The pandemic has been an anxiety-inducing time, so you may have experienced more stress than usual. Many people have reported their highest levels of stress while facing fear, uncertainty, job insecurity, and grief. The prolonged stress has taken an unprecedented toll on our mental health, which can also affect our physical health.
When we are feeling stressed, our bodies produce stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, that trigger our “fight or flight” response. This causes our heart rates and blood pressure to increase as our body prepares to protect us in an emergency. Long-term activation of the stress system overexposes us to stress hormones and disrupts our body’s processes.
The excessive hormones remain in our bloodstream for extended durations, even when we don’t require them anymore. You may have felt the effects of stress as a headache, heartburn, rapid breathing, pounding heart, and / or stomachache. These physical symptoms are our bodies response to the changes, which in turn, causes other internal changes and an imbalance in our hormones.
What is a hormonal imbalance?
A hormonal imbalance occurs when our bodies produce either too little or too much of a particular hormone. Hormone levels naturally fluctuate as we grow and pass different life stages; however, an imbalance in our hormones, especially for a prolonged time, can have negative effects on our overall health.
Symptoms of a hormonal imbalance include:
- Unexplained weight gain / weight loss
- Constant mood swings
- Skin problems (chronic acne / dry skin)
- Thinning hair / Widespread hair loss
- Irregular periods
- Decreased sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
Experiencing one or more of these symptoms can be an indication, but it does not guarantee that you have a hormonal imbalance. Please make an appointment with a doctor for a diagnostic test.
Other than stress and anxiety, there are numerous other causes of a hormonal imbalance, such as:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Medical treatments
- Excessive exercise
- Underlying health conditions (diabetes, thyroid problems, etc.)
To reduce stress and anxiety, try:
- Seeking professional help to manage stress and anxiety.
- Setting boundaries to achieve a better work-life balance.
- Improving your sleep hygiene and getting enough sleep.
- Maintaining a healthy balanced diet.
- Meditating and moving your body regularly to help with endocrine health.
There are two types of newly single people – those who are openly heartbroken and those who are openly trying to convince others (and themselves) that they’ve healed. Yes, healing looks different for everyone, but what’s the same for all of us is that healing isn’t linear.
Even after spending a weekend crying it out, you can’t expect to have removed the pain entirely – healing is an ongoing process of making it feel less intense and more manageable. One day you’ll embrace your newfound independence, the other you’ll experience fear and loneliness. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed!
Moving one step forward and three steps back still counts as progress. In an Instagram post by London-based integrative psychotherapist, Seerut K. Chawla MBACP, she compares healing to an old injury, which can sometimes still hurt after being significantly healed – that is the normal human experience after all.
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Here are 6 indicators of what healing really is:
You don’t avoid your feelings.
Healing and growth can only begin to take place when we finally address our feelings. It may seem easier to avoid our emotions, but then we’ll also have to deal with the difficult consequences of acting out. Healing takes away the power of pain, that makes avoidance seem necessary, and instead, allows you to sit with the discomfort.
You’re able to take accountability.
Taking accountability does not mean taking the blame, it means understanding the impact of your own actions on yourself and others. Reflect on your role in the relationship and choose healing over repeating past patterns unconsciously. We are not responsible for what others say or do, but we are fully responsible for ourselves and our actions.
You’re more patient with the process.
Like we mentioned above, healing isn’t linear. Once you accept it as an ever-changing process, you’ll be able to show yourself more compassion when times get rough. Remember that bad days are temporary and they still count as progress. Turn your feelings of powerlessness and helplessness into the realisation that moving forward is possible.
You blame yourself less.
Everything is not your fault. Know when to forgive yourself, especially if you’ve forgiven others, and break the habit of self-blame. Practice mindfulness to help you understand the situation better, and place the blame and responsibility where it actually belongs. If you still feel guilty, work on becoming more conscious of your patterns without judgement.
You understand your triggers.
Triggers are emotional reactions that show you where you need healing – avoiding them won’t help. Explore your emotional triggers in a safe space by revisiting the discomfort, and identifying what triggered you and how you responded. This will allow you to develop a healthier response and reduce the impact it has on you.
You’re able to set boundaries.
