Mental health should be as much preventive as it is corrective.
People often ask me if I think they should go to therapy. My answer is almost always the same: "Mental health can be as much preventive as it is corrective."
What I mean by this is that psychotherapy should be something as normal as a yearly medical checkup. As I said to a colleague recently, "I want to live in a world where talking about your mental health comes out as normal as telling someone about your cold."
Fortunately, social media has helped minimize the stigma surrounding mental health, but there's still a lot of work to do. Consider with the language we use: We tell children, "Keep it up, and I'll send you to a therapist!" as if it were a threat. We tell others, "You're certifiably insane; they need to lock you up," when they behave or react unusually. When we constantly receive these messages, it's not surprising that we see "going to therapy" as something extreme.
If you've considered (or have been considering) therapy, here are five signs that this might be the right time:
1. You want to improve your communication skills. Whether it's with your partner, your family, coworkers, or others—you've noticed that assertive communication doesn't come easily to you. Or, you might start to realize that you tend to misinterpret what other people say. Therapy is a good starting point to answer some of these questions. It's also the ideal space to develop better and healthier communication skills.
2. You feel "trapped." Are you having a hard time moving on? Or are you feeling like you're at a crossroads in your life? It's possible that these feelings might stem from you feeling trapped.
And, if that's the case, it's very possible that this might affect your mental health. Going to therapy can help you clear the life path in which you're in right now.
3. You're reacting to situations that are seemingly "small." Do you feel more irritable than before? That people around you annoy you all the time? Or that things or situations annoy you more than usual? These are all signs that something else might be going on. A therapist can help you define these emotions, process them, and channel this anger/frustration in a more productive way.
4. You feel tired and find it hard to "empty your mind." Do you feel overwhelmed by life, or what's going in your life lately? Like it's just too much? Therapy can help you lighten this burden and share it with someone else.
5. ... actually, you don't need a sign. It's never too early to ask for help. You don't need to have something "bad" or "difficult" going on in your life for you to seek therapy. It's a space to know yourself better, to grow, to learn. It's a journey to your inner world. The best part: You need not venture on your own. A mental health professional can join you on this journey and support you along the way. No matter how bumpy the ride gets.
Going to therapy shouldn't be seen as a weakness; it should always be a strength. If we want to break the mental health stigma, we need to start with ourselves. Let's be vulnerable and brave enough to discover the richness of our inner world.