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Mental Health

Asking for Help: Not as Scary as You Think

It’s probably a saying you’ve heard before from parents, teachers, coaches, friends, employers — you name it: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! But let’s be honest; even though they say it’s not scary, when it comes time to actually get around to doing it, asking for help seems daunting. 

I’m sorry to say that even though it is scary, everyone who has told you to ask for help when you need it is right. Being a university student certainly isn’t easy. There are tons and tons of new things to learn in a short amount of time that lots of your peers are struggling with too! Asking for help with how to manage living on your own, school assignments, and mental or physical health will only have good results. Even if you don’t like the advice you get, it is still worthwhile to have an outside opinion. 

So we’ve established that asking for help is probably a good thing. But how do you actually do it? With exams, essays and projects coming up (not to mention all the stress of changing winter weather) here are some strategies to make the leap of faith a little less staggering!

Ask a friend or classmate first.

Talking to adults can be the most scary thing sometimes. But don’t forget that they aren’t your only option! Friends, teammates and classmates are probably going through some of the same struggles as you are, or maybe they’re even having trouble with something you’ve nailed down. Asking for help from someone who you are comfortable around is a great first step when you aren’t used to it! It’s easy to nonchalantly slip a question about doing laundry into a conversation over lunch, between classes, or in the locker room before practice. Peers who you sit next to in class are great resources for how to get started on assignments, pages in the textbook to read, or potential study buddies!

Bring someone to office hours with you.

Don’t feel like you have to talk to a professor alone! Ok so, this might require that you follow step one first. If you have tough questions about class concepts, readings, assignments or just need a review, then it is probably better to go to the source of the information rather than a peer. That being said, if you feel nervous asking a professor or TA for help, bring a classmate or friend with you! Chances are, a review of material or practicing examples might help them out just as much as you. And in my experience, talking to professors with another person there can lead to some awesome conversations that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Send an email.

If you read through all of step two and are still feeling sketched out, then this tactic is for you! It’s a digital world and most, if not all, professors and TAs have emails! This tip entails a bit of prep work. At the beginning of the semester, make sure to take note of your professors email on the syllabus or course outline and write down the contact info for your TAs or lab leaders. Once you have a question, simply write an email and send it off—no talking necessary! It is also super easy to draft a template email and then fill it in with whatever specifics you need when the time comes, just make sure to check for a reply afterward!

Rehearse before your meeting or appointment.

Sometimes you may need to talk to someone in person about personal matters, like grades, extensions or even counselling. The first thing to remember is that your concern is normal and valid. Even after you’ve set a date for your chat, actually figuring out the words to say is not the easiest task. But no one is saying you have to keep it all stored in your brain! Write out some talking points or things you want to bring up on a little cue card and bring your list with you. Practice in the mirror: feeling the words come out of your mouth just once before you say them in your meeting can make a world of a difference. You can also ask a trusted friend or family member to call and listen to you if you find it nicer to talk when another person is listening. Last but not least, it’s okay to trip on your words—no one will think less of you!

Asking for help is a big hurdle to jump. Unfortunately, you are probably going to have to do it throughout your entire life; whether in school, at a job, living in a new city or in a relationship. That’s why my final tip is practice (also something you’ve heard a million times before). The more you do it, the easier it will get. Life is tough and nobody is expecting you to succeed at it all by yourself. So take a deep breath, repeat those affirmations and get to it!

Saiyah is a second year student at UVic studying political science, philosophy and anything else she can fit into her schedule! She loves writing, reading and all things wordy. When she's not typing away, she loves hiking with her puppy, going to the gym, working as a lifeguard, and shopping!
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