“Healing takes time, and asking for help is a courageous step.” – Mariska Hargitay

Holidays can be particularly stressful and threatening for many people, especially those who are in recovery, are working to cut out or cut back on alcoholic intake, suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental health issues, lack family or readily-available allies to turn to for support. Before your emotions and vulnerability propel you into a point of no return, to where you consider giving up, returning to alcohol or drugs, or feel generally hopeless, make it a point to get help. Try these tips to ask for support from others when you need without sounding pathetic.

Be genuine.

Most people can instinctively detect an insincere request when they hear one. On the other hand, when someone has a genuine need for help and asks for it, even if the other party can’t help, they are more likely to empathize and potentially offer suggestions as to where help is available. The only way to get your need for support heard is to ask for it. Just make sure you’re genuine when you make the request.

Be honest with yourself.

Telling yourself lies may seem like the easiest course of action, but it won’t prove effective when you need support. Be brutally honest with yourself in this case. Instead of the tendency to focus on all your wrongdoings, disappointments, failure and shame, single out what you do that’s good, positive traits you possess, how you care deeply about others. This also entails forgiving yourself and vowing to be the best version of yourself. It takes work, and determination to overcome what’s presently getting you down, yet you can accomplish a great deal by undergoing this process.

Make your request specific.

Instead of a vague request for help, it’s best to be as specific as possible. Lumping all that you’re stressed about together will likely prove overwhelming, with the result that you can’t focus on the most pressing needs. Take time to narrow it down to what’s most important that you need help for right now. For example, if you feel you’re in danger of relapsing after treatment for drug or alcohol abuse or if you’re feeling vulnerable during the holidays now that you’re in recovery, say so to the person you’re seeking help from. The more specific your ask, the more likely the recipient of your request will understand what you need and have an idea what they may or may not be able to do for you. If their response is that they can’t help you, ask if they know someone who can. This gives them a way to provide some measure of support – helping you find someone to aid you further – and gives you an additional avenue to pursue.

Watch your emotions.

Things might have gotten dicey in your situation, resulting in you being in a highly emotional state. Many people, even those who know you best or are well-meaning, can’t handle emotions that are out of the bounds of what they’re comfortable with. In this instance, do your best to regain your composure before asking for support. You’re more likely to be heard when you’re calmer and know what you’re going to say.

Rely on your support networks.

Do you feel you need help with a drinking problem? Check out the resources available on Alcoholics Anonymous. If you are now in recovery from addiction, you have access to support from your 12-Step sponsor and fellow self-help group members. While working the steps, you’ve probably already encountered situations where you felt vulnerable to relapse or an inability to handle problems at work, school, home or elsewhere. Part of your interaction with your sponsor is to identify areas of stress and conflict and ways to effectively cope with these issues. The sponsor’s role is to serve as your guide and mentor in the recovery process and should willingly provide such support when you need it. As such, make sure to take advantage of this assistance from someone who knows what you’re going through, as he or she has been through it themselves.

What about those who aren’t in recovery but are experiencing difficulties and need help? The family is one of the other primary pillars of a strong support system for those in recovery and the loved ones and family members of recovering addicts, as well as for others not in recovery who need help. Enlist the support of a trusted loved one or family member in your time of need. Use the previously mentioned tips: be genuine, make your request specific, and watch your emotions.

Talk with a therapist.

If you feel overwhelmed and worry that you’re incapable of handling your current situation, if you have a therapist, get in touch with him or her to receive support and guidance during this time of need. For those in recovery who have aftercare or continuing care, such therapy is likely included in the program. Make use of such counseling, which can be of enormous benefit in weathering a crisis. For those without a current therapist, resources and help is available from sites such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI also offers free 24/7 support through their crisis text line.

Avoid being alone.

The worst thing you can do when you’re in need of support is trying to go it alone. Not only are you less likely to be objective, you’re setting yourself up for an even further dive into loneliness and misery by focusing on all that’s wrong in your life instead of proactive solutions. While you probably don’t feel like socializing, spending some time with a close friend may help ease your immediate distress. You could say you’re having a tough time right now and don’t really want to talk, yet you’d appreciate grabbing a coffee or going for a walk together. Most friends will readily accept this request and just being together is a positive step you can take.

Reach out for support in a crisis.

If, however, you are in crisis, deeply depressed or feel you may harm yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The lifeline is available 24/7, is free and confidential. The website has other resources on how you can help yourself, including tips on finding specific resources, self-care during the holidays and more.