I wish I woke up to the sound of birds chirping and a warm embrace from the sun’s morning rays, but instead I get greeted by anxiety – the complete opposite of that fairytale feeling. Even before seeing my schedule, I already feel overwhelmed by the day ahead, and it makes me want to hit the snooze button for the next few hours (or days). Do you wake up with a head full of racing thoughts too?
Morning anxiety is a common occurrence, even for those who don’t have an anxiety disorder. It refers to the anticipatory anxiety that occurs at the beginning of the day. Stress and worry about work, and other pressures such as socialising, start flooding in and you may even sleep in to avoid the day’s responsibilities as much as you can. If you were already anxious the night before, cortisol (the stress hormone) is usually at its highest in the first hour of waking up – which is why you feel even more stressed than you previously were.
Try minimising your morning anxiety with these self-care methods:
- Breathe – Practice deep breathing exercises to alleviate your anxiety. Inhale and exhale slowly while keeping your shoulders and jaw relaxed.
- Journal – Identify your feelings by writing them down, and then address these anxious thoughts. Create a positive mantra to help counter these negative statements.
- Move! – Exercise reduces your stress hormone levels, and since cortisol is as at its highest upon waking up, moving your body within the first hour of the day can provide stress relief.
- Avoid caffeine – Caffeine can make your anxiety worse, but if you just can’t give up your morning cup of coffee, reduce your intake, especially when you’re not feeling well.
- Plan out your day – If you’re anxious because of an overly demanding schedule, planning out your day can help you start on a productive note. Seeing and organising your tasks on paper can also make it feel less overwhelming.
Please consult a mental health professional if your morning anxiety gets worse and starts affecting your daily life. Don’t be afraid to – they will be able to treat your anxiety disorder and help you feel better.
Now that we’re stuck at home, you may find yourself glued to your phone more (if that’s even possible). My New Year’s resolution was to decrease my screen time, but that went out the door the second we had to close ours for yet another lockdown. From devastating floods, to unfair anti-LGBTQ+ punishments, and a terrifying rise in gender-based violence – the bad news doesn’t seem to end. And we can’t stop checking for it.
To be fair, we are still in a state of emergency, so it’s important to stay informed, but it goes from helpful to unhealthy when we start obsessively scrolling through social media. The bad news begins to take a toll on our mental health, bringing more anxious feelings and negative emotions with it. As our anxiety goes up, and our mood goes down, we can’t help but to feel hopeless all over again. Here’s why you should start limiting your daily news consumption.
What is doomscrolling?
Doomscrolling is used to describe our tendency to continue scrolling through bad news, regardless of how saddening, disheartening, or depressing it is. Surprisingly, it’s not a new term, but after the year we’ve had – we get why it’s become a buzzword.
Why do we do it?
Not being allowed to leave the house has left us with a lot of free time our hands (sometimes too much). Without our regular activities and entertainment, negative news has taken over our conversations, and even caused FOMO as we see others speak up about social issues. Other than seeing it as a way to connect with others, it also gives us a sense of control – something we desperately need during a time of uncertainty and uncontrollability. Staying up to date has also made us feel productive, as well as prepared for future dangers and threats. It doesn’t help that most of us are addicted to using our phones either, which makes our social media habits even unhealthier.
How do we stop?
What will make you put down your phone – deleting apps, turning off notifications? If you still don’t trust yourself, set screen time limits to stop you from spending too much time scrolling. Use your newly freed-up time to do activities that you need, or want, to do as an enjoyable, and actually productive, distraction. After reading the news, don’t forget to allow your self to rest and release any tension.
Find out how to develop a healthier relationship with social media here, or how to cope with compassion fatigue here.
Remember when fighting for change was an activist’s job? As humans, caring about social issues is only the right thing to do, but if you find yourself constantly refreshing social media and checking the news for emerging threats worldwide – you might be addicted to bad news, and like all addictions, it can be harmful.
