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.
When we think of art therapy, we think of creating art – our emotions expressed through harsh brush strokes, the feeling of clay between our stressed palms, being soothed by colouring within the lines. But did you know that simply just viewing art can help us explore our emotions, cope with stress and develop self-awareness? Those who claim not to have a creative bone in their body can now breathe a sigh of relief.
Although art therapy doesn’t require you to be artistic or talented, it is still assuring to know that just the presence of art can contribute to better mental health. Looking at art has been proven to reduce stress levels, and has the brain releasing dopamine – providing the same feeling as falling in love. And like being in the outdoors, exploring an art gallery also helps with relieving mental exhaustion and restoring focus!
As cases continue to rise, we encourage you all to stay at home, but you can easily hop on an online tour with The Art Seni – a virtual experience that allows you to enjoy art, with the artists themselves, without having to leave the house. We asked founder, Aza Iza, how to pick up this hobby.
- When did you become interested in art?
I was exposed to art at a very young age, but didn’t really think it’d be something I’d explore further. I just enjoyed it, that’s it. It was not until after high school where I started doing regular searches of ongoing art exhibitions/ art events for me to explore over the weekend or when I was free. At that time, I felt the need to always explore art. I always made sure I had something art-related to do over the weekend. It sort of became part of my routine!
- We love what you do with The Art Seni! What pushed you to start it?
The Art Seni started when I realised how difficult it was for me to gather information about art in Malaysia. I started getting frustrated with how sometimes I missed art exhibitions just because I had no information about it at all. The only source of art information at that time was the newspapers, magazines and some websites. All of the art information was so scattered. So, if I missed it, I missed it.
- As someone who is making art more accessible in Malaysia, what are the most common misconceptions you have come across?
It is an ongoing misconception all around the world that people think art is for the elite. However, in Malaysia where it is not as accessible, people find it even more intimidating to approach. Another common misconception is that many people think that art is only for art people, and that if they’re not part of it, they cannot explore it.
- Studies have shown that viewing art can have a positive impact on your health and wellbeing – do you find that to be true? How has it helped you personally?
Yes! Art does contribute to one’s health and wellbeing in so many different ways. For me, I think it definitely helped me cope with whatever I was going through throughout the years without me realising. I often find myself turning to art when there’s too much going on or when I just needed to recenter. Art is like my little hideout!
- How can one start exploring art – what do they need to know about the current scene here in Malaysia?
The visual art scene here in Malaysia is growing and has so much to offer. One can start by selecting a few galleries to visit from our weekly “On This Week” postings. People often find it difficult to navigate themselves through art galleries in KL and most of the time, are too intimidated to explore on their own. Alternatively, if they wish to explore art with a friend, they can join one of our art tours!
Something we always tell people since day one is that you don’t need to know art to explore art because it is not only for “art people”. Art is for everyone! Follow us on our social media platforms to stay art-to-date, or to simply start exploring art. We invite just about anyone of all ages and backgrounds to join us explore art!
Licensed hair stylist, Zach of Zig Zach KL, shares how scalp care is key to healthy hair.
Have you noticed more hair on the floor that can’t be blamed on the cat? This time you’re the one shedding and it may be related to stress. Yup, another pandemic side effect caused by the stress and anxiety we’ve had to endure these past few months. How do we get to the root of this problem? Literally – by taking care of our scalp.
Scalp care is crucial to hair care. You can’t have healthy hair without having a healthy, clean scalp. But what we tend to forget when we’re scrubbing our scalps is that it is skin, and should be treated as well as we take care of our face. When your scalp is strong and healthy, it will be able to retain more hair. With the uncertainty we’ve been facing causing hair loss in many, we asked Zach how we can start giving our scalps the attention it deserves.
- Stop using hot water! That doesn’t mean you have to give up the comfort of a hot shower, simply make the water warmer when it comes to your hair – hot water strips it of moisture and essential oils.
- If you can, use cold water instead to seal the moisture in your hair. This will hydrate your scalp and prevent dirt from entering it by closing the pores. You’ll also get a good energy boost!
- Check your shampoo labels – believe it or not, some contain harmful chemicals. Avoid sulphates, chemical fragrances and Parabens as they cause hair loss.
- Oily hair needs to be washed daily to keep the scalp clean and healthy. When your scalp is too oily, it can form a fungus that will leave it feeling itchy and flaky.
- For those who dye their own hair, make sure the colour doesn’t contain ammonia, peroxide or paraphenylenediamine (PPD). Most use a combination of these, which are harmful to your hair and scalp.
- Internally, you can start consuming vitamin A or multivitamins, but do consult your doctor first. Vitamin A is known for increasing hair growth and keeping your scalp healthy.
Get more advice from Zach here and follow him on Instagram for the latest looks.
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!
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.