Going to therapy is like going to the gym. You're putting time, money and thought routinely into something that makes you a healthier and happier. That's something to be proud of.
The challenge is getting past all the misconceptions society has about what exactly seeing a therapist means. Seeing one does not mean you're weak, broken or unstable. We all experience negative feelings like these at times, but they are not what define us.
Reasons for seeking out a professional to talk to can range from big to small, but they are all important factors to consider. Think about the following:
Changes in sleep
Whether you're struggling with anxiety, depression or something you can't yet put into words, sleep can often be the common denominator when it comes to your mental health. While sleeping too much can be linked to depression, research shows that lack of sleep can cause depression, too.
Changes in your sleep patterns might be harmless, but they could also be a symptoms of something else. Talking with a therapist as well as a doctor will help you address this symptom in the most proactive way, because everyone needs time to rest and get some shut-eye.
Increased difficulty keeping up with simple tasks
The American Psychological Association defines self-care as "providing adequate attention to one's own physical and psychological wellness." This is any time you take for yourself to feel OK -- from menial tasks like grocery shopping and doing laundry to taking time to have fun with friends.
These small things can stack up and become overwhelming of times, which can result in a hole that can seem hard to get out of. Therapy can give you support in getting you back on track.
Feeling like your friends are sick of hearing about it
Good friends are there to listen and help through tough stuff, but a lot of times they're struggling with the same kind of things as you are. There are limits to how much they can take on and that doesn't make them a bad friend -- that just makes them a human being. A therapist may not be super-human, but they're also not your friend, either. That really frees up some headspace for them to be a pro at listening.
Fear of judgement
As much as your friends and family love you, they're not exactly neutral parties when it comes to this kind of stuff. Even when someone has a therapist as a friend or family member, they wont see them for therapy for that reason. A therapist is a neutral party by definition. They're trained specifically not to judge, but rather create a space where you feel comfortable to talk. This is often referred to as a safe space for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that your conversations with them are confidential and protected by the HIPPA Privacy Rule. Whatever you need to talk about is legally safe with them.
A personal loss, crisis or traumatic event
Therapy is helpful with the little things, but it can be vital with the big things. As hard as it might be to talk about a loss or personal trauma, holding it in helps no one, especially you. Finding the right therapist wont change what happened, but it can give you the support to articulate what feels unspeakable and start to heal.
Coping with a huge change (or needing a huge change)
Change can be good, but it's not always easy and having professional guidance can make it much easier. Whether you're stuck in funk or you've already made a huge change and are adjusting to it, therapy can give you the courage to take such huge steps and the perspective to stay grounded.
You just need to talk to someone who will listen
The most awesome thing about therapy is that you don't need any of these reasons for admission. All you need is a willingness to talk and work on yourself with someone who's an expert in making these conversations as healthy and productive as possible. Even at our healthiest, we could all benefit from having an hour of that.