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"Help! I don't know what I need!"

One of the most common things that I encounter when working with my clients is this: when they are upset, often times they find themselves lost on how to help themselves feel better. This usually leads into a bit of brainstorming, with us eventually concluding what to try.

Given the topic of needs, that leads into a very interesting question: "why is it that people are so confused about what they need to help them feel better?" Granted, if it was that simple, then I suppose people wouldn't be likely to pay someone to help them figure it out.

Needs are complicated. When trying to amass together a list of what a person needs during the day in order to survive, we go to a few places first: food, water, shelter. Indeed, each of those things is incredibly important, but many people also have those things and still feel lost.

When discussing the topic of needs, one of the first things that I go to with my client is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Use of the pyramid here signifies the layer of each: the bottom most layers hold up the structure, while the top most layers stand above all else. Let's discuss each of them, in order.

1. Physiological Needs: This relates to our body's physical needs in order to survive as an organism. This includes proper nutrition, water, control of temperature, sleep, and also ability to expel wastes. Biological urges may be here as well, such as sex drive. Being that this is the bottom layer, when there is a need here, we often know right away.

2. Safety Needs: This relates to both physical safety as well as psychological safety. Having a roof over your head, being contained away from the elements, a feeling of security around others and yourself, all contribute to safety needs. Many mental health concerns stem from underlying feelings of danger from something.

3. Love and Belonging Needs: This includes your loving relationships, through family, friends, and significant others. Intimacy and a sense of belonging dominate this tier. When met, there is a sense of closeness and warmth that creates a better resistance to mental health concerns.

4. Self-Esteem and Identity Needs: This includes your sense of self-worth, self-efficacy, and how you view yourself in the world. Difficulties in getting your self-worth and identity fulfilled create a myriad of concerns and can include what some call "an existential crisis." This can also include your cultural identity.

5. Self-Actualization: This includes aspects that allow us to become the best versions of ourselves. This may include aspects of your profession or job, your sense of spirituality, and learning and mastering arts of thinking like philosophy and psychology. Some say therapy work only exists in this tier.

In feeling lost, using Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs can be a good place to start with some self-work. Taking an appraisal of your current state and how it relates to your mental health can be very important.

You will notice that many self-help sites and books will touch on these topics when suggesting things to help you "feel better."

Some good questions to ask relating to some of these needs might include:

1. Have you eaten anything recently?

2. How did you sleep last night?

3. Do you feel safe where you are?

4. Have you reached out to a friend or family member recently?

5. Have you engaged in any self-care?

What kinds of needs are you missing out in fulfilling? Want to start the processing of exploring what you might need and how to achieve it? Maybe it's time to schedule an appointment today.

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