Begin prioritising self-care and self-compassion. When you start to heal, you’ll be able to clarify what is and isn’t your responsibility, set clearer boundaries and actually stick to them. Respected boundaries establish relationships that are emotionally healthy on all sides. Protect your emotional space with ease and kindness.
Finally! More people are becoming fully vaccinated, restrictions are starting to ease. But why do we feel more anxious than excited? This is what we’ve been waiting for. Are these butterflies in our stomach a combination of both?
First off, feeling nervous is totally normal. We’ve spent almost two years in lockdown, so our social skills haven’t been put to as much use. Even if you’re extroverted, it’s natural to feel uneasy about the idea of face-to-face interactions after being able to hide behind screens and appear in flattering lighting.
Secondly, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Our economy and borders may have reopened, but daily COVID-19 cases have remained in the double digits. The fear continues with fully vaccinated people still being able to become infected and spread the virus to others (but it does reduce your risk of infection and the severity if you do get infected, so please get vaccinated!).
Over the lockdown period, these social worries and health concerns could have developed into social anxiety. Social anxiety is more than feeling nervous or uncomfortable, and may cause you to avoid all social contact. It can also lead to additional problems, such as substance abuse and depression.
What Is Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder where an individual forms an overwhelming fear of social situations. This disorder is more than being shy or introverted. A lot of people struggle with social anxiety, making it hard for them to fit in at social gatherings, talk to new people, and participate in ongoing conversations. These persistent and intense social fears can cause increased feelings of unhappiness and loneliness.
What Are The Signs
Social anxiety can appear as emotional and physical responses, such as:
- Worrying about how people may perceive you in a social situation.
- The fear of being embarrassed.
- Feeling stressed over possibilities in upcoming events.
- Being scared of accidentally offending someone.
- Agreeing with everyone and suppressing personal opinions.
- Avoiding being the center of attention.
The physical symptoms to look out for are:
- Avoiding eye contact, social gatherings or interactions.
- Constantly cancelling plans.
- Shaky voice while communicating.
- Muscle tension and sweating in environments you’re unlikely to sweat.
- Sudden dizziness / lightheadedness, rapid heart rate or upset stomach in social situations.
How To Deal
Slowly ease yourself back into things.
- Even if your friends and family have been rushing to make plans, you can still take your time with filling up your social calendar. Don’t overwhelm yourself with back-to-back events, see how you feel after each gathering before planning the next one.
Plan ahead and prepare.
- Allow yourself to rest and take it easy before going out. If you’re afraid about not having anything to talk about, research a few topics beforehand and prepare yourself with easy conversation starters to avoid feeling awkward around others.
Learn relaxing breathing techniques.
- You can manage anxiety symptoms by learning how to control your breathing. Look for a relaxing technique that you’re comfortable with to help slow down your breathing. The basic technique is called 4-2-6 breathing: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds.
Follow the guidelines / standard operating procedures (SOP)
- Fully vaccinated people still need to be appropriately cautious and keep following the standard operating procedures, such as social distancing and wearing masks. Ease your fear and anxiety about COVID-19 by avoiding crowds and meeting up with your friends and family in well-ventilated places.
Set boundaries and share how you feel.
- Open up to your family and friends about how you’re feeling. Know your limits when it comes to socialising and share your boundaries with them. Make sure to maintain your boundaries and respect others’ boundaries too.
Seek professional help if needed.
- During this time, it is normal to experience anxiety to some extent. But, if your anxiety gets worse and starts to interfere with your day-to-day life, please seek professional help. Therapy and / or medication can help you cope.
The recent revelation made by the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) on the cases of suicides recorded between January to May 2021, which amounted to 468, has turned the spotlight on the rising number of suicides amid the pandemic. In comparison to the annual total of 631 cases in 2020 and 609 cases in 2019, which averaged about two cases per day, this year, the average cases per day have almost doubled.
According to PDRM, the main reasons behind these incidents had been financial difficulties caused by debt, emotional pressure, and troubled family relationships.
The Ministry of Health meanwhile stated that in 2020, a total of 1,080 cases of persons who attempted suicide received treatment at government hospitals.
