Have you ever felt the desperation to unwind and the need to relax after a long tiring day at work catering to the needs of others? In this fast-paced, hyper-connected world we live in, unplugging our mind and body from the exterior world seems impossible, yet it is the simplest thing to do.

 

Self-care is anything we do to nourish ourselves, which is crucial when we are feeling overwhelmed or burnt out from our jam-packed lives. With that being said, that is why creating a self-care space at home is a great idea to shut the rest of the world out and turn inward.

 

Having a self-care space in the comfort of your own home helps you to have the inner strength to understand yourself better and give yourself what you truly need. Making time and space for self-care means creating time in your day to focus on recharging and prioritizing yourself. On purpose. You read that right. Might sound like a bit of trouble and time-consuming, but trust us! Once you’ve made it as a routine, you’ll have more time in your day and a clearer headspace for you to tackle tasks more efficiently.

 

A great self-care space also helps you to practice focused attention which allows you to deepen your relationships with others and of course, will help you to be more productive!

 

In order to create a self-care space at home, you must first figure out what a self-care space looks like for you. Since this space serves you as an escape, it should be done by you, for you. So you’ll know what works best with the space and what will make you feel at ease in the space where you’ll be learning yourself. Whether it’s a cozy corner in your bedroom or balcony full of your plant babies, or even the shower, as long as you feel safe and comfortable, you are good to go!

 

Onto the next steps, ditch your screens. Yes, of all kinds! Put them on silent and it’s time for you to turn that big brain of yours on auto-pilot mode and let it wander and daydream. Because in our hectic lives, we hardly give ourselves a chance to daydream and ponder. Giving your brain a break can help you rest up for future challenges and relieve any stress that may be lingering.

 

Another wonderful addition to your self-care space would be words of affirmation, so you could manifest and remind yourself that there is no one else in this entire universe, who deserves your love and affection more than you yourself.

 

At the end of the day, everyone needs a break. Therefore, disconnecting from the outside world for a while to recharge, is not a bad idea after all.

It’s one of the most human things about us – to constantly focus on the flaws in ourselves and others. It’s in our nature to persistently try to jump into becoming the ideal person we wish ourselves to be. Although this can make us strive to grow and become the best versions of ourselves, other times we can end up holding ourselves to certain standards we have to reach, and standards we sometimes expect others to reach; whether they are close loved ones or even complete strangers we see on the internet. 

 

It’s important to know that constantly striving for perfection can become toxic; and holding certain high expectations towards others too, can become toxic. How about when we find ourselves criticizing strangers we see on social media? When we notice ourselves criticizing strangers we have no clue about, we may want to ask ourselves whether it’s because we have subconsciously detached ourselves from being empathetic or even occasionally, whether it’s because of our own insecurities. 

 

It can be hard to not compare ourselves to past versions or to expected versions of ourselves; as well as reminding ourselves that it isn’t our position to speak of our loved one’s lives as if we are the dictator of how they live theirs. As for strangers that we see on the internet, we could do some self-reflection and ask ourselves why we hold certain opinions towards them. Are they from our own deep rooted insecurities? Or if they live their life nothing like how we wish to live ours, are we critical perhaps because we actually just aren’t happy with ours? 

 

Replacing Criticism With Curiosity 

With all this talk of criticism, we may want to self-reflect and try practicing being more mindful so that when we catch these versions of ourselves present, we’ll know what to try doing instead.

 

When finding yourself being critical towards yourself:

 

When finding yourself being critical towards someone you don’t know:

 

When finding yourself being critical towards a loved one:

 

Whether it’s having an opinion on the way a stranger chooses to present themselves online, or the way a friend decides on how they want to live their life, we can definitely try being more empathetic and accepting by replacing criticism with curiosity instead. And as we find ourselves letting go and supporting how they wish to live, we may find ourselves being a lot kinder not only to them but to ourselves too.

New Year, New Goals, New You. With 2022 on the horizon, many of us are starting to wonder about how we’d like to better ourselves in the New Year. The classic New Year’s resolutions we hear every January range from working out to eating healthier. While these are great goals, there are plenty more ways to improve your well-being.

 

Your resolutions don’t necessarily have to be flashy – in fact, they can be totally invisible to others. The past two years have been full of adjustments in all our lives. So, why not make 2022 the year of mental health?

