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How to Effectively Ask People for Support

Life can be overwhelming in the best of circumstances. Life during a years-long pandemic can be even more overwhelming. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or have other difficult emotions, it’s essential to seek the support that you need.

Support can be challenging to find. For starters, how do you know what you need to feel supported? And how can you ask for that in a clear way?

Asking people for support can feel vulnerable. By asking for help, you may feel like you are admitting to some kind of weakness or shortcoming. But, it takes an immense amount of strength to recognize what you need and ask people for support.

Asking for and receiving effective support can feel empowering. But, how do you effectively ask people for help?

Identify Your Needs

To ask for support, you have to know what it is you’re asking for. Sounds simple, right? It’s easier said than done.

To start, take stock of what feels overwhelming or stressful in your life right now. Psychologist Dr. Stuart Shanker has identified 5 domains of stress that people tend to experience in daily life. These guidelines may be a useful starting point for recognizing your stressors and needs.


It might be helpful to ask yourself a few questions. How are you feeling physically? Are you hungry? Tired? Do you feel overstimulated by your environment? Is the room too hot or too cold? Is your shirt uncomfortable?

If you identify a need that can change or receive support, take note!


How are you feeling emotionally? Are you happy? Upset? Angry? What emotional stressors are you experiencing right now?

Is there a way that someone could provide you with meaningful support right now?


What mental stressors are you feeling right now? Are you feeling overwhelmed by a work project? School obligations? What is on your mind?

Is there a way someone in your life could take some of this off of your plate?


Are your relationships stressing you out? Do you feel overwhelmed by a conflict with a friend or family member? Are your relational needs being met?

Are you in need of support from a relationship? Could a friend help you navigate a relationship challenge?


Are you feeling like spending time with people? Do you want to isolate yourself and spend time alone?

It may be helpful to ask a friend to spend time with you in a new way!

These categories of stressors can help you identify what your needs are. Once you know your needs, you can more effectively ask for support in a way that will help.

Asking For Support

You know your needs, now what? Ask people for support. This is much easier said than done, but the next step is to simply ask for what you need using clear and specific language.

If you’ve never asked someone for help or support before, it can be overwhelming to know how to ask or where to start. But you’ve already recognized your needs, and now it is time to put that into action.

It may be helpful to use a resource like Marsha Linehan’s DBT DEAR MAN skill for interpersonal effectiveness. This tool can be used to keep yourself clear and specific in what you are asking for. To ask someone for something, remember this acronym:

D - Describe the facts of the situation without judgment.

E - Express your feelings or opinions.

A - Assert yourself by asking for what you need.

R - Reinforce the person by sharing how their support will help you.

M - Stay mindful. Remain focused on the conversation and the support you need.

A - Appear confident in what you are asking

N - Negotiate and be flexible as necessary

Asking for help can be difficult, but tools for effective communication can help!

Say Yes

Once you’ve asked for help, you might find that people in your life are more able to recognize your signals of overwhelm and offer support. They may have helped you with something you asked for and then offered to take something new off of your plate.

In cases of overwhelm, saying yes to help can be difficult. Challenge yourself to allow support when you need it. Say yes to those in your life who are offering their support.

Final Thoughts

Asking people for support can be difficult. It may feel incredibly vulnerable to recognize your needs and communicate that to someone else. You may feel afraid that they will not provide the support you need, or that you will be a burden on someone you care about. You are not alone in those feelings.

If asking for support feels overwhelming, it might be time to speak to a mental health professional about your specific needs. At The Resurface Group, we provide support and resources for people struggling with a variety of stressors. Contact us today to learn more!

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