Director General of Health, Tan Sri Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, issuing a statement noted that the pandemic has severely impacted the mental health of people. He had further noted that certain individuals are more susceptible to mental health problems when they are disconnected from their support networks, such as friends and family, due to the ongoing movement control orders, and would experience episodes of depression that could even lead to suicide.
Suicide Is Criminalised In Malaysia
Malaysia being a country with a Muslim majority considers it a sin to take any life including one’s own. Moreover, as an attempt to deter persons from taking their lives, the government has criminalised suicide under Section 309 of the Penal Code, where anyone who attempts to commit suicide and fails would be imprisoned for a term extending up to a year or imposed a fine or will be subjected to imprisonment and imposed a fine.
The law enacted in 1936 originated from the Indian Penal Code that was based on the British Common Law. While many other countries in the region that adopted the Colonial common law has by now repealed or has modified the section, we have yet to follow suite.
The country’s Psychiatric and Mental Health Services Operational Policy, while recognising suicide attempts as a mental health issue that needs treatment, indicates that when an individual who attempted suicide is referred for medical care, they should be placed under strict supervision until they are considered to be in a stable condition and would not harm themselves.
However, Section 309 does not indicate that the individual should be referred to medical or psychological care after or during sentencing. Which calls for its immediate repeal or appropriate modification by concerned citizens.
Since suicide is criminalised by law, it may also discourage individuals from reaching out to counselling services or suicide prevention helplines, fearing that their situation would be compromised and they would have to face legal action.
Decriminalising Suicide Is Suicide Prevention
For many years, the civil society, mental health specialists and various other non-governmental agencies have been pushing for the decriminalisation of suicide in Malaysia. Highlighting the importance of decriminalising suicide, and the progress that the authorities have made so far towards achieving it, Bar Council Law Reform & Special Areas Committee Co-Chairman and National Coalition of Mental Wellbeing member, Datuk Seri M. Ramachelvam, noted that; “The World Health Organisation has called upon the countries around the world to decriminalise suicide, therefore the moment is now, and we should not delay anymore”.
Adding that, in 2012 the government’s Law Reform Committee conducted a study on reviewing the penal code section 309, and in the same year the then Minister of Health had stated that suicide should be decriminalised.
Ramachelvam also stated that, in 2019, the Minister of Law had said that a bill would be presented in Parliament to repeal Section 309 of the Penal Code, which was supposed to have happened in 2020. While in 2020 the federal government had said that the Attorney General’s chamber was studying various jurisdictions on the issue of decriminalising suicide.
Ramachelvam further noted that; “People who are contemplating suicide or who have attempted suicide never gets reported to relevant mental health authorities through the doctors or family members. Because if the incident gets reported there will be a potential criminal charge over the person who attempted suicide and survived. The stigma caused by the criminalisation of the act itself can deter the individual from seeking and receiving mental health related care, counselling or rehabilitative care”.
According to Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Consultant Psychiatrist at the National University of Malaysia, Dr. Lai Fong Chan, criminalising suicide does not act as a deterrent to prevent somebody from attempting suicide, and can actually have a negative effect, as it marginalises people who are in distress, from accessing help from mental health services.
Adding that; “When someone is in acute suicidal crisis, somebody who is crying out for help in that distress, it’s unthinkable that you would dangle this punishment as a deterrent saying ‘you are going to prison’. Emotional distress is not best dealt with a prison sentence”.
Dr. Chan pointed out that there are already laws in place in the Mental Health Act that if someone is suspected to have mental health issues that puts the individual at risk of their own safety, PDRM and the registered social workers have the mandate to bring such persons to a mental health service provider or to a health service provider for assessment and care.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the Befrienders at 03-76272929.
Sign and share this petition to decriminalise suicide in Malaysia.
A birth of a child is often considered to be a blissful moment; yet, it can also trigger a sense of overwhelming emotions in new parents. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, what is commonly referred to as the ‘baby blues’ is normal and would pass within the first two weeks postpartum. However, this condition could progress into an episode of major depression known as postpartum depression (PPD), which can in return affect the mother’s ability to care for the newborn.
Although an estimated 1 in 7 women globally is said to experience PPD, a review revealed that the incidents of maternal PPD in Malaysia was at 6.8%-27.3%. Even with the recent increase in prevalence of PPD, the number of women seeking help in Malaysia for PPD is said to be far less.
