For the past decade I have had the best job one could ask for. I served for 8 years in the Air Force as an active duty social worker and now I continue my service as the Director of Psychological Health with the Air National Guard. I work with people who come to talk to me when they are feeling overwhelmed, consumed, and things that used to get them through the tough times just aren’t working anymore.
My favorite part of my job is I get to see those same people get better. Knowing that people who seek help when they need it, will feel better, and improve their lives is why I get up in the morning and serve with pride.
However, there are many people who do not seek help when they need it. Often times I see someone who has suffered with overwhelming stress for years finally coming to talk because its negatively impacting their relationships and/or work.
The Air Force has noted that one of the biggest barriers to seeking help is peer stigma. It is socially acceptable to go to the doctor if we break our leg or take our kids to the pediatrician when they have an ear infection. However, what about when we aren’t sleeping at night because our minds won’t stop thinking? Or what about when we lose interest in things we used to enjoy, and we find ourselves more irritable at our loved ones- why is it so hard to seek help then?
In order for the mission to be done, and done right, we have to take care of ourselves. Successful people have figured out how to balance the mission and self-care.
When a Quarter Back walks onto the playing field for the championship game, he didn’t get there alone. Many people played a role in strengthening that player to be ready for game day. The coach, teammates, the exercise physiologist, the physical therapist, the sports-medicine doc, family, friends, God, and the list goes on. He couldn’t do it without all of them.
You have a team. Your team may be big, it may be small, but you have one. I know who is on mine. My family, especially my mom and husband. My mom is my biggest fan. She is always a phone call away if I need her parental support. She is my cheerleader who encourages me to push myself towards my goals. My husband is my sounding board, my best friend, and he reminds me how valued I am.
My kids, they remind me of my sense of purpose. They motivate me to keep going when I feel tired. They need me to be successful, so I continue forward even when I’m not sure where I am going to find the strength.
My friends, near and far. I don’t think we truly know who our friends are until a trial or challenge in our life arises. Our teammates will come forward- some we least expect. My friends who I reach out to show me overwhelming support. I play a part in this; they won’t know I need them if I don’t tell them. A good friend is one who will tell us the good things we are doing, and also the things that don’t make sense. We need that kind of person on our team.
My leaders, they see in me what I don’t always see. There have been leaders on my team who have shaped me and helped me grow- professionally and personally. They have challenged me to think outside of the box and stretched me to look at the potential I have. My leaders have stood by me, coached me, and modeled to me the qualities I aspire to have. My leaders, mentors (coaches); have trained me hard- and I haven’t always liked the training, but I’ve always learned.
My Senior Enlisted leaders, without them, I would quickly be out of the game. These individuals are the ones with wisdom and experience. They have been the whisper in my ear, setting the example of excellence in all we do. They edified me when I felt skill-less. They guided me when I was unsure of the next “game play”. These teammates have taught me how to “do it right”.
My spiritual guides- they have given me tools during the most worrisome times. When my hope has felt shaky, when my sense of purpose wavered, when I wasn’t sure what decisions to make; my faith “defensive line” reminded me that I won’t ever fall, that I am never alone, and that I am always loved.
I have many more teammates I haven’t listed. These are just a few. They don’t all play a huge roll at the same time, but I know they are there when I need them.
Who is on your team? Who strengthens you for “game day”? The stronger our team is, the more we utilize our team, the better apt we are at bouncing back when facing adversity. If we encounter a play that is a set-back, our team is right there, waiting for us to call out the next play and get back in the game.
The point of having a team is this: seeking help when we need it is a sign of strength,; and we don’t have to go through life challenges and stresses alone. In my job as a mental health therapist I see people who wait such a long time before they finally bring in their team. The negative impact is that by the time the team comes in, they are in bad shape. The stress has taken such a toll it is impacting their work, relationships, finances, etc.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Games aren’t won by quarterbacks who throw passes to themselves… The benefits of asking for help when it is needed will outweigh any cultural view that we just need to “suck it up” and “get over it”, or the mindset that we can go through a challenge on our own. I have seen those people. They aren’t having a winning season.
If you are struggling with your team, maybe the “players” aren’t too strong, or you need more “teammates” I would challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and strengthen your team! One thing I have noticed is the better “teammate” I am for others, the more my own team improves.
So… who is on your team?