How to achieve a healthy mindset

 

Sometimes the weight of life becomes destructive to our mental health. Our minds get foggy from the overwhelming information – making it difficult to find stillness and serenity. Hence, it’s important to unwind and let go.

 

Studies have proven meditation as an effective method to improve mental health issues as it encourages relaxation and leads to mental relief.

 

But what is meditation, really?

 

When it comes to taking care of the body, mentally and physically, yoga and meditation go hand in hand. A branch of yoga, meditation, is the practice of achieving tranquillity and mindfulness as well as perspective, and even extends into our daily lives.

 

If you want to practise being mindful, you should direct your attention to the now, rather than dwelling on the past or even the future. Technically, being “in the moment” becomes an integral feature when it comes to meditation.

 

As serious as it may appear, meditation is not nearly as intimidating as it is thought out to be. At the end of the day, it all comes down to having a healthy mindset and here’s why:

 

Importance Of A Healthy Mindset

With a healthy outlook:

 

Coming full circle, here are some mental health benefits that meditation has to offer:

Promotes Better Sleep Quality 

When you regularly incorporate meditation into your routine, its benefits continue even when you’re done meditating. It helps your body relax and release tension. As you train your mind to focus on every deep breath, the stream of jumbled thoughts simply floats away.

 

Relieves Stress 

At times, living stress-free seems out of reach, but meditation can clear your mind from information buildup. When you meditate, it gives clarity, allowing you to gain new perspectives on stressful situations. What once was a stress-provoking situation, is now just another thing to pass.

 

Regulates Negative Emotions

Meditation gives you a moment to be more mindful of your emotions. Instead of ruminating, it distracts you from excessive focus on intrusive thoughts. It makes you more attune to present experiences and flourish through even the inescapable hardships of life.

 

Reduces Anxiety

Spending even a few minutes to meditate can help you stay centred – leaving you in a state of relaxation and with a tranquil mind. When you feel anxious or tense, it can restore your peace and keep you calm throughout the day. Deep breathing encourages you to focus less on anxiety-provoking situations and more on the moment.

Recognising mental illness among men in Malaysia is long overdue. Social expectations of masculinity shape the way boys are brought up and the way men behave. We become conditioned to believe that men must be strong, that fathers are the breadwinners, and that “boys will be boys”. These gender stereotypes shape our expectations of how men should behave and inevitably lead us to treat them in ways that fulfil our expectations in what is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

 

The assumption for men to be strong is for them to never show weakness. Oftentimes, this expectation means that men should not face any problems because to have any problems is to not be strong enough to “tough it out”. Popular phrases like “Real men don’t cry” and teasing remarks of boys who cry behaving like “little girls” reflect this expectation.  For our fathers, the need to always be a pillar of strength and a figure to look up to carry a burden that many of us never considered. When men feel none of that as fathers, they don’t want to admit it or seek help. This may have significant effects on the family and relationships.

 

A study published by the American Journal of Men’s Health highlights how popular beliefs about masculinity actively deter men from forming expressive relationships with other men, primarily because such social connections were viewed as “unmasculine”. To express their feelings and personal problems felt awkward and almost like a “taboo” against their concept of being masculine. Being “masculine” may be about shaping men to be strong, but it also denies them their right to reach out for help without fear of being humiliated leading to growing numbers of mental illnesses among men in Malaysia.

 

Evidence shows that the importance of a father’s mental health goes beyond that of their own well-being but affects that of their children’s mental health as well as the stability of the family. For fathers who experience mental illness, their children are at a higher risk of behavioural and emotional difficulties. Research shows that this is often the case because the amount of suffering experienced by the father may mean being less consistent in showing warmth and affection towards their children. The same can be said for their partners as well. 

 

When someone in our family has a mental illness, it can cause stress and worry for everyone. They believe that having a mental illness is an issue experienced solely by the individual and is harmful. It ignores the well-being of the people that also struggle with supporting their partners and children. To thrive, it is important that we also understand and support our father’s well-being. Supporting the mental health needs of the men in our families, of men everywhere, is crucial to improving their health. 