The stigma of mental health issues is universal, but it is particularly prevalent in Asian countries. This causes PPD to be even more taboo and prevents women from seeking help for their struggles with depression. Mothers are pressured to be perfect, even new mothers, so the shame and embarrassment of admitting to what society sees as “weakness” forces them to suffer in silence. On top of that, mothers may feel guilty for experiencing negative feelings during what should be a joyous occasion, and downplay their own emotions.
What is Postpartum Depression?
PPD is a depressive illness that presents symptoms similar to depression in new mothers, including a low mood that lasts for more than two weeks. Based on the severity, the mother will struggle to look after herself and her baby. At times the person experiencing PPD will even find it difficult to manage simple tasks.
According to experts, symptoms of PPD generally develop after the first two weeks of childbirth and can last up to six months or even a year, while in some cases symptoms could also develop in the weeks prior to childbirth. PPD symptoms may differ from person to person, and the common symptoms can surface as a combination of emotions: anger and irritability, fatigue, excessive crying, finding it difficult to bond with the new-born, and being anxious.
While the heightened emotions of the mother can be attributed to the sudden shift in hormonal levels, experts also attribute that sleep deprivation plays a large role in causing PPD. As the mother adjusts with her new responsibilities to care for the baby, they tend to not get enough sleep, which impacts the way they function, how they feel and how mentally stable they could be.
Types of Postpartum Depression
Depending on the severity of symptoms, there are several types of PPD:
- Postpartum Blues: Affecting approximately 30%-80% of new mothers, this condition will only have a milder or short-term form of the disorder, where the symptoms displayed would range from sadness, crying, tiredness, insomnia and anxiety.
- Postpartum Anxiety: The mother would show symptoms of intense and chronic anxiety, where they would feel nervous and constantly worry that something bad would happen to the baby. These symptoms could last from weeks to months.
- Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Can occur during the prenatal period of the second trimester or one month after postpartum, where the mother would experience disturbing thoughts, imagine that the baby is in danger or would be extremely afraid to be left alone with the baby.
- Postpartum Panic Disorder: Postpartum anxiety that includes physical symptoms, such as a racing heart, tightening chest, hyperventilation, dizziness, weakness, and other extreme symptoms.
- Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This disorder can be triggered due to a traumatic incident the mother faced during childbirth or afterwards. The incident could range from emergency C-section, the baby being sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), complications experienced during childbirth or lack of support during delivery.
- Postpartum Psychosis: Although a rare and severe disorder, the symptoms of the person could drastically change from agitation to anxiety, which could lead to memory loss and confusion, causing hallucinations and the mother showing disinterest about the baby.
PPD left untreated could interfere with the mother and child bonding, and can also lead to family problems. It could also place a strain on the relationship with the baby and the partner. Moreover, PPD can also impact the development and behaviour of the child, which can have a long-term effect.
While any new mother could experience PPD, it is imperative to know who is more vulnerable to develop symptoms. It is advisable to seek assistance from a psychological counsellor if the mother has: a history of depression during or prior to pregnancy or is receiving treatment for depression; experienced PPD during a previous pregnancy; baby has health issues or other special needs; experienced strenuous events during the past year such as pregnancy complications, illness or job loss; have family members who had depression or mental disorders; experiencing problems in their relationships with the spouse or partner; experiencing financial difficulties; or the pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted.
The doctor could thereafter monitor the mother closely for signs and symptoms of depression and get the mother to respond to a depression-screening questionnaire during the pregnancy and after the delivery. The doctor might refer the parents to support groups, counselling sessions/ therapies, and if required, prescribe suitable antidepressants.
PPD is a serious mental health condition, but the lack of education, prevention and treatment has caused it be unrecognisable. According to a recent study, suicide is among the leading causes of deaths among new mothers, making it crucial for them to voice their concerns and seek help, as well as share their experiences and normalise the conversation. If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the Befrienders at 03-76272929.
When you think of your inner child, you may think of the part of yourself that still enjoys sugary cereals and cartoons on the weekends, but it also embodies other aspects of the child you once were. We all have unresolved emotional experiences that we carry into adulthood from feeling unloved or unsafe to not being able to express our authentic selves as a child. It manifests in our adult lives because most of us were not taught how to process these experiences.
