Tuesday Tales: Do you know how to accept help? – Donna Thistlethwaite

Recently I had a phone chat with a friend whose husband is currently undergoing cancer treatment. They are in their 70s. This is a family who unfortunately is not new to dealing with cancer. Every member of their family of four has experienced cancer and they tragically lost their daughter to the illness just a short time before her 40th birthday a few years back. They are an incredibly strong and resilient family.

During our conversation my friend talked about how very tired she is in the evenings, saying that she sometimes can’t stay awake beyond 7.30pm. We talked about a lot of different topics in our lives and she was genuinely interested in hearing about me and my life despite the challenges they are currently experiencing.

At some stage, she mentioned something about mowing the lawn. I suggested that I come over to mow and she replied “It’s fine, I can do it”. She said that others had also offered but that she felt that she could and therefore she would.

I reflected for a moment, appreciating that mowing the lawn can keep us fit and active, give us a shot of vitamin D and even give us a sense of purpose. I understood her view but at the same time couldn’t help remembering her comment about being so tired in the evenings. I understand independence, being fiercely that way myself, but I think there are a few things to consider in situations like this.

  1. Many of us are great at giving to others, including my friend, but we really struggle with asking for and/or accepting help. Why is she saying no to genuine offers of help? … We often think that we don’t want to burden other people because everyone’s busy and has their own lives. The thing is though, that we are potentially robbing them of the opportunity to get an influx of happy chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins that research tells us came from doing something kind for someone else.
  2. Could my friend be using the mowing time to instead do something that replenishes her energy or brings her joy (hopefully mowing does this, but I’m not sure)?
  3. Connection is a protective factor from mental health challenges. By continuing our relationships with people and letting them into our world, we are able to maintain and build connections with them. Again you could be doing them a favour as well as yourself in accepting help.

The reason I wanted to share this is that it’s something I’ve seen a lot. My friend is just the most recent example of this happening. As a career coach I saw it a lot with parents, and particularly mums, who would give to everyone else but never ask for the assistance that would make their lives easier.

We are a social species, we’re not meant to do life on our own. It might take a bit of vulnerability to reach out to someone to ask for help but it’s important to recognise that there are often benefits for all parties.

I love the concept of a “Team Me”. Do you have a “Team Me” that helps you to be able to THRIVE personally and professionally? If not, please consider putting one in place because it might just improve your life.

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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