The Connection Between Communication and Mental Health
When discussing mental health, we hear a lot about stress management, coping skills and self-care. However, communication is one of the most important things we do not discuss regarding mental health.
Recognizing relationships in which communication is crucial to our mental health and adopting strategies to manage them successfully is essential. Three of the most important areas of our lives where communication is vital in developing and sustaining healthy relationships are support systems, romantic partnerships and with ourselves.
Support Systems: Communicating Your Needs to Your Support Network
We often limit our support system to people we can talk to about anything. However, our support systems often stretch much further than we realize. The important thing to recognize is that each member of our support system plays a different role. There are some that are meant to listen and others from whom we desire guidance. We also have those who are there to support us in coping with a problem and those who are there to distract us from the problem.
The role that someone plays will depend on how comfortable we feel with them, but no one is capable of mind-reading. When reaching out for support, we must communicate how we need to be supported. The default for most people is to help others in the way that they want to be supported, so we must be willing to tell people what role we need them to play explicitly. Doing this helps reduce feelings like stress, anxiety, and sadness because not only do we have people supporting us in the right way, we have fewer people disappointing us or making the situation worse by not supporting us in the way we want. The ones closest to us need to know what we do and don’t need regarding support.
Romantic Partnerships: Communicating Effectively with Your Partner
When it comes to our significant others, we are often aware that communication is important, but we still struggle to identify ways to communicate effectively. I often tell couples I counsel that if communication were easy, I wouldn’t have a job! The single most important thing about communicating in any relationship is recognizing that we are responsible for ensuring our needs are met. The benefit of having a partner is having someone also interested in helping meet those needs. So if we are to function as a team, communicating those needs and requesting how we need them to be met is the most effective way to collaborate.
We often get caught in the habit of telling people what we don’t need, but this leaves a lot up for interpretation. If we say we don’t want waffles, that does not communicate that we really want French toast, so we can’t be upset when we get pancakes. It is crucial to state what we want specifically to help meet our needs. If we cannot identify what will help to meet our needs, verbalizing the need itself is another good step towards solving the problem with our partner’s help.
Communicating with Ourselves: The Importance of Self-Talk
Verbalizing our needs is essential in communicating with others, but we must learn to first communicate with ourselves. Some forms of this are known as self-talk or processing thoughts and emotions. At the end of the day, if we are to be responsible for meeting our needs, then we have to learn to communicate those needs with ourselves. A great first step is identifying the emotion that we are experiencing. Emotions help us recognize that a need has either been met or not. In every instance, our emotions are actively trying to assist us.
After identifying these emotions, one way to process them is to ask: “How are you trying to help me?” It is often difficult to accept that uncomfortable emotions want to help us, but if we can identify their purpose, we can identify our needs. Once we identify our needs and start figuring out a way to meet them, we can either do it ourselves or request help from others around us.
We are Here to Help Improve Your Communication!
By communicating our needs to ourselves and others, we can get help reducing mental and physical symptoms of stress, depression, and other difficult emotions. We hold the key to helping ourselves, but it’s important to realize even if we have to unlock the door, it is still okay to let someone else help us open it.
If you want to better understand how communication can improve your mental health, EAP can help. Contact us at 901-683-5658 or www.methodisteapcanhelp.org
Jared Davis, LPC-MHSP, NCC
Jared Davis is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a Mental Health Services Provider designation. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and his Master’s degree in Counseling with a concentration in Couples/Marriage and Family Counseling in addition to his Individual Counseling training from East Tennessee State University. Jared has experience counseling children, teens, adults, and geriatric clients in inpatient and outpatient facilities. He has worked with clients with a wide scope of mental health issues, personality disorders, and substance abuse issues. He works with clients to help them increase their self-awareness and broaden their perspectives as he walks through the therapeutic process with them. Jared has moved a lot due to being a “military brat” but is glad to call Memphis home now. He enjoys spending time with his family, learning new languages, and traveling.