 

Here are 5 ideas to get you started:

  1. Commit to Kinder Self-Talk

We all have a voice in our head, constantly narrating throughout our day. When was the last time you examined that voice? For many of us, our inner voice tends to be our harshest critic. Luckily, with some effort, we can gently shift our self-talk to be kinder and compassionate. Next time, when the voice in your head sounds a little harsh, try thinking about what you would say to a close friend in that situation. With time, “I messed up” can morph into “I’m learning and growing”.

 

  1. Learn to Say No

Our time and energy are our most precious resources, yet many of us struggle to expend these resources the way we want it. People-pleasing is a surefire way to feel burned out. So, in 2022, evaluate which people, activities and interests are your priorities. When you have this figured out, you will slowly master the art of saying “no” firmly (and kindly) to things you don’t have time for at the moment. Remember, you have the right to politely decline, and you don’t have to qualify your no(s) if you don’t want to.

 

  1. Make Sleep a Priority

Once you’ve learned to say no if that’s the right choice for you, this is the part where you bag in the rest you deserve. We’re a sleep-deprived generation. Some people consider lack of sleep a badge of honour, a signifier of success. But remember, growth doesn’t always mean grind. Start turning off your phone an hour before bedtime. Instead, use this hour to relax in your bed without any distractions.

 

  1. Try Gratitude Journaling

Keeping a gratitude journal can be one of the simplest things you can do for your mental health. Gratitude journals aren’t like the diaries you may have kept as a teenager. Instead of writing random thoughts, write about the things you’re grateful for – big or small. Maybe start by writing once or twice per week. Gratitude is a skill you can cultivate, and in turn, shifts your mindset towards seeing more positivity!

 

  1. Ask for Help

Finally, recognise that in 2022, you don’t have to do it all alone. Many of us often feel embarrassed to request for help – be it a ride to the airport or a simple talk on a big decision. Sometimes, we may have a lot on our plate, and it can get difficult to cope with it on our own. And if you’re struggling with your mental health, seeking out professional help is one the kindest things you can do for yourself. Consider going for therapy. The empathy, care and support you’ll get can help reduce your stress and live brighter in the New Year.

 

As we move into 2022, remember that we’re all works in progress and always will be. Our mental wellness isn’t a box to check off, instead it’s a practice we commit to. With some reflection and help from our loved ones, we can tackle 2022 head on with all our beautiful messiness and imperfections.

When the first lockdown was announced and I was told that I could work from home, I thought it was the best thing that could happen to me. I wanted to make full use of the time that I had at hand and workout, cook healthy meals, do other household chores, whilst trying to meet deadlines at work.

 

Little did I know that soon, all these tasks were going to overwhelm me and affect the quality of my work. I seem to have set up unrealistic expectations by trying to cram in these household tasks during my work hours, and later on realised that my work was trickling into the after-work hours that I would spend with my loved ones at home.

 

I was struggling to switch off work mode even during my off-days, which I did not realise until my partner pointed it out. What I was experiencing was toxic productivity – I was extremely obsessed with productivity, yet at the end of the day, had not achieved anything qualitative be it at work or in my personal life.

 

Although toxic productivity is something that has been under discussion for years, the past two years of the pandemic seems to have popularised the term. Toxic productivity goes hand-in-hand with hustle culture and workaholism, and tends to trap a person in a never-ending cycle of work, which leaves you with a feeling that you are not doing enough.

 

It stems from a culture that praises and rewards productivity, which is a good thing, but does not always tell us where to draw the line. You get obsessed with work – where you are trying to do more, not taking into account the quality of work that you are delivering, leading you to burnout.

 

Dangers of Toxic Productivity

While toxic productivity can indeed negatively affect your relationships and leave you with feelings of guilt, it can also lead to workplace burnout and fatigue. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) classification of diseases included burn-out as an occupational phenomenon in its 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

 

According to WHO, “burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It is characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased negativity or cynicism in relation to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.

 

If you feel like you may be suffering from toxic productivity right now, you are not alone. A 2020 study conducted by global staffing firm Robert Half  found that nearly 7 in 10 professionals (68%) who transitioned to a remote setup as a result of the pandemic said they work on the weekend. In addition, 45% of remote employees reported regularly putting in more than 8 hours a day. The good news is that you can take simple steps to break the cycle.

