) on those days? Do you know what causes your bad days or is it an unidentifiable trigger that's stressing you out? Have you thought of reaching out to others for help or is this experience something you've mostly kept private, even from those you trust? 

Knowing your answers to these questions could help you better understand when it's time to seek out the help of a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor.

The American Psychological Association offers helpful rules of thumb to determine if you (or a loved one) could benefit from the services of a professional. Ask yourself if: 

The problem is distressing

"Distress" can be interpreted in a number of ways, but how its understood in psychology is more specific. Being distressed could mean that... 

  • In a week, you spend a significant amount of time thinking of what's bothering you (i.e.: more than an hour a day). 
  • You feel embarrassed or ashamed to open up about what you're going through even with loved ones or people who you're generally comfortable sharing your experiences with, good or bad. 
  • Your overall quality of life has deteriorated. 

The problem has interfered with your life

You might assume that this is self-explanatory, but allow us to explain. One of the ways mental health professionals assess psychological well-being is taking a close look at functional impairment, a.k.a. how much important areas of your life have been disrupted by a problem. This means that...

  • Your job, school, and/or your relationships have suffered (e.g.: you might be filing sick leaves more often, have difficulty managing deadlines when that wasn't an issue in the past, be unable to focus or sit still, feel like like a "short fuse," be prone to emotional outbursts, or not want to show up to work or class at all). 
  • You've reorganized your lifestyle to accommodate the problem. (You might have stopped going on your regular weekend dinners with friends, given up on yoga classes, or have been spending more on shopping to ease the emotional discomfort). 

If even just one of these statements rings true for you, you might want to consider making an appointment with a professional as it may not be an ordinary bad day, after all. 

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There are also other observations that you can take note of, such as:

  • People commenting on how your behavior has changed, or showing concern for you. You'll know if a "How are you?" is asked out of politeness, versus when it's meant to really find out if you're doing alright. 
  • Those who know you best may have commented that this problem has remain unsolved and is reoccurring. 
  • Your usual coping activities haven't been much help at all (Remember what we said about things being a bad day, and not a really bad day?). 
  • You've turned to substances to help alleviate emotional distress.

Of course, none of this is meant to encourage you to self-diagnose and panic. The goal is not to scare you into thinking that you might have a psychological disorder, and besides, seeing a mental health professional is not tantamount to being given a diagnosis for a mental health disorder.  

If there's any lesson we want you to take away from this article, it's that you do not need to have a formal diagnosis for a disorder to qualify for an appointment. Now we don't disagree that it's you who knows what you need best, but we also acknowledge that sometimes, there are simply instances in life when we could all use a helping hand to lift us out from a rut. 

It's not unheard of for people to want to see a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor just to talk things through and find a solution to a problem that's been bothering them. In fact, this is now more common these days as more and people individuals realize the need to care for their mental health. You wouldn't stop yourself from seeing your physician for a general checkup to see if your body is working the way it should, so why deprive your heart and mind of the same conscientiousness? 

More so, should your trusted mental health professional uncover an issue that does need more attention, that's a good thing. Or, at the very least, it'll be the beginning of better things to come—relief in the form of proper treatment, to start with. 

Overall, you can never go wrong with seeking the help of a mental health professional should you feel like you need it. 

In a time like this, it's especially important to normalize caring for mental health; the COVID-19 crisis is not only a problem of our physical bodies, after all, but it's also left marks on our emotional, mental, and even spiritual well-being. 

If you trust front liners to know what to do should you fall ill, trust mental health professionals to be there for you when your mind needs its own TLC!

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