Managing mental health is a life-long practice. Healthy communication, too, is a life-long practice. Your mental health needs to change (sometimes daily). Therefore, the way you communicate those needs to friends and loved ones will be an ongoing process.
Communicating your needs is by no means easy. Even with the stigma surrounding mental health and well-being diminishing in today’s culture, it takes immense courage and vulnerability to express your experience. Even considering letting someone in on your struggles, pain, or progress, is a huge win. If you feel the need to communicate your mental health needs to a loved one and need some help doing so, here are three tips that are sure to help.
Set a clear intention
It can be helpful to share your intention at the outset of the conversation. Let your loved one in on the reason you have chosen to bring this up at this time. You may say, “I just needed to get this off my chest; it was eating me up inside,” or “I am feeling alone in this, and I wanted someone to know.” By doing this you can create a bridge of understanding and make it clear where your words are coming from.
Make a specific ask
Though you may be asking for something from your loved one, use “I” statements to communicate your needs, desires, or the boundaries you are expressing. If possible, differentiate between needs and desires. You may say, “I am experiencing a lot of loneliness lately. Would you be willing to talk on the phone with me more often? Would you mind if I spend an hour each morning doing my own thing while you watch the kids?” or “I’m feeling unsettled, and I don’t know what to do. I’m wondering if you could help me brainstorm healthy ways to cope when I feel overwhelmed.”
Let go of expectations
Though you are welcome to state your needs, no one is required to meet them. You may make a mindful ask of someone else but, ultimately, you are responsible for taking care of yourself. Though it may sound counterproductive, as you prepare to share your mental health needs, also prepare for nonattachment to the outcome. If you have hurt the person you are sharing with in some way, it is very possible that they, and you, will have their own reactions, emotions, and needs to contend with. This is to be expected, and if possible, planned for.
Communicating your mental health needs can take a lot of courage, but we hope these tips can help you do it.