Self-Care: The Journey to Mental Wellness
Have you ever been pressured or stressed out by something at work and, upon coming home, took it out on your family members? Or had something on your mind that took you away from the present moment? Stress and mental health can affect our physical well-being, how we respond to people around us, and how productive we are in our tasks.
Life gets messy and is often not as smooth sailing as we would like it to be – and that’s okay. Facing situations of stress, disappointment, grief and negativity are part and parcel of the seasons of life. How can we care for ourselves holistically to ensure we are ready to take on life’s challenges?
Lead an Active Lifestyle
Take steps to be physically active. In addition to improving our physical health and fitness, being physically active also reduces stress and raises self-esteem. “But I hate exercising!” you say. Honestly, so do I – I’d rather lay in bed and watch Netflix. However, scientific evidence tells us that a sedentary lifestyle is not the way to go. Choose activities that you enjoy and make them part of your life. Hate running? Why not try dance or a sport? Pursuing an active lifestyle with friends and family can serve as a source of motivation and make exercise more enjoyable.
Get Sufficient Sleep
It can be hard to get our needed 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily, especially with the many demands of life. But getting sufficient rest is a critical component of self-care – people are much more vulnerable to getting sick, making poor decisions, and reacting impulsively when fatigued. Still need convincing? Proper sleep reduces stress, makes you more alert and aware, and also improves your memory! Be intentional about getting to bed on time – treat it like an appointment with a friend; you wouldn’t keep them waiting, would you?
Returning to work in the office might mean an abundance of pantry snacks and, along with it, the temptation to snack. Remember that a balanced and nutritious diet is a natural defence against stress. Eating breakfast, developing a regular schedule for meals, drinking plenty of water, and learning to recognise signals of hunger and thirst are known strategies for improved nutritional health.
Sometimes, we may find ourselves operating on autopilot and not noticing what’s actually going on. Practising mindfulness can help to anchor us in the present, where we can observe our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. This can help reduce stress and anxiety. Without being mindful, we may react to stressful or negative thoughts and feelings and be drawn into rumination, where we dwell excessively on problems and worries. For some ideas on mindfulness exercises, check out https://www.mindful.org/10-mindfulness-tips-for-every-day/
Shift your mindset
Stress is inevitable, but we can learn how to manage it better. Breaking goals down into more manageable steps helps us to tackle large-scale tasks one step at a time and allows us to be less overwhelmed.
Seeing problems as opportunities can be one way to shift your mindset to a more positive one. Even a simple change of words can help – try out the following when you find yourself struggling or grumbling:
Change “I can’t” to “I can’t yet”. Example: “I can’t get this programme to work” to “I can’t get this programme to work yet”
Change “I have to” to “I get to”. Example: “I have to rush home and cook dinner for my family after a long day at work” to “I get to rush home and cook dinner for my family after a long day at work”
We all know that getting connected to someone we trust, such as a friend, loved one, or healthcare professional is beneficial. Social support helps us build a sense of belonging and self-worth, we get to process our thoughts and feelings, see things from a different point of view, and feel better about our situation.
An essential part of having social support is accessing it. If someone has many friends but fails to talk with them about the stressors in their life, they forfeit the protective benefits of having friends. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others, not just to receive help but to support others as well!
Giving to Others
Supporting others creates positive feelings, helps you connect with different people, and gives you a sense of purpose. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture – small efforts like saying thank you to someone for something they have done for you, asking friends, family, or colleagues how they are, and really listening to them count.
Now, the million-dollar question: Which of the above do you currently do?
Indeed, some things are unavoidable due to certain circumstances – you might have a deadline coming up at work that requires you to work overtime or have trouble sleeping due to stress or a baby keeping you up. However, we can take control of some things and make an effort to pursue mental wellness. By taking some time to reflect on what we can change and taking deliberate action, we can take charge of our mental wellness. Try working on one of our tips and choose mental health today!
World Mental Health Day (10 October) aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilise efforts in support of mental health. Check out the following links for some resources on mental well-being and mental health. If you are struggling with mental health, seek help from a professional.
National Care Hotlline: 1800-202-6868 (8am – 8 pm daily)
Community Psychology Hub Helpline: http://www.cphonlinecounselling.sg/hc/en-us
Fei Yue’s community mental health programme for youths aged between 12 to 25 years old: https://www.fycs.org/our-work/youth/ec2/
More self-care tips and tools to help you achieve better mental well-being: https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/186/MindSG/Discover
Curated social, employment, and healthcare resources: https://www.mindline.sg/
Beyond the Label, a movement to address stigma faced by persons with mental health conditions in societyhttps://www.facebook.com/beyondthelabelsg/
Written by Helene Tan, Programme Executive, Fei Yue Community Services