 

In June as we celebrate fathers everywhere, let’s take a moment to start taking notice of the men in our lives. Caring for the mental health of the men in our lives could be through small gestures as simple as asking how they are and how they feel. Sure, fathers may not be very expressive from the get-go, but simply checking in often can remind them that you’re there for them. If your father is among the group of dads that tend to look for information online rather than consulting professionals, buy a self-help book. “Feeling Good” by David D. Burns, M. D, is a book that addresses issues like depression through a strategic perspective rather than an emotional one which may appeal more to men.

How to deal with the next-day-nerves

 

We all need to let loose once in a while, but sometimes these uplifting nights end quite the opposite – with a hangover. Hangovers differ from person to person, but they usually involve a headache, nausea, tiredness and, sometimes, anxiety. Have you ever experienced hangover-induced anxiety?

 

Also known as hangxiety, this noticeable increase in anxiety occurs the day after heavy drinking. It will have you regretting the night before and worrying about what you might have said or done. You could feel more nervous while waiting for your friends to recover from their own hangovers and fill you in on what happened. 

 

Why does it happen?

There isn’t a single cause for hangover-induced anxiety, but those who experience anxiety in general may be more susceptible to it. These negative feelings during a hangover could also stem from the physical symptoms of a hangover, alcohol withdrawal, emotional withdrawal, medication use, alcohol intolerance or guilt from drinking.

 

How to cope with it

There is no quick cure for hangovers, but you can ease the discomfort with self-care. Tend to your physical needs first with good hydration, gut-healing food, and more sleep. To help reduce your anxiety, explore calming techniques such as deep breathing, meditating and practising mindfulness. If your hangxiety doesn’t go away within 24 hours, or you feel the need to drink more alcohol to deal with it, it could be a sign of something more serious and you should consider seeking professional help.

 

How to avoid it

Set some boundaries for yourself on your next night out, but if you still don’t trust yourself – ask a friend to help you stay within your limits. Drink slowly and in moderation with water breaks in between each drink. You should also plan ahead to make sure you don’t drink on an empty stomach and are able to get enough sleep to recover from the next time you drink.

Emotional stress is not a joke!

 

Have you ever found yourself zoning out in conversations with people you love, or even while trying to get through an episode of your favorite Netflix show? Perhaps you have found that you are having trouble sleeping, are more irritable, or are simply more prone to headaches and tummy aches than before?

 

If any of these symptoms sound like something you’re currently experiencing, you may be emotionally exhausted.

 

Emotional exhaustion is a state in which you feel burnt out physically, mentally, and emotionally. This could be sprouting from stressors you may be feeling from either your work or personal life. However, it often takes a lot more than a hard day at work or a petty argument with a loved one for you to experience emotional exhaustion.

 

The essence of experiencing emotional exhaustion comes from a build-up of multiple stressors over a period of time. The troubling thing is that you may not even notice it immediately.

 

So, what causes emotional exhaustion?

They always say that prevention is better than cure, so here are a few things that can cause emotional exhaustion:

 

Being aware of the situations you are in and the symptoms you may be experiencing can save you from the long-term complication of having to recover. Evaluating your environment and your emotions often can help you be more mindful of what you are feeling.

 

With all this in mind, how can you then treat emotional exhaustion if you already have it?

 

Here are a few tips that you can take to help yourself:

Being aware of where your emotional stress is sprouting from can help you create solutions to reduce the exhaustion you may be feeling. It can help if you were to write it down in order to be able to create a clearer image of the changes you can make to help yourself.

 

Getting enough sleep. Eating mindfully. Drinking water. These are elements we often forget to prioritize in our lives. Yet, the reality is that if we were to be more mindful of keeping these habits, they would help sustain us better by reducing the stress we experience so that we may have a more well-rounded life.

 

Seriously. Take. A. Break. It can be as simple as opening a window and allowing yourself to breathe in that fresh air. Make yourself a cup of coffee. Or you know what? Go outside! Take a walk. Go to the mall. See your friends and give yourself the time to unwind, because even though we have heard it multiple times, you really do deserve to take a break.

 

Sometimes stress can make you feel isolated – like you’re the only one experiencing this tremendous amount of responsibility. Therefore, it is important for you to realize that you are not alone and that everybody else is experiencing burnouts similar to yours.