As children, we learned how to behave in order to receive love and attention from our caregivers. They may not have separated our emotions from our behaviour, teaching us that unquestionable obedience was ‘good behavior’ and expressing our feelings was ‘bad’ behaviour. Instead of learning how to deal with negative emotions, we were taught to suppress them, as well as other parts of ourselves, to make our parents happy.
Wounded Inner Child
These unprocessed feelings grow into a wounded inner child that lives on in our unconscious. It can be seen in the way we carry ourselves and the relationships we have as adults. Here are some signs that your inner child needs healing:
- You find it hard to say “no” and set healthy boundaries.
- You seek external validation and lose yourself in an attempt to gain approval from others.
- You deny or dismiss your feelings and emotions.
- You are unable to control your feelings because your emotions overwhelm you.
- You look for partners who can ‘fix’ or ‘save’ you.
- You micromanage your partner.
A wounded inner child needs to be nurtured with healthy self-help techniques. By reparenting yourself, you’ll be able to provide yourself with the needs you required as a child. This could mean allowing yourself to show up as your true self, celebrating your accomplishments, or helping yourself feel safe. You can reparent yourself by:
- Acknowledging your pain.
- Practicing kind self-talk.
- Showing yourself compassion when you make a mistake.
- Repeating positive affirmations to yourself regularly.
- Allowing yourself time to play and rest.
- Keeping one small promise to yourself everyday.
- Speaking your truth.
If we don’t reparent ourselves, we may form unhealthy relationships and attachments in an attempt to meet these needs. This can cause more harm as our happiness and well-being becomes dependent on someone or something else. Only we can heal these wounds and satisfy our own needs. Try these self-care ideas from The Mind Faculty to get started on your reparenting journey:
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- Journal Prompts
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The pandemic has impacted us all in various ways, and its effects on our mental health and well-being truly cannot be ignored. With continuous lockdowns being imposed, economic and social disruptions weigh heavily on our minds, while various other factors make us hesitant about the future. Many of us have experienced at least one pandemic-induced mental health state or condition, such as languishing, compassion fatigue, and financial anxiety.
As the lockdowns prolonged, many of us grew accustomed to working from home, and the isolation that comes with being in lockdown. As restrictions now begin to ease thanks to increased vaccination rates, a post-lockdown life is increasingly in sight. Understandably, this may be anxiety-inducing for some of us, as we leave the safety and comfort of our bubbles and start interacting face-to-face again with society.
As more people begin sharing their concerns about re-entry into a post-lockdown world, mental health specialists and bodies have found a description for this state of mind – ‘post-lockdown anxiety’ – characterised by a feeling of anxiousness about the lifting of restrictions and what may come with it, such as the pressures of socialising, going to busy and crowded public spaces, and even returning to the office workplace after getting used to working from home.
But there are ways to cope with this readjustment as we make our way into a post lockdown world:
Take it one step at a time, and be kind to yourself.
If you feel overwhelmed by your post lockdown to-do list, or find yourself struggling more than usual on some tasks, try to trim down the tasks set for a day, or even to one task a day. Stepping into the ‘new’ routine of things, or more aptly, the new normal, could be daunting but know that we can ultimately readjust in our own time and in our own ways. Starting small – such as running an errand with a friend – and building back up, will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Even if it does not go as ideally as you planned at first, you can always try again the following day. Pacing ourselves and focusing on gradual re-entry also helps prevent burnout later on as it allows our mind and body to catch up with the sudden change in routine.
If things get too overwhelming, try some grounding techniques.
As much as we try to fight it, sometimes things may still overwhelm us, and that’s okay. If and when this moment does occur, try to focus on your breathing and on your five senses – this a common self-soothing technique that may help during an oncoming anxiety or panic attack, if we find ourselves in that headspace. This method of grounding ourselves can be done through breathing exercises, or focusing on five things you can touch, see, hear, taste and smell – carrying a small roller case of your favourite essential oil or calming scent on you can help with this when out and about. Aside from this, practising positive affirmations that you personally resonate with may also help calm a troubled mind during bouts of anxiety, and aids in cultivating resilience through our ability to rebound after challenges.
