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Debunking the Social Stigma of Stress

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Among professionals in all careers, stress occurs 64% of the time, with 77% experiencing burnout, predominately from lack of support or recognition, unrealistic deadlines or expectations, and long hours without a break (1). Among employees in general, 40% have considered quitting because of burnout, especially burnout due to unfair treatment (2). They are also 23% more likely to visit an emergency rooms in response to burnout symptoms (3). 

As stress rises year after year, workplace suicide also increases. Workplace suicide occurs twice as often as workplace homicide and most often involved management occupations (4).

The most saddening statistic is that so few employees receive treatment; for 44% of stressed out employees, coping consists of sleeping more and only 40% ever mention their stress to their boss (5).

What is it about professionals that seeking support and asking for help is so difficult? Sadly, the assumptions, myths, social stigmas around any kind of mental health support deter most professionals from talking to a coach or therapist about their stress, depression, and true thoughts.  

The following are 9 of the more common myths associated with mental health support and facts to debunk each one. 

Myth: Asking for help means I’m weak.

Fact: It takes courage and strength to face fears and weaknesses.

Professionals are “fix-it” people. You solve problems at work, you mentor and develop your team, and you make decisions that affect the entire workplace. It’s a small leap to naturally think you can fix yourself when there is a stress-related problem. When you can’t, voices inside your head start whispering at you and the negative self-talk wears you down and you believe what you’re telling yourself…you are weak.

It is irrational to think there is any relationship between seeking coaching/therapy and one’s level of strength and achievement. There is no study or research supporting this claim so to limit your resources based on something you are telling yourself becomes an excuse. Seeking help for your stress levels requires you to take action, which takes more strength then staying passively stuck.

Myth: If my boss finds out I’m seeing a coach/therapist he will give a promotion to someone else and my co-workers will think less of me.

Fact: All mental health professionals are bound by client privilege.

Whether you see a coach or therapist, rest assured your family, friends, boss, staff, and colleagues won’t hear it from your mental health partner, who is legally required to maintain strict confidentiality, except in situations of harm. 

The truth is, you don’t know how anyone would react if you talk with a coach/therapist. Irrational fear, propelled by the social stigma around mental health services, prevents you from using all the tools and resources at your disposal to reduce your stress and work to your full potential. 

Myth: Coaches and therapists are too expensive.

Fact: There are a wide range of service fees for all professionals.

A common objection you may hear from your customers or clients is that your charges are too high. Too often people wait until the pain is so severe that they have no choice but to pay whatever fee to whomever they can find to help them. In your field, that means that your customers risk losing money, time, and business. 

In the world of mental health, the risk is to lives.

The reality of stress and the havoc it wreaks is nothing compared to the cost of coaching services. Total up all of the money you spend each year on things that help you feel better about your work and life with superficial results (cars, large homes, elaborate vacations, clothes, gym memberships, etc.). Add in the loss of client retention, team engagement, and business growth because your stress levels don’t allow you to connect, think clearly, or work at your most productive. Lastly, throw in time spent worrying and being the victim to your stress, what you’d lose in a divorce or business separation, and time lost with your kids. These costs, added up or even standing alone, will never exceed the price it pays to hiring a coach/therapist to finally help you navigate your stress levels and transform your way of living.

Myth: Getting professional help is unnecessary when you can just talk to friends and family.

Fact: Friends and family have an emotional attachment to the decisions you make, while coaches and therapists remain neutral.

Best intentioned, loving family and friends don’t like to see each other in pain so they often minimize mental health concerns. It’s not uncommon for a well-meaning family member to say it’s just a phase, a trusted friend to tell you to get over it, or a colleague to chalk it up to the way your field has always been and that’s the way it will always be. When dealing with stress-related issues, these suggestions are misguided solutions.

Coaches and therapists are trained to maintain “detached involvement.” A coach stays fully present in the situation while not taking on the emotional connection of the client. Detached involvement is important in any coaching as it allows for the mental health partner to ask difficult and pertinent questions that allows the client  to see additional solutions and remove possible roadblocks getting in the way of goals.

Coaches/therapists are also trained to challenge your beliefs, identify your irrational fears, provide advice when and only when it serves you, and help you create effective action plans that will permanently reduce your stress while getting you to your goals. 

Myth: I don’t have the time to leave during office hours to go talk to someone.

Fact: Most coaches and more therapists utilize modern technologies to connect with their clients. 