No, we’re not saying ignorance is bliss. When tragedies keep us glued to our screens, it can cause compassion fatigue – a form of burnout that’s commonly found among caretakers and healthcare professionals. But the rise of social media activism has manifested an unfair expectation for everyone to stay on top of every single issue, leaving us feeling either guilty or exhausted.
So is compassion fatigue caring ‘too much’? According to GoodTherapy, the concept also known as second-hand shock or secondary stress reaction is “a type of stress that results from helping or wanting to help those who are traumatised or under significant emotional duress”. Below are a few symptoms of compassion fatigue:
- Feeling overwhelmed or hopeless when hearing how others are suffering.
- Feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings.
- Having less empathy.
- Reacting sensitively or insensitively to tragedy.
- Constantly thinking about the suffering of others.
- Constantly blaming yourself or wondering how you could have done more.
- Downplaying your own accomplishments or success.
- Having unhealthy or destructive coping mechanisms.
- Not finding pleasure in activities you used to enjoy.
If you experience any of these signs, it’s time to take a break – your mind needs to rest, just like your body does. Here’s how you can cope with compassion fatigue and prevent burning out:
- Has Social Media Gotten Too Overwhelming?
- Have You Been Feeling Burned Out?
- Dealing With Stress During A Pandemic
- Digital Wellness: Developing A Healthier Relationship With Social Media
As the activist and writer, Audre Lorde, once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare”. Don’t feel bad about taking a step back because there’s an increasing number of people ready to carry on where you left off. You can’t stand up for social justice when you’re barely hanging on, so do what you need to do to stay positive, strong and healthy.
If you still feel overwhelmed, please seek help from a mental health professional.
Cancer is a complicated disease – according to WebMD, there isn’t a cure, but there are treatments that may be able to cure some people. It doesn’t help that there’s still a stigma surrounding it either with cancer being stereotyped as a life-threatening disease.
When someone we love is diagnosed with breast cancer, we may find ourselves cycling through anticipatory grief – the mourning that occurs when expecting a death. You know you have to be strong for them, but this can be difficult when you feel like you’re falling apart at the seams. We asked The Mind Faculty how to deal with these feelings without making it harder for your loved one:
- Reach out to your support network
Talk to your other family members, friends or even a counsellor. This is a scary, challenging and devastating situation, so you’re not being weak for needing extra help.
- Practice self-care
You can only be there for your loved one as much as you are there for yourself. Make sure you’re eating healthy and moving your body – even if it’s stretching for 5 minutes a day, and allow yourself a break by going out with friends or someone who is removed from the situation.
- Honor your feelings
You may be tempted to think, “I can’t be be sad, I have to be strong for my loved one”, but by minimizing the way you feel – you won’t allow yourself to grieve or process it properly. Try venting to a friend, keeping a journal or even screaming into a pillow. Your pain is valid.
It’s important to be patient with yourself as grief follows its own timeline. When it comes to caring for them while managing you own stress and anxiety, The Mind Faculty suggests:
- Create positive memories with your loved one
If it’s not possible, you can still reminisce about your favorite times together – try making them a scrapbook.
- Hold space for them
Listen without trying to ‘solve’ what they are going through. For example, if they tell you that they are scared – don’t say, “There’s nothing to be afraid about! Modern medicine is amazing”. Instead, try saying, “I can only imagine how scary it must be for you”.
- Educate yourself
Do your research on breast cancer and their treatments, but don’t overwhelm them with information. To avoid this from happening, allow them to ask you first.
- Watch how you speak about cancer
We usually use ‘war metaphors’ when speaking about cancer. For example – “we must fight it”, “she is a cancer survivor”. This suggests that people who have died from cancer didn’t fight hard enough and can make those who suffer from it feel guilty or inadequate if their treatment isn’t working.
While you can prioritize your loved one, please make sure to take care of your mental health as well. Remember – you can’t pour from an empty cup!
Follow The Mind Faculty on Instagram for more professional advice and mental health support.
