It’s OK to be not OK

Key takeaways:
– It’s important to know that you are not OK.
– It may be hard to get out of a vicious cycle of emotional stress.
– Seek help if you are stuck.
– Remember that it’s OK to be not OK and learn to deal with it.

I sometimes have people crying in my office and that’s normal. Some came to explain why he/she did poorly in exams and wanted a second chance. Occasionally, students struggled with personal relationships or family issues. As a Professor in a university, I also work as a ‘consoler’ because people around me need my help. Over time, I have become an experienced consoler except that I don’t make a living by that. It’s a free service.

Being vulnerable and facing your failure is a part of self development. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I met a student in a corridor a few weeks ago and I noticed that he was not OK, although he said he was fine. It’s interesting what stress can do to a person (and to me, too! >_<). If you are relaxed and healthy, then it shows on your face. If you are not OK, then it’s easy to see that on your face. I knew the student was not OK.

A few weeks later, I met him again in a canteen and I bought him a cup of coffee. He was really not OK. Five minutes into our coffee conversation, I saw tears circling in his eyes. He was stressed and he couldn’t get himself out of it. Because of stress, he hadn’t slept well for a while. Because of poor sleep quality, he couldn’t focus on his research and fix his experiments. Then he got more stressed because of challenges from his study. Here comes the vicious cycle of stress.

After letting out some emotions, he looked a bit better and seemed like my ‘coffee consoling’ worked well for the student. At least, he acknowledged that he was not OK and was willing to talk about it. This released most of the tension he felt and certainly helped him recover.

Anxiety can be harmful for our mental health.

We sometimes struggle in our lives and we often get stuck. It’s important to acknowledge that it’s OK to be not OK and seek help. Sometimes, going out with friends can fix a problem. Often, we need to talk to someone and let our emotions out like opening the flood gate and let it flood.

It’s only when you are not OK, then you know how difficult it is to become OK again. It’s good to realise this and know the difference between being OK and not OK. Seek help and support and get yourself out of the vicious cycle. Once you learn how to do it, then it will become a powerful tool that you will use and benefit for the rest of your life.

Remember that it’s OK to be not OK.

Dr. C. Richard Wu

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2 thoughts on “It’s OK to be not OK

Add yours

  1. Wise words from a man who is always available for coffee and good advice
    Wise words from a man who can committ and complete an Ironman.
    Wise words from a man who will always make you feel welcome.
    Guess it is “ok to be not ok” just admit it to yourself and someone else for help
    Well written Dr Wu

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