The idea of going to a coach/therapist office filled with leather sofas and fake plants is no longer the way of mental health support. Secured websites allow coaches and therapists to have meaningful talks with their clients without fear of internet hacking or breach of confidentiality. Cell phones make it easy for clients to reach out for in-the-moment-coaching. Email on phones allows clients/coaches to follow up, cheer-on, and comment on the day’s events.

The benefits of these sessions are endless. Most coaches/therapists can charge less since their expenses are lower. You have the session wherever you feel most comfortable—even poolside. Early morning, mid-afternoon, or late-night hours are easier to maintain because you have the luxury of logging in from where ever you are. 

Myth: Sharing “failures” with others is too embarrassing and I’ll look stupid.

Fact: Professional partners like coaches and therapists don’t see your failures, they see your opportunities.

Professional partners in any field do not interpret your lack of knowledge in their specialty as an indication of your intelligence. Quite the opposite. Professional partners admire people that know their limitations, want to focus on what they do best, and understand sometimes it takes a village to move what’s in one’s way.

The fear of being embarrassed and looking stupid is self-deprecating, pejorative language that continues to seclude and isolate professionals from a network of emotional support. One excellent way to interrupt your thought patterns is to ask, “How true is that?” How true is it that a coach or therapist would find you stupid? Probably not true at all.

Myth: Only other professionals in my field really get my issues.

Fact: Sharing the same experiences does not make for better listening or deeper understanding.

However, good-intentioned someone might be, when you talk with another person with your exact issue, they have a propensity to share in the conversation their experiences as well. Both parties add to the negativity and competitiveness: “If you think you have it bad, wait until you hear this.” Or if your confidant has already gone through a similar situation, they don’t leave space for you to determine what is best for you, instead opting to put on the advisor cap and tell you how to do it. Neither approach builds long-lasting skills of decision making, empowerment, confidence, delegation, or prioritization. 

Sharing similar experiences, degrees, or profession is only one, small way to understanding and validating what you might be going through. Mostly, understanding comes from your ability to connect with the feelings you are having, regardless of the situation that brought about or created these emotions. Coaches/therapists are trained to relate to the emotion of the experience while still keeping 100% focus on you. They participate in the conversation as it relates to you and ensure that your goals and solutions are the primary outcome.

Myth: Things aren’t that bad. I can wait.

Fact: Things don’t magically heal themselves.

Companies often take this very common approach to problems in their business: “It’s a small issue. I’ll wait and see what happens.” Often, they wait and wait until the issue becomes bigger, more invasive, and requires a more expensive solution. Coaches/therapists watch potential clients decline services for the very same reason with the very same result.

A mental health partner is another member of your comprehensive team to healthy living. You see your primary care doctor once a year, your dentist twice, and your coach/therapist monthly for proactive maintenance. Catch issues while they are small and require little changes of lifestyle and thinking to yield desirable results. You deserve to live the life you love every day; not try to hold on until it’s so bad you’re digging out of a deep hole.

Myth: Rehashing my problems after a long workday is too draining.

Fact: Talking about your problems for the purpose of finding a true resolution is energizing.

There are long days in every profession and there are lots of choices to choose from to decompress. Many people turn to external coping methods (venting, alcohol, chocolate, exercise, screen time—all methods of avoidance) to relax from and suppress a day’s worth of problems. Often these methods exclude family connections and further seclude you when you arrive home. (“Not now honey, it’s been a long day.” “Maybe later kids, I’m exhausted.”)

Whether you start your day or end your day talking with a coach/therapist, you will discover a new-found energy after addressing problems and committing to resolutions. Working on a paradigm shift to see more opportunity and fewer problems is a goal of effective coaching/therapy. 

Now What?

This is the perfect time to make permanent changes in how you live. Start with these very important first steps:

  1. Commit to expanding your support network to include a professional coach/therapist. 
  2. Change the way you view stress triggers by taking stress management courses. These types of classes will help you alter how you see stress from the inside out.
  3. Breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing is the number one way to reduce the stress response. It’s free and you can do it any time, anywhere.

Key Takeaways

We debunk the 9 most common myths about stress.
Myth 1: Asking for help means I’m weak.
Myth 2: If my boss finds out I’m seeing a coach/therapist he will give a promotion to someone else and my co-workers will think less of me.
Myth 3: Coaches and therapists are too expensive.
Myth 4: Getting professional help is unnecessary when you can just talk to friends and family.
Myth 5: I don’t have the time to leave during office hours to go talk to someone.
Myth 6: Sharing “failures” with others is too embarrassing and I’ll look stupid.
Myth 7: Only other professionals in my field really get my issues.
Myth 8: Things aren’t that bad. I can wait.
Myth 9: Rehashing my problems after a long workday is too draining.

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