At times, our busy lifestyles can be too overbearing for our mental health – leaving us feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Instead of indulging in unhealthy habits, a safer way to cope with stress is by meditating.
Popular for its therapeutic purposes, studies have shown that meditation is effective when it comes to reducing stress, lowering anxiety levels and improving overall mental health.
But what exactly is meditation?
The word ‘meditation’ derives from the Latin term meditari, which means “to ponder or reflect”. This makes the act of meditation as simple as being present and coming into awareness with your thoughts.
Do I have to sit cross-legged with my eyes closed?
It’s not the only way to meditate. Plus, let’s face it, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so here are a few meditation techniques you can try instead:
- Take a meditative walk
No, it’s not aimlessly walking around and bumping into things with your eyes closed – it’s the opposite really. Find a pace that suits you and pay attention to your surroundings (with your eyes wide open). Start observing how your body feels and become more aware of your thoughts – don’t forget your posture. For even more therapeutic relief, head outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature!
- Use writing as a meditation tool
It’s not easy to consciously focus on the present and be aware of your thoughts, some might even find it overwhelming to do so. By writing, you’ll be able to clear your mind and write down any thoughts circulating in your head. It’s similar to journaling, but the key here is to write without any form of judgement. It can also be helpful when you need to self-reflect.
- Meditative breathing exercises
Many meditation techniques use the breath as a focal point. When you inhale and exhale through your nose, notice how your diaphragm moves with each breath. Continue focusing on your breath and shift your awareness to how your body feels, and before you know it – you’re in a meditative space! The best part of it all is that you can literally do it anywhere at any time – be it during a morning shower, waiting for the LRT or even at your office desk.
- Lying down guided meditations
If the conventional meditation style feels too restricted, or you just don’t have the energy to be concerned about your posture, try lying down! Lie back flat on the floor, hands rested to your side (or on your stomach) and gaze towards the ceiling. Then, gently close your eyes and focus on your breath. If this feels too comfortable, and you feel like you’re about to dose off, put on your earphones and listen to any guided meditation audio.
If you’re still unsure and don’t know where to start, check out these short and simple guided meditations and incorporate them into your day. A little goes a long way, and before you know it, you’ll be a meditation guru!
Can you believe it’s almost been a year since the COVID-19 outbreak? As much as we want it to end by 2021, The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows that there is an increasing rate of infections coming from countries who were thought to be controlling their outbreaks.
We’ve experienced lockdowns, travel restrictions, strict guidelines, and just when we were getting used to the new normal – we now find ourselves preparing for another wave. If you’ve started to feel stressed and anxious again from all the fear and uncertainty, here’s how you can cope with those difficult thoughts:
- Acknowledge what you’re feeling
The World Health Organization puts it best – when we are unaware of our thoughts and feelings, we get hooked on them. Start noticing what you’re thinking and how it makes you feel. By understanding your feelings, you’ll be able to avoid getting consumed by your thoughts.
- Practice grounding yourself
When you start to feel overwhelmed and distracted, you need to slow down and refocus your attention to the present. Start by focusing on your breathing and then move on to your surroundings. When you worry about the future, your thoughts begin to race so you need to remind yourself that you are in the present.
- Educate yourself
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has advised that we get to know the facts about the coronavirus to help reduce the stress from fake news and rumours. Discuss your concerns with a doctor and prepare yourself by finding out where and how to seek treatment.
- Take care of your body
Stress can also affect your physical health, so it is important to eat healthy food, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Although there are no foods or dietary supplements that can prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, these are healthy ways to strengthen your immune system.
- Connect with others
If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, share how you’re feeling with someone you trust or talk to a mental health professional. You can socialise with your family and friends to help distract your mind from stressful thoughts.
Remember, it is normal to feel anxious and you don’t always have to be positive – your emotions are valid. Make sure you’re aware of what you’re feeling, and find reassurance in knowing that there are plenty of resources and welcoming arms to help you.
Let’s take care of ourselves and each other during these trying times!