Prioritise ‘me time’ and maintain healthy habits.
If you have found yourself a new hobby or two during the lockdowns, such as baking or journaling, or even if it’s just as simple as your nightly skincare routine, try to make time for it and continue with these activities in your post-lockdown routine. This will provide a sense of familiarity to your mind and body, and will help you de-stress and decompress after a long or challenging day. If you’ve picked up healthier habits during the lockdown such as working out more regularly, eating cleaner, taking meaningful breaks in nature, or even connecting with loved ones more often, these would be especially important to hold on to post-pandemic. Maintaining or even kick-starting such healthier habits from now serves as powerful psychological motivation and will help us to better adapt.
If it is still too much to handle, seek help or reach out to loved ones.
If your post-lockdown anxiety persists or severely impacts you to the point of disrupting your overall physical health and mental well-being, do seek help from a mental health expert, and reach out for support from those around you. Mental health professionals are equipped with the tools and resources to provide you the help and emotional support you may need to feel better and treat any mental health concerns.
Here’s a bet: you’ve grown exponentially within the last year – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Just think about how you’ve changed for a few moments. Then, realise that you’re constantly changing. In fact, in one day, you probably experience a plethora of thoughts and emotions; not to mention, move physically in countless ways. As cliché as it sounds, change truly is the only constant and eventually, that change surmounts to self-growth.
Yet, personal development can be hard to track, especially when it’s intangible because what’s intangible is easy to forget. This can turn self-growth into a concept always out of reach – even if you have reached your goals. The fact that society has taught us to always crave more means you’re probably giving yourself less credit than you deserve, too.
It doesn’t have to be like that! Here’s how you can reclaim your power and track your own self-growth:
Yes, physical growth can be visually tracked but increased endurance and flexibility, for example, can’t be. The solution would be to commit to a physical practice that you can use to gauge your fitness goals – such as yoga! By dedicating yourself to a traditional sequence, like Ashtanga, you will have to return to the same postures over and over again. With time, you will be able to notice certain postures becoming easier, and your flexibility improving.
When was the last time you wrote your future self a letter? Not just any letter, but a letter describing your emotional state and emotional goals. If you thought journaling was so 2000s, then think again because it actually helps regulate your emotions. By writing to your future self, you also cultivate emotional awareness because when you read your letter at a later date, you can understand easier why you were feeling that way and what’s changed emotionally. Pro tip: instead of writing to your 2022 self, write to your next week self.
For a clearer idea of how to journal, read Journaling Is Not Just Dear Diary.
Tracking how you’re developing mentally can be tricky, but mindfulness can help. The easiest way to familiarise yourself with mindfulness is through meditation – remember, There’s More Than One Way to Meditate. Once you develop awareness of your thoughts through meditation, you will become more mindful of your inner critic. This internal awareness will help you recognise if you’re clinging onto mental habits that you’ve outgrown and how you can be mentally kinder to yourself.
If you’ve tried meditation but weren’t satisfied with your mental space after, then read Debunking Meditation Myths.
Spiritual development is incredibly intimate and there is no ‘one size fits all’. So, find a way that works best for you and once you’ve found your ideal method, do it every day. You could even doodle a specific symbol, or place a sticker onto your calendar to mark the days you’ve connected with your Higher Self and / or Source. Alternatively, you could keep a journal and note down the times you got a gut feeling and if it was right. Slowly, you’ll be able to notice if this connection has been increasing.
If you’re unhappy with your career, then it’s time to start creating career-oriented goals as to get clear on what will make you happy. To walk the path you desire, set minor goals as to accomplish that major goal. Most importantly, though, don’t forget to celebrate small wins (and replying all your emails in time is a small win)!
As we become more aware of our boundaries, and their importance in every aspect of our lives, more social media posts and podcasts have popped up about the red flags in our relationships. Not just romantic relationships, we’ve been shown what warning signs to look out for in all relationships – from familial, friendships, and even in the workplace. This International Friendship Day, we’re shifting the conversation to celebrate the green flags that exist in our best and budding friendships! Read on for a positive reminder that your favourite people are indeed good for you.