 

Signs of Toxic Productivity
  1. Working so much that it harms your health and personal relationships – If you are ignoring basic human requirements like eating, sleeping, meeting friends and family and forgetting your other obligations and responsibilities, then you are falling into the trap of toxic productivity.
  2. Having unrealistic expectations from yourself – You expect the same output every day, irrespective of the external factors and stressful situations that may disrupt your normalcy, which is unreasonable.
  3. Difficulty staying still or constant restlessness – If you feel guilty taking a break or time off, and feel your self-worth reducing, you may be suffering from toxic productivity.
  4. Overwhelmed by feelings and unable to work – Many of us attach our self-worth to how productive we are or how many hours in a day we have worked. That is unhealthy. It is important to work hard, but equally as important to not work yourself to the point of burnout.

 

Avoiding toxic productivity

Mood and stress expert Erika Katherine Ferszt, who is also the founder of Moodally – a purpose built-app that provides access to mood management tools to enhance a person’s mood, says that the key to avoiding toxic productivity is finding balance. Ferszt suggests that it is important to read the signals when one notices that they are spiralling and recommends that we take steps to balance them out. The first step towards finding the balance between work and rest is to remember to take breaks in between our work hours – like walking away from our work desk for a 10-minute break.

 

She points out that most often people do not relax because they do not know what to do. She suggests making a list of the things we would like to do, if time / money / distance / COVID-related travel restrictions were not an issue, such as going on vacation to an island resort in Asia, or travelling across Europe to improve our culinary skills. Ferszt explains that we can start relaxing by watching YouTube videos relating to the experiences, and gradually plan our trip or discover alternatives, such as finding a recipe to make at home that will turn out to be an enjoyable experience.

 

Ferszt further notes that; “Toxically productive people are so focused on what they have to do that they’ve completely forgotten what they like to do. Investing energy in that discovery will start to awaken an internal voice that reminds us ‘Hey, you remember me?’”.

 

Ending toxic productivity

Set realistic goals – The pandemic had a drastic impact on many of us as we had to adjust to working from home. This might have blurred the timelines between your work and attending to your household work. It is better to understand these obstacles and work around them by reducing the goals that you set to accomplish within the day.

 

Take breaks – Taking breaks is necessary and can help you avoid falling into the toxic productivity trap. Studies have revealed that people who take breaks are more productive than people who do not. Schedule breaks throughout your day at regular intervals, rather than taking a break when you are on the verge of collapse. The Pomodoro Method is a great strategy to stay on task while also taking frequent breaks – where you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-10 minute break.

 

Get some accountability – Have a circle of friends or family members who will remind you of your harmful behaviours (setting unrealistic goals, attempting to take on too many work-related tasks, forgetting to eat and take breaks). Listen to them when they remind you that you are falling out of line.

 

Define clearer work-life boundaries – Do not take on too much work that it trickles into your personal life, and takes up your relaxation time or the time you dedicate to spending with your family, loved ones or friends. You can always say ‘no’ if your work is taking up your free time. Make sure you communicate your boundaries to everyone in your life. Set a schedule to turn off your work phone / email or set aside your phone when spending time with your loved ones.

 

Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness is a way to help us connect to the present moment and ourselves. Mindfulness invites us to observe and accept what is happening around us and within us without judgement. We learn to be more aware of our bodies and needs. Mindfulness helps us disconnect from our “fight or flight” survival instincts, allowing us to connect with more mature, healthy ways of relating to the world.

 

Seek mental health help – Finally, if you continue to feel the signs of toxic productivity even after introducing these tactics to your work and home life, seek help from a mental health professional to ensure you do not find yourself burned out in the future.

With the year coming close to an end and the new year approaching, most of us are undoubtedly already planning for the new year ahead.

 

Naturally, with all the drastic changes in our daily lives – due to the pandemic and the lockdowns – we may have picked up certain habits we haven’t noticed and could still be carrying, even after things have started returning back to normal. If not habits stemmed from the lockdowns, we can all still make a list of unhealthy behaviours to finally leave behind in 2021, and replace them with healthier ones for our own personal journeys of growth in the new year ahead. 

 

Make a hot cup of tea and start reflecting! Reflect on your own possible unhealthy habits, and list them down. 

 

Here are some of ours:
  1. Not setting boundaries with work
  2. Becoming overly-dependent on food delivery
  3. Neglecting our health (physical & mental)
  4. Comparing ourselves to others 
  5. Not getting enough sleep

 

What to do instead: 

Actively set those work boundaries.