 

Breathe. Be mindful of the way the air fills up your lungs and the way it slowly exits through a long exhale. By focusing on our breathing, you will be able to draw your consciousness back to the present moment and give yourself that time to recharge.

 

Everybody is prone to experiencing emotional exhaustion at some point in their lives. It is our own personal responsibility to be aware of the state of our mental health so that we may be better people for ourselves and the people around us.

Don’t let stress take away the joy and fun!

 

‘Holiday fatigue’ or ‘holiday burnout’ is the exhaustion that comes from the many events and tasks that can come with celebrating the holidays. Everyday life can sometimes be hectic enough, and even though holiday season may sound like a time for relaxation, for some this isn’t the case. The holidays can bring about a lot more errands, work deadlines, and events to attend – filing up our schedules even more. 

 

While all of this is happening, it can feel overwhelming and we may notice ourselves being heavily preoccupied, causing us to neglect looking after ourselves and our own needs. This does not have to be the case though. Seasons of festivities don’t have to be guaranteed to stress you out. It is possible to maintain a balanced schedule and enjoy ourselves during the holidays! 

 

Dedicate time for solitude

Or with someone if that works better for you. Whichever it is, dedicating even a few minutes of your day to do what you enjoy or what helps you destress, allows you to unwind and relax -something much needed especially after restless party planning and non-stop socialising. Look after yourself by doing what you love whenever you can. Even if it’s enjoying your morning cup of coffee for just a few minutes, or slowing down before leaving for a party to do a five-minute meditation. And remember, that self care doesn’t have to be limited to just meditating or doing your skincare routine, it can also be affirmations to let go and enjoy yourself while at a dinner, to enjoy that second round of dessert, or a simple reminder to yourself that you deserve to have fun.

 

Set realistic expectations

If you can’t meet that friend for brunch at 12 because you have to be at a family event at 1, don’t spread yourself out too thin. You will feel less overwhelmed when you try setting realistic expectations with time and what you are capable of. Another example of setting more realistic expectations during the holidays is being realistic with your bank account. Being realistic with the money you are able to spend rather than showering too many loved ones with lavish gifts. Setting realistic expectations ultimately is simply knowing where your own limitations and boundaries are and respecting them. This is important as it can help you get by through the holidays without feeling guilty, regret, or stressed out. 

 

Maintain healthy boundaries

Setting boundaries during the festive period could maybe be the most responsible thing you can do for yourself. This can often look like knowing your limits – knowing what time of the night you begin crashing, or knowing what in particular during the holidays trigger you and your stress. Knowing your limits and what you’re comfortable with can help you draw those boundaries you need to draw in order for you to enjoy the celebrations and yourself; without feeling like you neglected your needs and / or self-abandoned.

 

Practice gratitude

The holidays can be good time to count your blessings. Especially with all the celebrations, and people you get to see and catch up with again. The holidays can be a time filled with an abundance of love, family, and friendship. You may be surprised at how rejuvenating it feels after taking some time at the end of the day to journal down the events from the night before that you were thankful for. For example, you can try asking yourself: 

 

Besides this, absorbing and savouring present moments too can be a way of practicing gratitude; especially inner-gratitude where you are left feeling not just full of appreciation but also a lot more in touch with yourself. Practicing gratitude can put you in a better mood, remembering all the good things and people you have in your life. 

 

The holidays can be overwhelming and stressful but, it doesn’t have to be. If you try incorporating these practices into your holiday schedule, we hope they make your festive period a bit easier. And no matter the season or time of the year, prioritising yourself and your mental health is always important. 

How to support your loved one

 

Recently, celebrity news has been dominated by the Kim Kardashian – Kanye West divorce saga. In summary, what has come to light are; Kanye has been accusing Kim of kidnapping his children or preventing him seeing them, criticising her relationship with her current boyfriend Pete Davidson, questioning her parenting, insulting Pete repeatedly on social media and asking his followers to yell at Pete on his behalf. Additionally, he believes that he is fighting for his family and that God will bring him and Kim back together.

 

Kanye has previously been transparent about his bipolar disorder, and has apparently said he has stopped taking medication.

