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Why it’s OK not to be OK

Think back to all the times someone has asked you how you’re feeling. Be honest with yourself. How many times have you told the truth? How many times have you told them you’re not feeling OK? Once? Twice? Never?

Don’t worry if you haven’t answered truthfully; you wouldn’t be alone. We all have a tendency to bury our emotions, pretending they don’t exist or just shrugging them off, not wanting to make a fuss or feel like we’re burdening someone with something ‘unimportant’.

You might have even thought that avoiding your feelings will make them go away. All things must come to pass, right?

Wrong. It’s an unhealthy habit and the longer we avoid our feelings, the worse they can get.

As a society, we’re getting better at talking about mental health, but we’re still not quite there. We won’t be there until we can say we’re not OK as easily (and enthusiastically) as we would say the opposite. Part of the issue is that we feel like there needs to be a reason for not being OK, or at the very least a ‘good one’.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sometimes you just can’t put your finger on what’s making you feel the way you do. Other times you can, but that’s not the point. You should be able to say you’re not OK, reason or no reason.

What are the signs of not feeling OK? Symptoms of bad mental health to keep an eye out for

The signs of not feeling OK can be different for everyone. For some, it’s a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right, whereas for others, it’s a tangible moment, change or event they can trace their feelings back too.

  • Disruptive sleep is one of the primary signs. You might find yourself struggling to get to sleep, waking up throughout the night or not sleeping at all. This can create a cycle, where lack of sleep makes you feel even less OK.
  • Social isolation is another sign that something isn’t quite right. You might find yourself hesitant to go out with your friends and family like you normally would. You might cut yourself off from people or distance yourself from your social group.
  • Other times, there might be an obvious reason why you’re not feeling quite right. For example, if you’ve had an argument with your partner or lost a loved one. In this case, it’s very clear that an incident is why you’re feeling like you do.

You don’t need to be a mental health psychologist to understand that each of these can be symptoms of a mental health issue. The important thing to remember is that not feeling OK is completely normal, especially after an event that evokes a strong emotional response. Remember, it can actually be more unusual to have a big argument or go through a significant life event and just carry on without feeling anything.

Is happiness the only good emotion?

There’s a common misconception that happiness, and similar emotions, are the only good ones, but this is wrong, and only increases the stigma around feeling anything less than OK.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is one approach that is shining a light on not feeling OK. ACT follows the principle that happiness isn’t the only emotion you should feel, whilst focusing on accepting uncontrollable experiences.

For example, sadness can be a good emotion. Losing a loved one can be an extremely emotional experience, and feeling sad and upset is a natural part of the grieving process. It’s important to keep this in mind when you don’t feel quite right.

The same rule applies if you’re going through a break up. Feeling sad and upset is a natural part of the process. You wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, be expected to be cheery after you break up with someone, so don’t feel like you have to put on a brave face.

Losing a job is another good example. If you lose your job, you might feel angry, frustrated or disappointed. This is natural, and part of the process of getting over a troubling period in your life before moving forward with a positive outlook.

The consequences of overlooking your feelings

Overlooking your feelings is never a good idea. Telling yourself “things could be worse” or ordering yourself to “get on with it” is an outdated mentality, and an unhealthy one.

Ignoring or brushing aside any negative thoughts you’re experiencing can prolong symptoms, which can create another issue in itself.

Psychologists often find that some of the most destructive emotions are those felt as a result of initial emotions. These secondary emotions, such as guilt, shame, confusion, resentment, frustration and remorse, can occur as a reaction to your initial emotions.

Let’s say you feel depressed because you’ve just lost your dream job. If you overlook the fact that you’re depressed, you might find yourself feeling a secondary emotion, such as frustration, which is a reaction to feeling depressed.

That’s why it’s important not to overlook the root cause of your feelings. By addressing your primary feelings, be it stress, anxiety or depression, you can avoid secondary feelings that build as a result of your initial feelings.

Why do people avoiding seeking the help of a psychologist?

If you’re feeling unwell, you go to your doctor. If you have toothache, you go to your dentist. If you’re unfit, you join a gym or work with a personal trainer. Why should it be any different with your mental health?

There are lots of reasons that someone might avoid seeing a mental health psychologist or any other allied health professional, but there are a few reasons that crop up more than others.

One of the main reasons is the perception that it’s difficult to access psychological help, but this isn’t always the case. There are plenty of psychological service providers out there offering different pathways to treatments, with Access Psych being one of them. We even offer telehealth psychology to make accessing mental health therapy easier than ever.

Many providers offer private-paying clients access to services without the need of a referral from their general practitioner.

Some people avoid seeking support from a psychologist because they don’t understand how or why seeing one would actually help. Psychologists often hear clients say things like “I don’t know how this will help,” but even just talking to a psychologist can be therapeutic in its own way.

Another reason you might avoid seeing a psychologist is because you think you need to be at a significant level of distress, but that’s not the case.

Seeing a mental health psychologist early is always a good idea. That way, you can try to prevent negative thoughts developing into something more complex or serious.

Tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of Australians have regular check-ups with their dermatologist to avoid skin cancer; how is our state of mind and our mental health and wellbeing any different?

If you’ve visited a psychologist before and had a bad experience, that can be enough to make you feel like you don’t want to seek the help of a psychologist again.

However, just like how you don’t click with everyone you meet in everyday life, you won’t always click with your psychologist, which is why you shouldn’t give in.

You should keep going until you find a psychologist that you click with and that you feel comfortable with. More often than not, the best therapeutic outcomes come from the best therapeutic relationships, so it’s worth the wait.

What about family and friends?

Having a support network around you is important, and knowing that the people who love and care for you are there if you need them is comforting.

However, family and friends tend to want to give you advice and solve your problems. This comes from a good place and with their best intentions, but the problem is, sometimes when you don’t feel OK, you might not be ready to hear advice or listen to potential solutions to your problems.

Sometimes you just need somebody to listen and give you the space you need to voice your concerns, worries and stresses.

What support can a psychologist provide?

Psychologists are equipped with a range of strategies and techniques, but they also understand that it’s OK not to be OK, which can be reassuring.

Unlike friends and family members, who want to give you advice and solve your problems, psychologists are OK just being there to listen; to give you the space you need to just be heard.

If they think you need some extra support, psychologists can then provide you with a range of tools and techniques that can support you with, including:

  • Activity scheduling
  • Goal setting
  • Helpful (versus unhelpful) thinking styles
  • Mindfulness tools
  • Good sleep hygiene and good routines education

Talk to a mental health psychologist

At Access Psych, we have a huge team of mental health psychologists. Not only does this extend our coverage nationwide and make it easier to find a mental health therapist near you – it also means that it’s easier to find a practitioner who understands the mental health challenges you’re facing and who “clicks” with you.

If you have any questions about Access Psych and what else we can do for you, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

When you’re ready, you can book an appointment online, speak to one of our friendly team on 1800 277 924 or email


The information provided in this document is general in nature and is intended to be used for information purposes only. While we have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information published, no guarantee can be given that the information is free from error or omission or that it is accurate, current or complete.

The information published is not, and should not be relied on as, health or treatment advice. The diagnosis and treatment of any mental illness requires the attention of a physician or other properly qualified mental health professional. If you are seeking diagnosis or treatment of any other mental illness, you should consult a physician or mental health professional.  You should not delay in seeking, or disregard, professional health advice because of something you have read in this document.