Whether it’s a boundary of saying “no” to your boss after working hours or creating barriers for the areas in your home where work is welcome, setting these kinds of boundaries can be a breath of fresh air. Become more aware of your own limitations and practice saying “no” to work tasks from your boss and /or colleagues; especially if your hands are already full. If you’re still WFH (working-from-home), try separating areas within your home where you don’t bring work into, for example: refraining from bringing your laptop into bed and leaving your bedroom as a space where only rest is allowed. Doing this can help you create a barrier for when and where you should be focusing on work, or focusing on your peace of mind. 

 

Get to know your kitchen.

The convenience whilst being in the comforts of your own home, we know, ordering in can be addicting. But let’s try to get rid of this habit and start cooking for ourselves more often. If you’re someone who already doesn’t enjoy cooking, look for simpler and easier recipes you can easily take fifteen minutes to prepare. You’d not only be tackling a new skill but would also be doing much more good for the environment. 

 

Put your health first.

Don’t only take one or two days off your week to focus on your physical and mental health. Try incorporating little acts of self-care and kindness every single day – drinking more water, eating more whole foods, practicing your nighttime self-care routine, or taking daily supplements. We can often end up neglecting our own health due to forgetting, so actively list these and other self-care acts into your daily to-do lists or calendars. Our future selves will thank us.

 

Focus on yourself. 

It can be hard to not compare yourself to other people and their achievements. Especially during the pandemic, we can often find ourselves feeling guilty seeing other people being more productive or in places and positions we wish ourselves were in. It’s perfectly normal, however, try not to hang around there for too long. Make a list of your own achievements and accomplishments, celebrate them, and try incorporating positive affirmations into your daily life to remind yourself of how wonderful you are. 

 

Prioritize beauty sleep.

Especially if you’re someone who runs off a good night of rest. Try maintaining a daily night routine of unwinding and relaxing – making a hot cup of chamomile tea, Brain-Dump journal, or watch your current favourite TV show; and give yourself extra time before bed to slowly doze off. Getting enough rest and good quality sleep will have you feeling more energized, healthier, and happier. 

 

We wish you luck on the lists and hope 2022 will be another successful year of self-growth and improvement for you!

How do you respond to stress and adversity – are you able to carry yourself well and interact with others or do you get overwhelmed by negative thoughts and emotions?

 

According popular Instagram Holistic Life Coach and Certified Trauma Support Specialist, Amy Fielder, how a person copes, soothes and regulates their emotions during times of adversity can determine one’s emotional health.

 

Amy explains that; “Someone who is emotionally healthy would witness their thoughts, feel their feelings but then regulate and soothe them and find clarity in an effort to determine if they need to take any action or speak up about something or not. They hold themselves accountable for how they feel”.

 

What Is Emotional Health?

Emotional health is a person’s ability to identify, process, and act upon feelings in specific circumstances over a course of time. It includes both emotional intelligence and emotional resilience. When the subjective experience of emotions is appropriate over a sustained period, emotional health is thought to be present.

 

How To Improve Your Emotional Health

Emotional health is built upon five pillars: your psychology, relationships, nutrition, sleep and exercise.

 

Your psychology – Which is made up of your established patterns and beliefs in how you talk to yourself, your history of trauma, the stories about the fact of life you grow up around that contributes towards your personal development; and your willingness to step out of your comfort zone and discover what patterns have been running your life. This is your ability to create and live the vision of the person you wish to be.

 

Your relationships – As you’ve heard, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Because it is so monumentally important, if our relationships with those people turn sour, our emotional health will suffer significantly. Working on your relationships means addressing the pain points with your significant other and those close to you. It means having conversations with your boss and co-workers to create an environment that is most conducive to your emotional intelligence and emotional resilience. It also includes releasing who you should be and embracing who you are, so you can attract the right people into your life.

 

Your nutrition – If our brain and nerve functions are not operating at a proper capacity, we are not going to feel well. When we do not feel well, our emotional resilience will suffer. What we may not be aware of is that 90% of our neurotransmitters are located in our gut. An estimated 100 trillion bacteria in our gut are responsible for neurotransmitter production and other functions. Diets high in refined sugar, fried fats, processed food, and animal products tend to produce a sub-optimal gut microbiome, but diets that are high in whole plant foods and insoluble fibre are essential for a gut microbiome and can, in return, give us optimum emotional health.