 

Kim has largely remained silent on this issue on social media, except for one post where she says Kanye is making co-parenting “impossible”.

 

Here below is a chat with Taylor’s University Psychology lecturer Pang Chia Yee, who specialises in sex and relationships.

 

 

How can you tell if your partner has bipolar disorder – what are some signs to look out for?

First of all, we need understand that bipolar disorder is a spectrum, meaning it can range from mild to severe. There are also a few types of bipolar disorder according to the DSM-V (Diagnostic Statistical Manual – Five).  Generally, a bipolar sufferer will shift from extreme highs (also known as mania) to extreme lows (as known as depression) – or vice-versa, with the presence of a “normality” mood in between the two extremes.

Some possible signs to look out for are:

However, in the context of a relationship, do note that it is harder for you to put the pieces together and identify that your partner has bipolar disorder as compared to a third party. Such disorders require a professional diagnosis rather than a partner potentially mislabelling the other in the relationship.

 

Is Kanye West’s behaviour towards Kim Kardashian (and Pete Davidson) a symptom of his disorder? 

Based on the presentation highlighted by social media, it does indicate symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, it cannot be concluded solely based on media presentation as there are maybe other unknown facts and details.

 

What causes are the causes of bipolar disorder and what triggers it? 

There are some risk factors that may cause bipolar disorder, such as environmental stressors, genetics (you may find a relative who has this disorder if you trace your family history), chemical imbalances in the body, or changes in the brain.

 

Some triggers include stress, lack of rest or sleep, breakdowns in relationships or divorce, alcohol, drugs, the weather (winter tends to be more depressing), pregnancy (because of the change in hormones), loss of job, loss of any sort, financial stress, and environmental and external pressures such as the pandemic.

 

Is a bad and sudden temper, and the tendency to overreact, a symptom of bipolar disorder?

It’s hard to make a conclusion based on just these statements, and more investigation is needed. Sometimes these behaviours develop from certain causes, such as pent-up emotions/stress or childhood trauma, and may not necessarily be a disorder. However, it’s possible for bipolar disorders to develop depending on how these stressors have impacted the brain over time.

 

How can we support a partner with bipolar and strengthen our relationship?

Identify things that trigger them and hopefully they will be honest and open up to you through sharing their ups and downs. Do not take it personally or blame yourself when they are in one extreme of mood.

 

It is also useful to:

 

While I encourage the person to also persuade the partner to seek professional help, understandably social stigma or self-pride would be a challenge as it really depends on how the individual perceives mental illness in general and the idea of seeking help.

 

Some tips to help persuade a loved one is demonstrate how much this therapy means to the relationship. Another way is to let them know that you don’t know how to support the other half (who has the issue) and you want to know how to assist them, hence you require their ‘assistance’ and you are willing to be there at therapy with them. Also note that finding a suitable therapist is important, so if your partner does not ‘click’ with the therapist or psychiatrist, find another one.

 

What advice do you have for Kim Kardashian that can help those in similar situations?

I would say to continue to keep herself calm and grounded.

 

I am not sure about what is her current relationship with Kanye like, but hopefully she can continue to be his friend and be mindful about the things that trigger him. However, at this point, it seems like whatever Kim’s response is, it will most likely be a trigger to Kanye – hence he screenshots their texts and exposes them on social media. So part of me is glad that she remained quiet about this issue on social media. Because the danger about this medium is that it is not about the intentions that you have when you make your statements, but about how those statements are perceived – as readers will always interpret their own meanings, and make their own assumptions.

 

It’s tricky to say whether she should continue to engage or respond to Kanye because if Kanye is bipolar, whether she replies or not, it can still be a trigger to his mood swings.

 

I would evaluate the situation and their current condition of the relationship, not from social media’s perspective but as individuals. How Kim thinks and feels about Kanye as a person or as the dad to her children, matters.

 

What do we do when an ex-partner or ex-spouse with bipolar or mental health disorders starts to escalate their actions towards us?

Always remember that your safety comes first. If your ex-partner or ex-spouse with bipolar or mental health disorders starts to be physical or verbally abusive or aggressive towards you, you need to inform the authorities (police officers), your family, and neighbours. As for professional help, you do not need to wait till the situation becomes dangerous to seek help.

