We all know people in life who seem to exist at the mercy of help from other people--from your neighbor who always needs a ride to the co-worker who won’t stop asking for advice on her love life. Many people have no problem whatsoever asking for favors.
And then there are the people who never ask for help. These people wouldn’t dream of asking you for a lift to the airport, a hand with the moving truck or a quick loan to get by. They don’t need a shoulder to cry on, for then they’d have to admit that beneath their strength lies a weakness. They don’t want help with the kids, because that might mean that they are not indeed super-parents. Often perfectionists and over-achievers, these people prefer to take care of everything themselves, thankyouverymuch.
If you would rather do it all yourself than ask for help, then you may recognize yourself in this description. You’re probably a giver who is generous to a fault and who enjoys the status benevolence lends. You may be uncomfortable “lowering” yourself to a position where you have to ask for help.
Independent almost to a fault, the people who never ask for help can be at the highest risk from long-term psychological damage when one of life’s great struggles comes down the pipes – and it will. Taking care of a birthday party by yourself is one thing; dealing with the death of a spouse, the loss of a job or the grief of betrayal by yourself is quite another. Used to dealing with life on their own terms, independent types believe that they can handle anything on their own, even presented with major life stress.
However, struggling in silence under a mountain of stress may be doing far more damage than you realize. Recent studies show that periods of extreme personal stress, if not dealt with correctly, can lead to actual gene mutations in your DNA and damage your brain. Genes for diseases or disorders that previously were dormant may find the Miracle-Gro they need in the form of your continued stress. When it comes to various bodily diseases and mental disorders, scientists like to say that genetics load the gun, and environment pulls the trigger. If your genes have given you a propensity for a certain malady, prolonged periods of extreme personal stress may be just what those genes need to fully express themselves. If you try to deal with a major life struggle on your own, you may emerge from your stress years later only to find that your brain isn’t the same as it used to be.
Prolonged bouts of stress physically shrink the parts of your brain that regulate feelings, thoughts and self-control. Everyone has reached for a slice of chocolate pie after a very stressful day. If you have a very stressful year, your brain will be more vulnerable to addiction and mood regulation.
Handling your stress correctly and eating a well-balanced diet are the two most important factors of a healthy life. Stress-reducing tactics like exercise and play are essential, as is asking for help when you need it. Your friends, family and loved ones are there to lend an ear and let you offload your struggles. If you are undergoing a major life stress, it is essential that you connect with other human beings and not try to conquer the problem alone. While you may be able to handle most of life’s struggles on your own, a major life stress that is ongoing may change your brain and your very DNA. Don’t make the damage even worse by refusing to ask for help and admit that you need a friend to hold your hand. You owe it to your brain and to your future self to ask for help.