 

Your sleep – We’ve all sacrificed sleep to get more work done (or watch more Netflix). However, these missed sleep hours can catch up with you later on, causing adrenal fatigue – which can take a toll on your emotional resilience. Sleep is important as the brain uses that time to process our day’s events. We place the day’s events into long-term memory and form connections in our brain, detoxify our bodies and shed waste. Therefore, if you want to improve your emotional health, you need to prioritise getting adequate hours of sleep.

 

Your exercise – Good emotional health requires good physical health. We should all workout to train our bodies to operate at their highest level. If you want to feel good and perform at your best, move your body. Adapt a healthy workout routine to suit your daily activities.

 

By working on improving the above five pillars, you will be able to improve your emotional health significantly.

 

Self-Reflection Questions For Your Emotional Health

You can ask yourself the following questions to help self-reflect and keep your emotional health in check:

Have you ever looked at someone and wished you had their confidence? They could be killing it during a work presentation, wearing the bold outfit that ends up in the back of your closet or filming multiple takes of a TikTok dance in public – we all just want to be comfortable with ourselves. But did you know that there’s a difference between self-confidence and self-esteem? 

 

The Differences Between Self-Confidence & Self-Esteem

Confidence and self-esteem are often used interchangeably, but they represent different perceptions you have about yourself. Self-confidence is how you view your abilities to accomplish certain things and tasks, while self-esteem is the opinion you have of yourself and your value. You can have high self-confidence and low self-esteem or low self-confidence and high self-esteem, but in order to live a fulfilling life, you need a healthy amount of both.

 

Signs of Low Self-Confidence & Self-Esteem

Confidence is situation-specific because it is built on achievements. When you’re successful at something or have completed a specific task, you’ll be more sure or confident that you can do it again. But when you don’t trust yourself, low self-confidence can look like:

 

Self-esteem is built on personal worth, so it covers the general impression you have of yourself. This normally begins in childhood, but can also be caused by stress and difficult life events. Signs of low self-esteem include:

 

How To Improve Self-Confidence & Self-Esteem

Low self-confidence and self-esteem can be restricting and, for some, debilitating – please seek professional help if your negative thoughts affect your day-to-day life. Confidence is easier to build than self-esteem, but to begin working yourself, you need to fully accept yourself for who you are. When we separate ourselves from our actions and abilities, we’re able to understand that our mistakes and flaws don’t define us. 

 

  1. Compliment yourself – As cheesy as it sounds, positive self-talk and daily affirmations can work. Reprogram your thinking by changing the way you talk to and about yourself.
  2. Set boundaries – Practice boundaries and learn how to communicate your needs to others. This includes setting boundaries with yourself to conserve your time and energy.
  3. Treat yourself – Celebrate your accomplishments by treating yourself to something nice. You can also reward yourself with some me-time and participate in activities that bring you joy.
  4. Learn something new – Explore a passion and allow yourself to learn from the challenges. Set manageable goals and celebrate your achievements no matter how small they are.

 

With healthy self-confidence and self-esteem, you’ll be able to handle life’s challenges better, have more enjoyable experiences, and build positive relationships.

Many of us have started preparing for the festive season, marking our calendars for the upcoming dinners filled with holiday foods and drinks. It’s the season of overindulgence, so we’re raising awareness about a commonly occurring reflux disease known as GERD, which tends to present symptoms when under stress.

 

In 1999 the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) added the GERD Awareness week to the US national health observances calendar. Since then, every year during Thanksgiving week, the IFFGD raises awareness about chronic gastrointestinal disorders like GERD to help educate the public and support those who are suffering from such conditions.

 

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a common disorder. The IFFGD notes that 1 in 5 people suffer from GERD in the United States, with each year closer to 5 million Americans admitted to the hospital due to chest pains caused by GERD.

 

Commonly referred to as acid reflux disease, GERD occurs when acidic or non-acidic stomach contents back-flows into the oesophagus accompanied by heartburn and regurgitation of acid symptoms. At times one might only find out that they are suffering from GERD when complications become evident.

 

Symptoms result from constant exposure of the oesophagus lining to acidic or non-acidic contents from the stomach, which leads to GERD with tissue damage known as oesophagitis or erosive GERD, and GERD without tissue damage causes non-erosive GERD.

 

There is no known single cause of the disease. However, medical professionals know that the reflux aspect happens when the muscle barrier between the oesophagus and the stomach malfunctions or is otherwise overwhelmed. Although chronic heartburn is the most common symptom, there are several other less common symptoms associated with GERD:

 

The link between GERD and anxiety

study conducted in 2015 revealed that anxiety and depression might play a role in the occurrence of GERD and especially that of non-erosive GERD. Having severe GERD symptoms can be a stressful experience and may thereby increase anxiety.

