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A message from the heart on R U OK? Day
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

A message from the heart on R U OK? Day

By Carlye Weiner, Clinical Psychologist 

Today is R U OK? Day, a day to check in with ourselves and those around us; a day for having conversations about mental health.  

Mental health is a hot topic in 2020. All of us, to some degree, have experienced a change to our mental health, from the good to the bad, to somewhere in between or, even, around in circles and back again.  

Heart health can impact on your mental health 

As someone with a heart condition, or any other chronic health issue, you are probably commonly on the receiving end of people asking, “R U OK?”. To be honest, it can be difficult to know how to answer.

When asked this question, many of us respond with an ingrained: “I’m OK”. We give this answer without much hesitation. Why? We like others to think and believe that we are OK. Maybe we do this, so they don’t worry. Perhaps we don’t want to burden them, or we don’t believe “a simple conversation” will help to manage our emotions.  

Other times it can seem like “R U OK?” is a senseless question: you might have just recently had a diagnosis, a heart event or still be in recovery; the reality is that what you’ve just been through is a telling sign that things are not, or recently have not, been OK. 

How you can help on R U OK? Day 

However, there is a lot of positive power in asking someone if they are OK. If you know someone living with heart disease or recovering from a heart incident, you can help on R U OK? day and beyond, just by asking the question.  

Asking someone “Are you OK?” isn’t always easy. To find help on how to ask the question, go to the R U OK? Day website to learn more about their simple 4-step method to check in with someone: 

  1. Ask R U OK? 
  2. Listen to their response with an open mind 
  3. Encourage action; and  
  4. Check in to see how they are doing 

Talking emotions on R U OK? Day and beyond 

When someone asks you “R U OK?”, how do you know how to respond? How do you know if you’re really OK, and what’s the best way to tell someone how you’re feeling? 

  1. Listen to the question and take a moment before you respond. This will stop that automatic “Yeah, I’m OK” response, or the “I’m good thanks, how are you?” reply from kicking in. Taking a pause before you answer gives you the time to look inwards to really answer this question for yourself. 
  2. Always be honest! To help you get to know, and express your true feelings, become aware of your own range of emotions. You can do this by writing a list of feelings so you can recognise and build your “emotional vocabulary”. This can be a great reference tool when discussing how you are feeling. Don’t worry if your emotions feel hard to pinpoint: it’s common to experience multiple emotions at the same time. 
  3. Give your answer more depth and detail. The person asking wants an authentic response and discussing genuine feelings and experiences shares the weight of those emotions too. It’s great to practice owning and sitting with your emotions, through regularly checking in with yourself, giving those feelings a label and allowing yourself to respond using healthy coping strategies.  

Responding to “R U OK?” is just the start of a conversation that builds connection and can help you feel less alone in your experience. 

Getting help on R U OK? Day, or any day 

 

For information and support around heart health, call the Heart Foundation Helpline on 13 11 12 during business hours. 

 

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