Are you reluctant to reach out to someone who might be suffering from depression? Not because you don’t want to, but because you’re afraid of their reaction or saying the wrong thing.
Before shying away from the topic, remind yourself that you’re simply showing compassion. It doesn’t have to be a hard or uncomfortable situation – you can make a big difference just by being kind.
“What if I’m being intrusive?”
“I don’t want them to feel insulted.”
…are probably what you are thinking about right now. Try using these tips from Jade Goh of The Mind Faculty when checking up on someone:
- Use open-ended questions to avoid appearing judgmental
You want to give your friends an opportunity to respond without getting defensive. For example, “You don’t seem like yourself late. How is everything going?” instead of “You’ve been so down lately. What’s wrong?”.
- If someone tells you they are depressed, avoid trying to fix it
Holding space doesn’t mean fixing a problem – it’s providing them with a safe space by deeply listening to understand them. By saying things like, “If you’re feeling down, you should try exercise and meditation”, you’re invalidating their feelings and minimizing their struggles.
- Be curious about what they are going through
Show them you care by asking open-ended questions such as,” What has this felt like for you?”. Being depressed can be a lonely and isolating experience, so make them feel heard and acknowledge their pain – “That must feel so overwhelming.”
- Help them to identify a support network of friends and family
Ask them, “Have you told your mum about this? How do you think she would react? Who do you think would be a good person to support you?”.
- If you can, ask them: “Has it ever gotten so bad that you feel like hurting yourself?”
If your friend has expressed suicidal or self-harming behaviour, encourage them to seek help. “That must feel incredibly scary for you. Please know that I want to support you in any way that I can but I’m afraid I’m out of my depth. Can I help you to make an appointment with someone?”
In times like these, it’s important to stay connected. Be more empathetic towards others even though we deal with stress differently and react to things in our own way. You can find a list of resources below to help you help someone you care for.
Being kind and compassionate is extremely beneficial for mental health. By providing others with support, you’ll be able to help them manage their stress and anxiety.
Let’s work towards building a healthier and happier society! Pick up the phone and start telling your family and friends, and even your colleagues and peers, that you’re there for them.
Mental Health Resources
The Mind Faculty
A private mental health clinic offering a wide-range of psychiatric, psychological, counselling and complementary therapies.
Contact Number: 03 6203 0359 / 03 6203 0733
A not-for-profit organisation providing emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to people who are lonely, in distress, in despair, and having suicidal thoughts – without charge.
Hotline Number: 03 7956 8145
The Malaysian Mental Health Association
A non-profit voluntary organisation established to promote mental health awareness and public mental well-being.
Contact Number: 03 2780 6803
Women’s Aid Organization
Provides free and confidential services to survivors of domestic violence, rape and other forms of violence.
Hotline Number: 03 7956 3488
2020 has been hard on us all. It’s forced us out of our comfort zones, feeling discomfort every time we leave the house. It’s had us stuck at home, some of us alone, giving us an unhealthy amount of time to dwell on our fearful thoughts.
With four months left of the year, there’s a sliver of hope we can’t help but to hold onto – that this is almost over and we’ll be able to celebrate the new year as survivors. But not all of us are feeling that optimistic.
The pandemic has affected us all in different ways. Some of us might still be struggling and that’s okay. Look around you – who might that be? It’s time to check in on your loved ones.
According to Jade Goh, the Director of Clinical Services at The Mind Faculty, the signs of depression include (but are not limited to):
- Withdrawing from friends and family
Have your friends been ghosting you? You might notice them making plans, cancelling and then making plans again – but when the time comes, they ignore your calls and texts.
- Zoning out and being unable to focus
What about when you’re with your friends – do any of them seem disconnected from the conversation? Like they’re physically there but mentally somewhere else.
- Loss of motivation
Has anyone been bailing on workouts or continuously calling in sick to work?
- They don’t enjoy doing the things they use to do
How about when you try cheering them up – did the usual work? Or were they not even in the mood for their favorite food and feel-good movie.