 

If someone has GERD and anxiety, they will have to look at a treatment plan to treat symptoms for both of these conditions. Common medications used to treat anxiety could worsen GERD symptoms.

 

How stress makes GERD worse

Researchers have proposed that psychological conditions, including anxiety, might have physiological effects that lead to GERD, suggesting that there are several possible physical reasons for this:

 

Despite all these studies, there is still no proof that people that undergo stress produce more stomach acid or experience GERD symptoms. However, many who responded to the studies reported that they noticed an increase in GERD symptoms when they were under a lot of stress.

 

Knowing why stress aggravates acid reflux is less important than knowing how to reduce stress and manage your symptoms. Other treatment options and lifestyle changes appropriate for both anxiety and GERD include:

 

If you are experiencing GERD due to stress, seek medical attention to get advice and guidance on lifestyle changes to reduce stress and get the necessary medication and treatment to ease symptoms of GERD

Here’s some food for thought: What’s more important when it comes to determining success in life – book smarts or street smarts? Essentially, most of us are aware of general intelligence. In fact, at some point in your life, you might’ve attempted an IQ test to see where your noggin ranks compared to your peers. But there’s another type of intelligence that continues to be important – emotional intelligence, aka your Emotional Quotient (EQ).

 

Yes, the way you understand, control and express the feels is also a form of intelligence. So, here’s everything you need to know about emotional intelligence.

 

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, evaluate and express emotions. Researchers suggest that emotional intelligence is something that can be learned while others believe that it’s an inborn characteristic. Not everyone has this trait, but those who do are known to be more self-aware, empathic and manage relationships better.

 

Why is this important?

Psychologists claim that emotional intelligence is important because it helps motivate yourself and cultivate positive social interactions. This can benefit you both personally and professionally in several ways.

Kicking off with the holy grail, good mental health – something each of us aspire to master. And surprise, surprise, there’s a direct link between emotional intelligence and improved mental health. As EQ highly deals with the expression and regulation of moods and emotions, this can be beneficial when you’re dealing with stress or anxiety.

 

Everyone appreciates the feeling of being understood. Being able to comprehend your own and others’ emotions helps you to participate in conversations rationally. When you can question the reasons behind your emotions and evaluate others’ feelings without getting defensive, you can easily settle disagreements without it turning into a mug-throwing warzone.

A high emotional intelligence could even help you progress your career. For example, you’re more likely to foster relationships, defuse conflicts and improve job satisfaction in the workplace. When you’re able to accept criticism constructively, this helps you stay competitive and viable while improving your leadership.

 

Can emotional intelligence be improved?

Some people are naturally #blessed with people skills, while others are just seen shy and awkward. Good news, EQ is something that can age like fine wine if you work on it.

Signs of low emotional intelligence:

 

Here’s the thing, emotional intelligence isn’t fixed. So, you can take steps to increase your emotional awareness and get better at recognizing feelings in both yourself and others.

Here’s how to get started.

If you want to understand how others are feeling, the first step is to pay attention. Put in the effort to listen to what the other person is trying to tell you – both verbally and non-verbally. Body language can carry a great deal of meaning. Try to be present in the moment and focus on the interaction.

 

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is critical to truly understand their point of view. It is normal to have disagreements. But next time, maybe try empathizing with other people. Imagining how you would feel in their situation can not only help you resolve conflicts in healthy ways but also develop stronger emotional skills in the long run.

 

Get in touch with your emotions. Considering how your own emotions influence your behaviour and decisions, it is an important part of emotional intelligence. How do your emotions differ from the other person? Are there unseen factors contributing to this? Exploring such questions helps you understand the role emotions play in people’s behaviors.

 

The bottom line, everyone has feelings but not everyone has an easy time accepting nor understanding them. Improving your emotional intelligence may take some work, but it’s absolutely possible if you put in the work.

During the prolonged lockdowns, I was eager to meet up with friends and family. Although Zoom and FaceTime calls were essential to maintain social connections, they weren’t able to subtitle real human contact. We made plans to meet up as soon as the lockdown lifted, but now that restrictions have eased and opportunities to socialise have grown, I find myself feeling exhausted and looking forward to some quiet time.