Ask yourself these 3 questions

 

Does self-reflection feel like a chore? Many of us struggle to slow down and take time to reflect on our fast-paced lives. Some of us find it difficult to sit with our thoughts and feelings, thus avoiding self-reflection. Whatever the reason, going through the motions will only leave us feeling stuck and stagnant. We need to pause and reflect on our emotions and behaviours in order to move forward in life.

 

What Is Naikan

There’s a structured method of self-reflection called Naikan, which is Japanese for introspection. Instead of adding to your overwhelming to-do list, it focuses on three questions that you can still practice daily with a packed schedule. Developed in the 1940s by Ishin Yoshimoto, a Japanese Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, Naikan has helped many people understand themselves and their relationships better. It is even used in mental health counselling, and in rehabilitation of prisoners.

 

How To Practice Naikan

Naikan is based on receiving, giving and hurting. By being more aware of how our actions affect others, it develops a natural drive to be kinder and give more. Helping others is crucial to creating the sense of meaning we’re all seeking. At the end of each day, take 20-30 minutes to ask yourself these questions:

  1. “What have I received?” – Practice gratitude by listing down everything you’ve received that day. Let it serve as a reminder that you are supported and cared for.
  2. “What have I given?” – Deepen your sense of connection by listing down everything you’ve given that day. Giving can make our lives feel more meaningful.
  3. “What problems have I caused?” – Learn from your mistakes by listing down the difficulties you caused that day. This opens us to learning and change.

 

Naikan broadens our perspective to see beyond ourselves. By seeing how others have helped us, it inspires us to engage in more positive behaviours, such as helping others and bettering ourselves, to pay back the people who have supported us along the way.

How to create boundaries and stand up for yourself

 

Moments where you notice yourself self-abandoning can hit pretty hard. We may feel sad and even sorry for ourselves, however…sometimes, it can be rather empowering. 

 

Self-abandonment can show up in many different ways. Saying, doing, and even believing something that doesn’t authentically align with your needs and/or personal values are typically forms of self-abandoning. It is something that everyone does from time-to-time; either consciously or even subconsciously. We show up for other people in order to make them satisfied, happy, or comfortable while forgetting about or neglecting ourselves. 

 

Signs Of Self-Abandonment

Something we may commonly find ourselves doing is saying ‘yes’ or ‘okay’ to doing something you actually don’t want to, or that may be disrespecting you, your time, and energy. Examples of this would be: 

 

Other signs of self-abandoning could be taking on beliefs of other people, and which in most cases happens before actually saying or doing what doesn’t authentically resonate with us. We may sometimes: 

 

Creating boundaries and standing up for ourselves are some examples of what we can do to stop people-pleasing and self-abandoning. The line between doing something for someone because you care and doing something for someone but neglecting your own needs can be a very fine one. It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference, but that is why it is important to distinguish the differences and do our best in making sure we are genuinely okay too.

 

How To Set Boundaries 

Firstly, get to know yourself. It can be of huge help when a time comes and you’re conflicted on whether you want to agree in doing something for someone else’s benefit. Get to know yourself by studying how you feel when someone asks you to do something or express an opinion of theirs to you. Do you feel a part of you wanting to do something else for yourself instead? Were there feelings of conflict when agreeing to an idea? 

 

After familiarising yourself with how you feel, communicate. Whether it is in the moment of rejecting that extra amount of work from your boss or to standing up for yourself to someone’s way of speaking to you, you can either keep it short or sit them down.

 

Let them know what you are okay with and what you aren’t. Communicating is a great way to express your boundaries. 

 

And lastly, remember why you have created these boundaries. Occasionally, people can take advantage of your wants in pleasing them. This can be disrespectful and mistreatment, and not stating our boundaries with what we are okay with and what we are not can have them continue on with the mistreatment. Standing up for ourselves can definitely be considered a part of self-growth and great practice of self-love. Stating our boundaries can give us a better sense of self-worth and can make us feel more confident. 

