No one enjoys asking for help. We instinctively want to be self-sufficient, to manage for ourselves and have everything under control. How many times do you mutter on auto-pilot, “I’ve got it!”, or “No thanks, I’m good!” when asked if you need help with something, especially around the house or at work?
Asking for help is hard to do! It’s easy to feel inadequate relying on someone else for things you can normally do, for tasks you’d happily do if you had the time, energy, or strength. While you may feel weak asking for help, it’s truly a strength to ask for what you need.
Two weeks ago I had a c-section to deliver my son. Having a C-section isn’t uncommon, but it’s still a major abdominal surgery, requiring significant recovery time, all while caring for a newborn. The few days I was in the hospital it felt easy to ask for help. I had nurses checking on me throughout the day, bringing me what I needed before I knew I needed it.
I wasn’t in my home so there was no dog to walk, no dishes to do, nothing I needed was outside of my reach, and room service was free and a phone call away. The surgery was so recent that I couldn’t move much anyhow.
Then, I came home. I kept the advice from our childbirth classes in my mind, that even if you feel pretty good, your body has been through major trauma (no matter the type of delivery), and to take it extremely easy. Like, Netflix, couch, and delivery food easy. Luckily it’s February in Chicago so the temptation to go outside is at an all time low.
Still, even with all of that in mind, I was actively fighting feelings to put the dishes in the dishwasher, fold the blanket on the couch, clear off the kitchen island, and so on and so on. It felt lazy to let things sit, and bossy to ask for someone to refill my water, take the baby so I could stand up, change him while I rested on the couch.
I asked anyway, so I could recover. So I could be back to my normal self as soon as possible.I asked anyway, so I could recover. So I could be back to my normal self as soon as possible. Click To Tweet
Whether you are ordered by a doctor to take it easy, or you’re simply having a hell of a week and your typical mindless tasks seem impossible, here are some things to keep in mind to make it easier to ask for the help you need.
Get Comfortable with Stepping Back
Once you set your bar for normalcy in the daily tasks you tackle, doing anything less can feel like you’re letting go, like you’ve lost control. You feel full of “can’t” and that can be uncomfortable. What helps me is remembering that overwhelm or injury is often temporary. You’re stepping back for now, but that doesn’t mean you’ve given up.
Ask for help with one thing at a time, but on a regular basis, and it will get easier.Ask for help with one thing at a time, but on a regular basis, and it will get easier. Click To Tweet
There will be big life changes that disrupt your normal routine, and the help you need may not be temporary. That is OK. At 6 months pregnant I got overwhelmed with dishes, cooking dinner, taking out the trash, etc. I can keep up and not feel overwhelmed with working and the tasks I’ve taken on, and I knew maternity leave would let me adjust to taking care of a baby and getting these things done.
The overwhelm came when I thought of returning to work, taking care of the baby AND getting all these things done. My husband and I talked about it and we decided to get a cleaner a couple times a month, and that he could take over trash duties.
What felt super overwhelming and out of control, suddenly felt doable. All I had to do was tell him I was going to need help after the big change heading our way. This made it easier in the weeks that followed to let him know when something felt like too much.
Taking Care of Yourself is a Strength, Not a Weakness
When you’re in the moment, asking for help can feel weak, like you can’t handle things for yourself. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. When you ask for the help you need, you’re not only getting more accomplished, you’re setting yourself up so you can fire on all cylinders.
It’s that familiar instruction to put your oxygen mask on before putting on your child’s. Especially when it comes to your home and family life, taking care of yourself by asking for help ends up helping everyone. If you take on too much, you can’t perform to your full capacity. It’s stressful, setting you back if you’re physically recovering, and draining your energy and tanking your mood if you’ve simply taken on too much for the time you have available.
Asking For Help is Not Being Bossy
Personally, this is the biggest issue I have with asking for help. Asking someone – even your spouse or parent – to do something for you can feel like you’re bossing them around. In reality, asking for what you legitimately need is not bossy at all, but a sign of strength that you are delegating when you need to.
The other amazing thing I’ve found, is that people love to help and be useful. When you are able to help out a friend, doesn’t it feel good? You feel helpful and that you’ve made a difference, no matter how small, in their day.
I first remember this from my wedding day. Everyone wanted to help in some way and for the first time I didn’t feel bad accepting their offers. It made my stress level go down, and they felt great for being able to contribute in some small way.
Demanding things you actually could do yourself can be bossy. But asking for what you need from someone who supports you is a strength where you both feel valued in the end.
Know What You Need
This was another highly valuable piece of advice from our childbirth classes. Especially when you know you will need help for big life events – moving, getting married, having a baby, etc. – make a list of what people can help you with. Friends and family want to contribute, and when you’re overwhelmed and they ask how they can help, you’ll likely draw a blank.
Make a short list of what would help you the most so you’ll be prepared when someone asks if you need anything. Instead of being vague, you can say, “actually can you pick up laundry detergent on your way over?” or, “It would be super helpful if you could take the trash out when you leave.”
If you have to practice asking, practice! The more you normalize it, it won’t feel like a big deal, and the more comfortable you are saying specifically what you need, the easier it is for others to help.
If you still feel like you’re asking too much, think about how you react when a friend asks for something specific. If she’s having a party and you ask if you can bring anything, do you feel put off if she says, “actually, if you could pick up a bag of ice that would be awesome!”? I doubt it!