 

Before the pandemic, I always felt inspired and energised whenever I was with my friends. That seems to have changed after our first few post-lockdown hangouts – I struggled to follow through with the conversations. Why was I feeling this way? I knew I couldn’t be the only one, so I did some searching online and discovered that I was experiencing a social hangover.

 

What is a social hangover?

A social hangover is not a clinical term, but it’s a term that has existed in the vocabulary of introverts. Now, post-lockdown, it’s a term that many of us can relate to, regardless of whether we are introverts or extroverts. Similar to an alcohol hangover, a social hangover is the feeling of utter depletion after socialising. There may not be a headache or sick bucket involved, but after too much socialising, one can feel physically and emotionally exhausted.

 

Why do we experience social hangovers?

According to Australian psychotherapist Amber Rules, when we spend time with people in large crowds or noisy places, the social part of our brain gets stimulated, making us hyper-aroused. Since we have not socialised in a while, this can become an exhausting experience, prompting us to rest and recover. She added that it is normal to feel overloaded or overwhelmed even after very little social engagement.

 

How to get over a social hangover

After experiencing social hangovers during my recent meet-ups, I thought that I could share some tips with you on how to avoid experiencing it further:

In these digitised times, none of us are strangers to the concept of cyberbullying. But at what scale does online harassment occur, how does it affect the people on the receiving end of it, and what might be possible solutions to the problem?

 

This was the subject of a recent Clubhouse discussion organised by the Content Forum, titled “Cyberbullying: They Asked For It”. Featuring guests Ain Husniza, Hunny Madu, and Hafiz Hatim, the session was a no-holds-barred conversation about dealing with toxicity online.

 

Sharing her experience of online gaming communities, student advocate Ain said that children were particularly vulnerable to abuse – from both predatory adults, as well as their own peers.

 

“Children are innocent; they go online thinking that they just want to make friends but there are people who will take advantage of that. I’ve received unsolicited pictures myself… and I’ve had friends as young as 11 being asked to send their own pictures to people,” she said.

 

Ain added that what her parents taught her about staying safe online, from a young age, had prepared her and protected her from online harassment to an extent. However, even she was not prepared for the amount of abuse that would be levelled at her when she chose to publicly speak up against a rape joke made by her teacher recently.

 

“I was shocked because people weren’t just attacking me over the issue itself, but they were making character assassinations – my personality, my body, just attacking me for being myself. There was a Facebook group of more than 100,000 teachers, discussing my case once it went viral – the comments really shocked me. They were body-shaming me, making comments about my body and sexualising me. It really shone a light on how some Malaysians are acting online,” she said.

 

Meanwhile, celebrity TV host Hunny Madu spoke about the pressure public figures face in trying to maintain a dual identity, expressing that this was especially so for women. While remarking that some celebrities may choose to minimise judgement from the public by holding back their personality on social media, Hunny found it best to be herself.

 

“I used to do a lot of hosting for TV and I was hosting a serious talk show, so my image was always about respecting the market. But it wasn’t the real me so I felt like I had a curtain over a fragment of my life. When I started working out, I realised I was comfortable with who I am – whatever I showed on Instagram is who you will see in real life. When I grasped that concept, I realised I’ve got nothing to hide. Take me as I am, I don’t want to hide anymore. I believe it’s about owning yourself, finding your power and being comfortable with yourself, if you want to be a public figure” she said.

 

Speaking from his perspective as a father, radio announcer Hafiz joked that he would never let his daughter have social media if he could but that would not be fair or feasible. “Frankly, the best thing I can do is monitor what she watches, guide and educate her. It boils down to parents sharing with their children about the potential threats that are out there. It’s all about our relationship with our kids and how open we are with them about all this,” he said.

 

All three guests also shared that the pile-on of hatred and negative comments from hundreds of strangers online can be overwhelming. Commenting on the nature of ‘cancel culture’ for instance, Hafiz said that it was not right for people to gang up on someone for one mistake on social media, going to the extent of demanding that they be fired. “Sometimes people don’t understand the full context of a matter, but they’ll just jump on the bandwagon. And I’m thinking: do we really want someone to get fired because of a TikTok video they made?” he added.

 

Ultimately, the end goal is to find ways to make online spaces safer and accessible to all. As Ain put it: “Everybody has the right to use the internet and feel safe while using the internet. But I have experienced more abuse online than I have ever done in real life. The internet is becoming more and more integral to our lives and we need a better approach to this problem rather than invalidating victims by telling them to just shut down the computer.”