You are never too old to celebrate International Friendship Day. At any age, the right friends can bring major benefits to your mental health and emotional wellbeing – research has shown that these healthy relationships can help us age better by providing us with happiness and enjoyment, a source of support, and a sense of belonging. They can also help improve our self-worth and confidence, so don’t our friends deserve to be celebrated? Here are 5 signs that a friendship is improving your life:
They don’t judge you.
A real friend won’t require you to be anyone but yourself around them – they accept you as you are. This creates a healthy environment for you to thrive in as you are free to be yourself!
They are your emotional cheerleader.
True friends won’t compete with you – instead, they will support you when you’re succeeding and try to lift you up when you’re down. You should feel good after speaking to them or spending time with them.
They respect your boundaries.
A good friend will respect your space – not feel offended by your boundaries. They understand that you are entitled to your own time and space, and will continue to show you positivity and support.
You don’t have to talk to them everyday.
Strong friendships allow you to pick up exactly where you left off. You won’t have to worry about growing apart because your relationship is secure enough for you to know that they’ll always be there for you.
There’s an equal give-and-take.
One-sided relationships are unhealthy relationships. Better friendships involve a fair balance of giving and making compromises – it won’t always be 50-50, but it should at least make you feel satisfied and appreciated.
Sound familiar? These signs indicate that your friendship is worth continuing and developing. If your friends have been waving these green flags, show them some love this International Friendship Day! Healthy friendships are one of the greatest gifts in life.
You’ve probably seen the phrase “honor your feelings” before, but did you really understand what it meant? If you weren’t able to grasp the concept, don’t worry, we’ve got you! During these difficult times, it has become more important than ever to honor your emotions.
When we honor someone, we respect them and truly value them. Think of someone you hold in high regard, do you hold yourself in the same esteem? If your answer is no, you should! All our feelings and emotions, both positive and negative, deserve to be respected.
What It Means
Honoring your emotions involves accepting what you’re feeling, allowing yourself to feel it, and then releasing it. Have you noticed that when you deny what you feel, you end up feeling more overwhelmed, and react in a way you regret? Bottling up your emotions will only harm you and those around you.
However, it is not your fault for doing so. Most of us have been taught to “suck it up”, but as negative as your emotions may seem – they aren’t bad and you aren’t wrong for experiencing them either. We must separate feeling an emotion and acting on an emotion because we can’t help how we feel, but we can choose how we act.
What are you feeling at this very moment? Take a few deep breaths to get in touch with your emotions. If you’re feeling positive, carry on! But if any negative emotions have surfaced, here’s how you should honour them:
- Notice your emotions: If you can, write down what you’re feeling and be honest with yourself. Don’t exclude any emotions that you’re embarrassed about, and include feelings you’re unclear of too.
- Validate your feelings: Go through your list and assure yourself that it is okay to feel these feelings.
- Allow yourself to be: For a few minutes to, at most, a few hours, give yourself permission to be in your true emotional state. It’s important not to judge yourself during this time.
- Release: Once you’ve gotten to know your feelings, release them. When this is followed by an action, you’ll find that it represents you better compared to when you act on your emotions.
To Sum It Up
Healing emerges when you honor your emotions. It gives you time and space to discover personal growth, self-awareness, love and forgiveness. By viewing our feelings from a point of observation, we’re able to respond to situations rather than have a knee-jerk reaction.
Remember: you are not your emotions. Rather than being defined by your feelings, reframe the way you see them to help identify what areas need healing. Let your feelings flow freely and you’ll be able to have a better hold over how you handle them!
It’s been more than a year since travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders were enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, it may have felt easier, but not being able to leave the house or have physical connections for an extended period of time can cause cabin fever. Cabin fever is not a psychological disorder – it is the feelings of restlessness, irritability and loneliness that develop under these circumstances. This state of mind can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.
What Causes Cabin Fever
Being stuck inside or in the same place for a long time can cause feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and low mood. As a social species, we require human connection to feel and function better, which has been impeded by the lockdown. It has also affected our sense of control and motivation, leaving us feeling impotent. Other factors that can cause or contribute to cabin fever include not being able to enjoy meaningful outdoor activities, becoming burned out by working from home, and becoming anxious about finances and health.
