How to ask for help

Self HOW TO ASK FOR HELP It may sound like an obvious thing to do, but asking for help is often harder than it seems Words: Victoria Goldman W Often, we know we need help, but dont want to admit that we cant do everything for ourselves hen our arthritis symptoms get too much, and were struggling to cope, its time to ask for help from a partner, family member, friend, work colleague, neighbour, or even a nearby stranger. Yet we often dont ask for help when we need it. It can seem like arthritis is an invisible condition, and this makes asking others for help seem difficult, says Dr Jessica Eccles, a clinical senior lecturer at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, whose research into treatments to reduce anxiety in joint hypermobility is jointly funded by MQ Mental Health Research and Versus Arthritis. People with arthritis often dont want to burden or worry others, which makes this even harder. The key thing is to recognise if you need help or are struggling. Whats holding us back? Knowing when we need help and actually asking for it are two separate issues. Often, we know we need help, but dont want to admit that we cant do everything for ourselves. This may make us feel vulnerable or out of control. We may not want to worry other people, or we may be scared that if other people help too much well lose our independence. I rarely ask for help, even when the pain is really bad and I struggle to get dressed, or Im so tired I cant reach a top cupboard, says Katharine. I dont want to feel like Im a burden, as Im the person the family usually turns to when they need support. Do you need help? Using the four Ps problem-solving, planning, prioritising and pacing may help you to manage your symptoms. But sometimes this may not be enough. If youre honest about what you can and cant do, and how youre feeling, other people may then learn to recognise when you need help without you having to ask. My manager at work had to step in for some basic tasks because I couldnt hold things properly, says Alessa. I didnt have to ask her, as she noticed I was struggling. Dr Eccles says that, while everyone is different, some signs suggest that its time to reach out to other people. The key indicators are feeling overwhelmed, being in too much pain or feeling too stressed to do things you need to do or enjoy doing, she says. Keep an eye on your sleep, as difficulties with this can mean things arent going well and you may need extra support. What do you need help with? Once youve decided you need some help, write a list of the tasks or activities youre struggling with. Some may not be urgent, or perhaps you can just delegate part of them. Then write a list of people who may be able to help and how much time theyre likely to have. You may need to look further than your own social or support network, by contacting a local voluntary group or paying someone (such as a cleaner). Obviously, if you need help straight away, its a case of finding the nearest person for the job. The other day, I came home to find my partner was out, had double-locked the front door and I couldnt turn the key, says Lee. The neighbours were out, too, so I had to swallow my pride and ask the builders on a nearby site to come to my rescue. How to ask Its natural to worry about asking for help for the first time. Remember that some people may freeze on the spot if you catch them unawares, so it may be better to ask in a text or email. This gives them time to think before they reply. If someone offers you help that you dont need or want, its OK to politely say no thanks. But maybe theres something else they could do instead. If you need help regularly, speak to your GP or another healthcare professional about getting some structured help and support. Help doesnt just mean practical or physical help, says Dr Eccles. Emotional help, and support with your mental health, is also vital to your wellbeing. This can sometimes be from friends and family, but also professionals, peers and dedicated support groups. Some people may freeze on the spot if you catch them unawares, so it may be better to ask in a text or email