By Katie Barak - February 10th, 2017
In today’s post CSU Global’s manager of student resources and disability services, Katie Barak, reveals how wetting the bed taught her a surprisingly valuable lesson. Could you use some advice to take your career to the next level? Are you stuck in a situation you need to get out of? Unsure of your next move professionally or personally? See how Barak used her embarrassing moment to learn the benefits of asking for help and see how her experience could help you too.
A few months into my first year of graduate school I wet the bed. Let that sink in…a 26 year-old woman wet the bed. I was so stressed out that my body just went haywire. I was trying to balance school, homework, committees, my job, my other job, volunteering, working out, cooking, and relationships. I constantly felt guilty because no matter what I focused on, something else was being neglected.
Despite all the stress, I didn’t know how to ask for help. Everyone in my cohort was in a similar position, so it didn’t seem fair to reach out to another drowning person. My parents didn’t go to college and none of my friends had gone to graduate school so I didn’t think they’d understand my situation. I didn’t want to talk to an academic advisor or professor because I thought that would mean admitting I couldn’t handle grad school. On top of that, wetting the bed as a grown up is absolutely MORTIFYING.
Regardless of my embarrassment, I couldn’t deny how the stress was affecting me any longer. Clearly, my body was out of control and the stress was physically manifesting in an undeniable, and again, SUPER embarrassing way. I couldn’t deny it any longer…
That’s when I knew that I needed help.
I finally worked up the courage to approach a professor who was outside of my program, but had been kind and open in our interactions. I shared that I was feeling out of control and needed some guidance to better manage my life and cope with the stress of an outrageously busy schedule.
To my delight, the professor was warm and understanding. She offered strategies I could try for better time-management and suggested I quit one of my jobs. She encouraged me to say “no” to more things in an effort to prioritize what was important to me.
It was exactly what I needed. Not only did the professor acknowledge and validate my feelings as an overstressed grad school student, but she gave me tactical tips I could use immediately. I employed every bit of advice that professor gave me and continually come back to it when then things get hard.
Of course there will always be stress, worry, late nights, and early mornings, but now I know how to arrange my life in a way that minimizes stress and employs coping skills.
Prior to this experience, I had never asked for help. I didn’t want to be vulnerable, or appear weak; like I couldn’t take care of myself. I thought needing help was admitting to the world that I couldn’t do it on my own. Those irrational thoughts are worthless, but at the time, those fears stopped me from asking for the help I needed to succeed…or at the very least wake up in dry sheets.
I learned a lot from this experience and to my benefit, I have been asking for help ever since. Shockingly enough, I have found that generally people actually want to help, but you have to ask. YOU have to reach out.
5 things I’ve learned about asking for help…
1. There is power in vulnerability.
Opening yourself up allows and invites others to do same. You’ll probably find that people have been in similar situations to you and are happy to share their experiences. Pull from those cautionary tales and success stories to make the best adjustments for your life.
2. Reciprocity is tangible and important.
If you’re going to ask for help, you need to be ready to give it too. Unless you’re seeing a helping professional, like a counselor, be ready for a mutually beneficial exchange. The give-and-take of sharing experiences helps both sides come away with something concrete. You never know what you’re going to get or where you’ll be able to use it.
3. Be thoughtful about who, what, when, and how you ask for help.
Not everyone can help you in the same way, so make sure you’re asking the right people the right questions at the right time, and in the right way. Customize your request for help depending on the audience.If you’re having a personal problem you probably want to consult a close friend or counselor rather than your boss. Similarly, if career advice is what you’re after, sit down with a career counselor or a successful professional in your industry, rather than someone in a completely unrelated field.
Meet in person, video conference, or talk on the phone when you have the time and space necessary to fully discuss the issue. Let them know why you’re reaching before you meet so they have time to gather resources and think about the best way to help.
4. Be specific.
This is especially true when asking for help at work. Know your end goal and outline the steps you’ll need to take to get there. Identify who is affiliated with each step and determine how you’ll get from one step to the next.
5. Not everyone can help.
Don’t be surprised if someone is unable to help. Being put in the position of “helper” can make some people uncomfortable, but there are plenty of other resources available. As much as you have the right to ask, they have the right to say “no.”
I continue to learn every day by asking for help. Sometimes I end up getting the best advice from people I’ve never even met. In fact, here’s a list of resources that can teach you how to ask for help and make the most of the experience:
- TED Talk – Amanda Palmer: The art of asking
- The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help
- TED Talk – Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability
- TED Talk – Frans de Waal: Moral behavior in animals
Sure, I still struggle, especially when asking for emotional support, but struggling is so much better than waking up to a wet bed.
If you’re struggling with something, the CSU Global Student Assistance Program is a good place for answers. Support services include mental health, work-life balance, health and wellness, grief and loss, and a variety of other areas where you may need help. See the student portal for details or contact your student advisor directly to learn more.
Katie Barak manages student resources and disability services at CSU-Global. She has a Ph.D. in cultural and critical studies, and a master’s in popular culture. Her research and professional life live at the crash-ridden intersection of intersectional identities, representation, and meaning-making. Despite several trustworthy folks telling her to narrow her interests, she continues to be fascinated by everything.