- Unable to control their emotions
Do you find your friends crying more easily? Anger is also a symptom of depression, so they might be snapping at their loved ones too.
- Feeling helpless or overwhelmed by daily tasks
This is the most common sign of depression – they’re unable to get out of bed and not because they slept late.
If any of these behaviors seem familiar to you, reach out to them! We’re all facing the same crisis and we can be more empathetic towards each other.
If you’re able to, help out a friend who might be struggling with their mental health. Even if they’re just having a bad day, there’s no harm in showing your support.
Let your loved ones know that you’re there for them during these challenging times. You can follow The Mind Faculty on Instagram for more professional advice and mental health support.
If you’ve been feeling stressed or anxious lately – don’t worry, it’s normal. With how uncertain things have been, we’ve lost the sense of security that comes with planning and understanding, to the unpredictability of the coronavirus.
The fear of the unknown is real – it’s affected our mental health by causing negative emotions such as anger, distress, anxiety and depression. Even before the pandemic, the National Health and Morbidity survey saw every three in 10 adults struggling from mental health issues. This makes it the second biggest health concern in Malaysia after heart disease, but why does it seem so uncommon?
The stigma towards mental health still exists on a global scale with many people experiencing negative attitudes and discrimination against their mental illnesses. In Malaysia, this is shaped by the superstitions and misconceptions ingrained in our culture.
As a result of the social stigma, most people have chosen to suffer in silence rather than seek help in such an intimidating environment. This is where you can make a difference by checking in on your family and friends and offering them a safe space to talk about their struggles.
In conjunction with Suicide Prevention Week, we’ve teamed up with The Mind Faculty to provide Malaysians with tips on talking to someone who might be struggling with their mental health. Our #There4UMY campaign aims to encourage the public to pick up the phone and check in on their loved ones during this tough time.
The Mind Faculty
We understand that talking about mental health can be hard – Jade Goh, the Director of Clinical Services at The Mind Faculty, has shared her professional advice to help guide and normalize these conversations. She is continuously looking at ways to make mental health services more accessible and founded the TMF Academy Fund and the Associate Practitioner program.
The Mind Faculty is a private mental health clinic in Solaris Mont Kiara with over 20 practitioners. They offer a wide-range of psychiatric, psychological, counselling and complementary therapies.
You can find out more about The Mind Faculty and their services here.
Over the next few days, we’ll be covering how to spot the signs of depression in others and what you can do to support someone who is affected. Help us share the campaign on social media with the hashtag #There4UMY! Together we can create a more compassionate culture that empowers individuals to confidently talk about mental health.
2020 has been problematic, to say the least, and as much as we wish we could cancel it and let the next few months fizzle out with a growing list of celebrities (oop), we’re just going to have to stick out the bad news.
Ah, the news – a chaotic 24-hour cycle you can’t escape. With information being one click away from going viral, social media users have been breaking stories before news outlets and ending up on all your feeds. I mean, Twitter’s become the new morning paper – you think you’re scrolling through fan cams, horoscopes and cute animal videos but each time you close the app, you end up being more informed on current affairs.
It’s this constant media consumption that has taken a toll on our mental health. The news (which only seems to get worse) has become overwhelming, but with the rise of social media activism – we fight these feelings of anxiety, and sometimes even depression, to stay updated and help those in need. But it’s okay to put yourself first.
Don’t feel guilty about taking a moment for yourself – you’re only human and no one should make you feel bad about it. Limit your screen time by setting a reminder to step away. During your break, do a couple of breathing exercises, preferably outdoors – it’s always good to get some fresh air. Talk to someone you trust or hold space for yourself, but if you still feel empty or powerless, please seek professional help, especially if you’ve received online abuse or been triggered.
As stressful as social media has become, it has been a powerful tool in fighting for change. From successful petitions and a plethora of educational posts, the Internet has started powerful movements and brought the world closer together during a pandemic and unrest. Continue keeping up with the news, standing up against injustice, checking in on others, but don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process.