What Are The Signs Of Cabin Fever
The symptoms of cabin fever vary from person to person. Other than feeling irritable or restless, everyone experiences different feelings and effects of cabin fever. Some of the signs of cabin fever include:
- Struggling to stick to a routine
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Binge eating or binge drinking
How To Cope With Cabin Fever
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Your overall personality can determine how you cope with cabin fever. For example, people with introverted personalities may have an easier time being confined to their homes compared to those who are more extroverted – they may experience stronger feelings of isolation and loneliness. Either way, here are some healthy ways to cope:
- Develop a routine
Whether you need a more motivating morning routine or a better bedtime routine, implementing a structure to our days can help us manage our emotional wellbeing and feel more in control. It can also improve productivity.
- Get some fresh air
If you’ve been feeling claustrophobic, open a few windows and doors to allow some fresh air in. Make it a daily habit to go outside, even if you don’t have a garden – try stretching on the balcony or going for an evening walk around your apartment block.
- Connect with others
Social interactions don’t have to be face-to-face! You can still maintain strong relationships and stay socially healthy through calls and messages. Make the effort to connect with your friends and family everyday – you’ll feel less isolated and lonely.
- Eat healthy
What you eat each day affects both your physical and mental health. Create healthier eating habits for yourself with balanced and nutritious meals – following set mealtimes can help prevent binge eating, and establish a daily routine.
When To Seek Help
Cabin fever may not be a specific diagnosis, but if your symptoms get worse, please seek help from a mental health professional. Look out for:
- New or increased feelings of anxiety or depression
- New or worsened obsessive-compulsive behaviours
- Decreased interest, energy or motivation
- Inability to eat or sleep
Most assume positive affirmations to be nothing special but in reality, positive affirmations can literally change your life. Mainly, by changing your perspective of yourself and of others. Instead of staying stuck in limiting beliefs, positive affirmations can deepen your internal self-awareness and can help with how you handle external situations.
Here’s Why Positive Affirmations Are Special
Countless of scientific studies have proven the effectiveness of positive affirmations. Here are several that may convince you to start incorporating positive affirmations into your life:
- Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience is a scientific journal that published a study revealing how self-affirmations activate the ‘rewards centres’ in the brain (the ventral striatum & ventromedial prefrontal cortex).
- The Department of Psychology of Stanford University found that self-affirmations can improve academic performance, health, and relationship outcomes; the benefits can last for months and sometimes even years.
- The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology detailed a study that highlighted how verbal affirmations are registered and absorbed more quickly than mental affirmations.
- Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University verified a boost in problem solving abilities when participants used self-affirmation techniques while under pressure.
How to Incorporate Positive Affirmations into Your Day to Day
As mentioned, positive affirmations kickstart regions of the brain that can elevate your mood. In order to reap the benefits, though, you will need to practice positive affirmations daily (several times a day) and preferably aloud. To make it easier for you to get into the habit, here are some suggestions:
- Write your positive affirmations(s) on a post-it note then stick it against your mirror or any area frequently in view.
- Alternatively, find or create a wallpaper for your phone that clearly states your positive affirmation(s).
- Turn your positive affirmation(s) into a catchy melody (The Chicken Rice Shop has taught every Malaysian that jingles do work).
- Recite your positive affirmation(s) before sleeping as the brain learns more effectively in the evening.
For your positive affirmation(s) to be as effective as can be, consume content along the lines of the change you want to create – internally and / or externally. If you’re telling yourself one thing but then subconsciously absorbing another, you may not experience the benefits of your positive affirmation(s).
Take What You Need
Struggling to think of a positive affirmation? Here are some ideas:
- I am in control (you can repeat as is or add your own twist, like: I am in control of my happiness).
- I am manifesting my highest reality (you can even specify what that would entail, like: I am manifesting a fulfilling career as a XY).
- I do everything with love and greet everyone with love.
- Everything is working out best case scenario.
Yes, positive affirmations work but you still need to take some type of action. Repeating to yourself that you will manifest a fulfilling career may not work if you’re uncertain of what that career is or if you’re not working towards narrowing down your (employment) options. Set some time aside to really get clear on the positive affirmation(s) you need and remember to believe in yourself as much as we do