 

The discussion is part of an on-going series by the Content Forum, to create awareness over its current public consultation for proposed revisions of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code (Content Code). Drawn up by the Content Forum and introduced in 2004, the Content Code is a set of guidelines which outline best practices and ethical standards for content creation and curation.

 

“By having these open conversations, we’re hoping to encourage more people to give their feedback, ideas, and opinions about these revisions,” said the Content Forum’s Executive Director Mediha Mahmood. “This discussion for instance, is relevant to our proposals for mitigating online abuse and gender-based violence within online spaces. On our end, we want to gather as much feedback as possible because the more input we get, the more likely the Content Code will reflect the standards of Malaysian society, which is the measurement used for us to determine the best practices in the Code. At the end of the day, this is a joint community effort, and our way of creating safer and inclusive digital spaces.”

 

Listen to the full session on Clubhouse here.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but what about during a pandemic? Some couples were forced into long-distance relationships when lockdowns and strict social distancing measures were introduced to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Other couples were locked down with each other, which also has its complications. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on relationships as many partners felt lonely and distant from each other, and experienced more stress and conflict. 

 

Ms. Pang Chia Yee, Lecturer from the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Taylor’s University, shares her insights into how the pandemic has affected relationships and mental health, as well as advice.

 

The Pandemic’s Effect On Relationships

There are a few kinds of pandemic stress such as working from home, health issues, finances, and etc., that would have an effect on the dynamics of a relationship. It is like a double-edged sword that can bring two individuals closer or further apart – physically or emotionally. These external stressors may challenge the coping mechanisms of individuals and also alter the dynamics within a relationship, forcing couples to work together to adapt and conquer challenges that comes along. These changes could either make or break the relationship.

 

Loneliness & Mental Health

Loneliness in general does affect mental health. There is a difference in being alone and feeling alone. Some people may feel comfortable being alone, but it does not necessarily mean that they feel lonely. The feeling of loneliness in a relationship does not necessarily equate to being apart, but it could also be in the presence of others. The disconnection with others and the feeling of not being understood could easily lead to a rise in tension. The buildup of such emotional cut-off would lead to an array of issues, such as stress, sleep difficulties, esteem issues, anxiety and even depression.

 

How To Support Your Partner’s Mental Health

It would be helpful to start off by being able to gauge your partner’s stress levels. This would then lead to all the other actions that can be taken. Based on the partner’s needs, it would be nice to have each other’s back by showing support using the five languages of love (i.e., words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time and acts of service).  At the same time, it would be beneficial to have frequent check-ins with your partner and not assuming that everything is alright.

 

Tips: Being present for your partner is important! If you and your partner have an argument, do try to sort it out before bedtime. Try empathizing, listening and understanding your partner’s point of view. A relationship consists of two unique individuals, where opinions are bound to clash and that is ok. Put it on the table. If you need support, communicate it with your partner.

 

How To Build Resilience As A Couple

The key factor to building resilience with couples is effective communication. Communication is essential in making a relationship work, be it expressing the needs and wants of one another. It is especially important to be able to communicate freely of the need for support and affection. Couples need to be mindful that individuals within the relationship are different individuals with their unique and individualistic ways of coping. Despite the differences in coping, it would be helpful for couples to support one another mentally and physically. Couples could work together in setting common goals, or even practice gratitude. The quality of teamwork will help to enhance and strengthen the relationship, allowing the couple to grow together.

 

Not All To Blame

The pandemic may create a lot more difficulties and inconvenience that may not have existed in the past. However, the pandemic may not be the sole cause of such relationship challenges. In fact, the pandemic allows couples to view a more wholistic picture of the relationship, by magnifying into various aspects that may not be visible prior to this. What could couples do? Take ownership and responsibilities in the relationship. Work together in making the relationship work despite all the differences. It is not easy to show vulnerability, but it is also a form of strength. Don’t forget it takes two to clap.

 

About Ms. Pang Chia Yee

Ms. Pang Chia Yee is a psychology lecturer, researcher and therapist. Her expertise includes gender studies, personal development, sexuality, relationships, mental health, resilience and counselling. She graduated with a Master of Arts (Counselling) from University of Nottingham, United Kingdom and BA (Hons) – majoring in Psychology and minor in Philosophy from University of Prince Edward Island, Canada. She has conducted various workshops, training and talks for corporations, schools and the public. She has more than 10 years of experience in the mental health field.