They say a problem shared is a problem halved. Some take that saying further by claiming a problem shared is one solved.
The essence of this age-old advice is that talking through a struggle or challenge of any kind will buffer an individual from experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety and act as a preventative strike against mental ill-health.
With a pandemic wreaking havoc on the lives of many there’s been no shortage of difficult situations, worries, complications and stumbling blocks to talk through.
Yet despite increased awareness of the benefits of sharing our troubles, many of us continue to internalise their challenges and bottle things up.
As we try to take steps to bolster our emotional wellbeing in the workplace, in our homes and in the broader community, our abject failure to give a voice to our feelings has health and wellbeing professionals deeply concerned.
The reason why we hold our challenges so close to our hearts is complicated though experts are increasingly pointing to one of the major culprits – social media.
The impact of social media
Social media is regularly blamed for any number of our problems including career derailments, cyberbullying, self-absorption (think: selfies) and relationship breakdowns.
But that is not where the damage ends.
Social media has also skewed our sense of reality to create an impression that life is forever as sweet as the smell of a bunch of roses.
We rarely post about our failures, challenges and addictions. Instead, we give airtime to the amazing achievements of our children, a perfect steak feed at the hottest new restaurant in town or our latest long weekend get-away to some local but exotic location.
We avoid posting comments like “we’ve just returned from our third couples counselling and we seem to being making progress”, “today I feel like I completely failed as a father” or “I felt so hurt with the way I was spoken to by my best friend today”.
The bottom line is we seldom share anything that might make us look weak, vulnerable, or a failure.
We fear those types of posts will push people away or ward others off.
We hide behind our achievements too frightened, worried or ashamed to expose any chinks in our armour.
Social media has created the impression that our lives are perfect and this perception has rolled into how we interact with others in person.
In our hurry to outshine each other with our accomplishments, we have become super resistant to sharing our struggles with each other – keeping our challenges to ourselves instead of seeking out a colleague, a trusted friend or a family member.
A struggle is when we cannot see our way through, when we experience moments of self-doubt, when simple things simply seem too hard, or when loneliness sets in.
Talking and mental wellbeing
Creating a façade that our lives are free from those types of struggles takes its toll on our mental health.
When we are overwhelmed with negative thoughts and emotions flow, we end up being filled with tension – something that eats away at our mental health.
But when we talk through our struggles, we drain away some of the pressure to make us feel better even if our own personal circumstances do not change immediately.
We feel less isolated and sometimes talking leads to solutions to problems we thought we could not solve.
Let us restore our emotional wellbeing by embracing our challenges, sharing them with others and – at some point – hopefully moving on from them.
It is only when all of us are able to dispense with a “fake it until you make it” mindset and share with others – and make ourselves available to listen to others’ struggles – that we will truly be able to bolster our emotional wellbeing.