Explore these elements in your daily life

 

As we grow older, life becomes immensely complex and happiness may feel out of reach, growing more and more elusive as time passes by. The pursuit of happiness is different for everyone, but for all of us it requires trial and error to find what makes us happy through all the things that don’t. There are many elements to happiness and the more we incorporate these pillars into our lives, the more meaningful it will become. Many believe that there are 7 Pillars Of Happiness, which are fundamental components for our happiness and wellbeing.

 

The 7 Pillars Of Happiness
  1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is considered a rare skill as most of us tend to spiral into emotional interpretations of our own circumstances. Being self-aware means you are able to analyse your growth and effectiveness, as well as judge your own progress and make the necessary adjustments depending on the situation. Other benefits include helping us make better decisions, boosting our self-confidence, and allowing us to understand things from different perspectives – freeing us from assumptions and biases. Most importantly, it gives us a greater ability to regulate our emotions and reduce stress.

 

  1. Productivity

When we’re able to balance productivity and wellbeing, it brings us the joy of accomplishment. Even if it’s a small act or part of our daily routine, it can still bring us happiness and peace of mind. With that being said, you should carve out more time for self-care as it creates opportunities for joy. Make a to-do list of places you’d like to explore, recipes you’d like to try or new hobbies that excite you – but don’t forget to fulfil your daily obligations as balance is the key.

 

  1. Resilience

Being resilient empowers us get through the hard times without losing ourselves. It helps us to get up, get ourselves together, and be the best version of ourselves. Exercise can help train your mind to be more resilient because it teaches your mind to recognise and deal with the same physical feelings we experience when we’re stressed – such as increased heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing. Learning to reframe negative experiences and transform them into lessons can be helpful, too!

 

  1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is more than meditation, but essentially, it is the ability to focus. You can always start small when training your attention, like focusing on your breathing as practice for choosing where you place your focus. It may sound easy, but retaining that small intention for more than a few seconds can start to feel like a lot of work, especially when our minds are racing with thoughts. Mindfulness helps us to control our stress, improve our sleep, and reduce our anxiety.

 

  1. Positivity

In order to heal, you need to let yourself feel, and give some time and space to your mind and body. You can’t force yourself to be positive all the time because unresolved feelings develop into traumas and anxieties. Gratitude is one of the most effective methods for cultivating positivity – sit down once a day and note all the things you’re grateful for as a way to rewire your brain and notice more positive things in the future. Daily affirmations can also help change negative thoughts into more positive ones.

 

  1. Self-belief

Self-belief involves you getting to know your true self, and discovering the best version of yourself. We know it’s easier said than done because at some point, we all have experienced a voice in our head that chooses and controls the way we feel about ourselves. Being aware of how you speak to yourself is a great way to start – it’s like you’re talking to your best friend, would you say something hurtful to them? At the end of the day, you are your own best friend, so be kinder to yourself.

 

  1. Connection

It does not matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert, everyone needs connection. If you don’t, you may suffer from emotional loneliness, which triggers the same nerves as physical pain. Connectedness is a core psychological need, and crucial as it can affect our physical health. Being surrounded by people make us feel less pain, and more alive, because in that moment, we know that we are present. Get more involved with your colleagues and neighbours, deepen your connections with your family and friends – you’ll start to feel the power of belonging.

Stop worrying about things out of your control

 

Many of us have lately been reacting to things that are out of our control given that a pandemic is still looming over our heads. The world is struggling, and everywhere you see there is a protest, assigning blame, and even just people downward spiralling because their lifestyles have been affected.

 

Lately, I have been reflecting on how it has changed the way I look at things in life. The first year was filled with frustration, as I was angry with the authorities for not taking action on time. But on the second year I realised assigning blame was not going to take us anywhere, instead, it was easier to improve on how I looked at things and worked on improving my outlook on life.

 

Among the self-improvement books that I have read in the past, I particularly gravitated towards books authored by  Dr. Stephen R. Covey. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Covey talks about seven habits that one should adopt, I also came across Coveys Circles of Control Model that could be of use to many of us that are easily overwhelmed by the things that happen outside our control. 

 

According to the Circles of Control Dr. Covey distinguishes people into two segments; proactive people and reactive people: