So how are you feeling today?
Asking the above question may be taken as a criticism that we think the person is not coping or doing a good enough job; or that we think they are not functioning as we would expect them to. We may worry that they will be offended and react in a way that might affect our relationship with them.
On the other hand, if you are being asked the question, you might feel that by saying that you are not feeling great, you are admitting to a weakness or a mental health concern that in too many workplaces still has a certain stigma attached to it. You could also be concerned that in personal relationships it might be used against you in very serious matters such as custody disputes.
If you are asked how you are feeling and you don’t trust the questioner with your answer, it’s useful to not react but see it as a reminder to get a mental health check-up—it is your right to choose who you trust with information regarding your mental health or state of mind.
If you do trust your questioner, you might reply “Well actually, no—I haven’t been coping and I have been feeling overwhelmed” and look at it as an opportunity to confide in someone who could be a great source of help, support and comfort.
As the questioner, while we risk an adverse reaction to asking this sensitive question, more often than not the other person is relieved that someone cares enough to ask and answers honestly.
Reaching out, or accepting help can be challenging but in the end it might be one of the most important things we can do.
If this raises issues for you, call:
Lifeline Australia 13 11 14
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
Beyondblue 1300 224 636
Suicide helpline Victoria 1300 651 251
Muriel Cooper is a psychologist in private practice (talkingroom.com.au).