What is burnout?
From a global pandemic to civil unrest, 2020 has been a stressful experience that feels long and excessive. (Am I right?) It doesn’t matter whether you work from home, are back in the office, studying or fighting for social justice – it has caused a majority of us to suffer from mental, physical and emotional exhaustion also known as burnout.
What are the symptoms?
If overwhelming events have left you feeling drained, down and disconnected from others – you’re probably suffering from burnout too. You might find yourself uninterested in what you’re doing, forgetting what you need to do (wait, why am I in the kitchen again?), easily irritated and always tired. Here are a few ways you can find motivation again.
How can I overcome it?
- Take a time-out
No work, no social media – apply for leave, sign out. You need a break from whatever’s causing you to burnout. Use this time to recharge your batteries and focus on yourself – not your assignment or creating the perfect Instagram infographic. Schedule frequent breaks during your day to breathe and relieve stress. This will allow you to be more focused and productive – working smarter, not harder.
- Get some rest
If you’ve been pulling an all-nighter studying or anxiously refreshing your timeline, you’ve got a lot of sleep to catch up on! Start clocking in 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night for at least a week. Find out more about sleep hygiene and how to make the most of your slumber here.
- Move your body
You’re probably groaning at the idea of a high intensity workout, but there are plenty of ways to get your heart pumping and blood flowing depending on how you feel. Dance, stretch or go for a walk – however you choose to move your body will help you relax your mind, boost your mood and your energy.
- Eat well
Ordering takeout has become easier than ever – with just a few taps, that extra-large pizza will be on its way to you and your favorite pjs. But the refined carbohydrates (most sugars and processed grains), can cause your mood and energy to crash. The stress and anxiety are already depleting your body of essential nutrients, so make sure you consume more nourishing food to boost your brain function, immune system, gut and hormones.
It can take a few weeks or even months to recover from burnout, but if you still feel anxious and depressed, please seek professional help.
Journaling will always be therapeutic, even as a thirteen-year-old writing “dear diary” followed by a fairly rude rant about how your parents won’t let you get a tattoo. It provides a safe space (lock included) for you to share your experiences and sit in the therapist’s chair as you reread your thoughts and feelings.
If 2020 has left you feeling overwhelmed – stressed from working at home, anxious about social distancing and saddened by the world news, journaling is a good place to let it all out Here’s how you can start:
- Download A Journal App
If you’re still not sold on writing things down – type it out. Since we’re always on our phones, self-care has become digital with mindful apps to make better use of your screen time. For beginners, we recommend downloading the journal apps Reflectly or Daylio. These make journaling super easy by asking you questions about your day, even encouraging you to use emojis – think of it as a judgement-free Facebook status.
- Follow Journal Prompts
Don’t know what to write? There are plenty of journal prompts available online to get the ball rolling. Usually in the form of questions, these short statements are set to inspire self-reflection. Here are a few to help you explore your definition of “self-love”:
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You can also sign up for our Self Care Club to receive weekly journal prompts!
- Practice Gratitude
For a more positive mindset, use your journal to list down what you’re grateful for. Do this daily and you’ll notice a shift in your perspective as you start seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. Not only will you experience less negative emotions, but by counting your blessings – you’ll become more satisfied with life too. Happy mind, happy life.
- Participate In Journal Challenges
Turn journaling into a habit by participating in journal challenges. These span from a week to a month with a list of helpful writing prompts for you to follow. Learn more about journaling from YouTuber, Lavendaire, and spread out her 30 prompts for self-discovery throughout the month:
By focusing on yourself for at least five minutes a day, you’ll be able to find solitude and clarity in the midst of a chaotic year. Writing down your emotions will make it easier for you to understand them and pinpoint the problem – allowing you to come up with healthier coping skills and better solutions. We should all strive to be more self-aware and accepting of ourselves, so pick up a pen and start journaling!