O ne of the most powerful ways to decrease feelings of anxiety, depression or stress is to begin an internal examination of what is missing or lacking in one’s life. By doing this, people can begin to recognize the importance of getting their needs met in a healthy and responsible way and also identify where in their lives they need to make a change.
Many times people find it difficult to truly understand their needs. This is due in large part to the fact that most people put the needs of others ahead of their own. This is particularly true for parents and caregivers who, rightly so, place the needs of their children first. But all people need to figure out their needs.
How Am I Feeling?
One of the first ways people can begin to understand what they need is by asking themselves: “How am I feeling?” This simple question allows people to examine not only their emotional state but their physical and mental states as well. Many people say that once they do this they can pinpoint their exact feelings, such as tired, overwhelmed, unhappy, frazzled, unstimulated or bored.
From there, they can then begin to see what their needs are. For example if a woman finds that she feels exhausted, overwhelmed and bored, she can then begin to break down each feeling into a need. In regards to feeling exhausted she may conclude that she simply needs to start going to bed earlier or it may be a more complex need such as more spousal support in taking care of the children.
Sometimes our needs may mean a major life change. For example, if a person identifies one of his major feelings as unhappiness and then connects this unhappiness to his job, his need may come in the form of a job change or even a career change. His need would be about obtaining more gratifying employment.
How Can I Meet My Needs?
Once people recognize their needs, the next step is to get those needs met which may include seeking support from others. Seeking support from others can be a tricky process because many times people have an unrealistic view of how others should be helping them. Often people simply hope that a person will come to their aid and then feel continually disappointed when the person doesn’t deliver. This can lead to feelings of resentment and anger so when one finally decides to express their needs it often comes across as confrontational.
Before seeking help from others it is important to take a good, long, deep breath and gently remind oneself that people — spouses, parents, bosses, siblings, friends — cannot read minds. People need to be told when their help is required. If one has continually not been expressing their needs — if they haven’t said how tired they are or how much help they really need — it is difficult for others to realize their help is needed. Most people are grateful to hear how they can be of help and are quite willing to offer their support, especially if they are approached in a respectful, thoughtful and kind manner. Remember to be open and flexible when communicating your needs.
Asking to have one’s needs met also can be difficult because it can bring up feelings of guilt — am I allowed to have needs and do I deserve to have these needs met? If these issues come up, it’s important to do a little work on understanding where this guilt is coming from — one’s personal beliefs, childhood and family history, etc… Through careful and patient exploration people can begin to understand and then move past the guilt.
Recognizing one’s needs and having them met is a healthy and fulfilling part of life. If people are finding it difficult to identify their feelings or needs, or to make a change, it may be necessary to obtain professional support. A therapist can be an objective observer who can inquire, empathize and analyze people’s needs and the steps needed to fulfill those needs.
Sally Rudnick is a licensed clinical social worker with a practice in Warwick. She can be reached at 917-656-9439 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.