Finding Ikigai

In Japanese, iki means “life” while gai means “value” or “worth.” So ikigai (pronounced “eye-ka-guy”) is about finding your life’s purpose so that everything you do becomes satisfying, worthwhile, and balanced.  

In their best-selling book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, authors Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles interviewed the residents of Ogimi, Okinawa, a Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100-year-olds. They discovered that ikigai is one of the reasons for these villagers’ longevity.

“Research into the causes of premature aging has shown that stress has a lot to do with it,” Garcia and Miralles write. “[But] being in a hurry is inversely proportional to quality of life. As the old saying goes, ‘Walk slowly and you’ll go far.’ When we leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning.​ Looking back, our days in Ogimi were intense but relaxed—sort of like the lifestyle of the locals, who always seemed to be busy with important tasks but who, upon closer inspection, did everything with a sense of calm. They were always pursuing their ikigai, but they were never in a rush.”

Practicing ikigai will not guarantee that you will live up to 100, but it can certainly help make your life happy and purposeful. If you want to find your ikigai, take time to answer the questions below: 

  1. What do I love?

The question speaks to your PASSION. Answers can be concrete (i.e. photography, community service) or intangible (i.e. inspiring others, appreciating beautiful things).  

  1. What am I good at?

This refers to your PROFESSION. Sometimes the things you love (#1) will also be the things you are good at, although it’s not always the case. If you are struggling to define what you are good at, ask family and close friends for their inputs. 

  1. What does the world need from me?

This is your MISSION in life. Create a list of things you can offer the world if you are called upon. 

  1. What can I get paid for?

This question is focused on your VOCATION. What do you do that will pay the bills? List everything – planning, teaching, marketing, writing, cooking, etc. 

After you have answered all these questions start to look for commonalities. Are there obvious intersections among the four categories? If yes, then congratulations, that is your ikigai. The next step is to find a way to express ikigai in your work and home; once you have done so, you will feel happy, enthusiastic, and satisfied with the rest of your life.

Written by Jac of MindNation

8 Tips to Help you Stick to your Exercise Routine

Sticking to a workout routine is tough especially now that we are in the midst of a pandemic. With gyms and fitness studios closed and most of us isolating at home, it’s harder to find the time and motivation to break a sweat in the middle of working from home, taking care of the kids, or bingeing on Netflix. 

But according to strength and conditioning trainer/personal coach Ergel Villarta Arcinas (@evatrainingsystems), staying at home should not be an excuse to be sedentary; rather, it’s all the more reason why we need to push ourselves to exercise. “Regular exercise not only has physical benefits, it will also help reduce the stress, anxiety, and depression that many of us will be feeling from being isolated at home and having our routines disrupted,” he explains. “The endorphins that our body releases afterwards will also leave our bodies and minds feeling refreshed instead of ‘stuck’.” 

To overcome any mental barriers and make exercising a habit, you will need the right mindset and a smart approach. Below are some tips for making the most out of your workout-from-home routine: 

  1. Make exercising the same as eating or sleeping. One often-mentioned tip for coping with home isolation is to maintain a routine — i.e. follow a regular eat, sleep, and work schedule — so include exercise in your daily to-do as well. It doesn’t matter what time of the day you do it, as long as you allot the time, although Coach Arcinas cautions against working out too close to bedtime. “This is because the resulting post-exercise energy boost can make it hard for you to fall asleep, and lack of sleep is never healthy,” he points out. “Exercising during the day will be better so that you have the rest of the day to let your body relax.” That said, if evenings are really your own free time, he suggests that you opt for low intensity movements so that you recover faster. 
  1. Invest in a personal trainer. It may seem like added expense, but coaches ensure that you spend your exercise time mindfully and safely. “We develop  workout programs that take into account your capacity, goals, and skill level,” Coach Arcinas says. “This way, you see better results sooner and reduce injuries.” Sessions can be conducted through videochat applications like Google Meet or Zoom.

If you really prefer to workout on your own by following videos online, Coach Arcinas suggests that you research the background of the instructor first to make sure that he or she is really certified to teach classes so that you do not get injured. 

  1. Set realistic fitness goals. Don’t just aim to “be stronger;” instead, say you want to be able to do 20 full body push-ups in one minute by the end of the fourth month. When goals are measurable, specific, and time-bound, it’s easier to track your progress. Doing it this way and with the help of a personal trainer helps you focus your efforts, develop a more structured plan for actually achieving the goal, and creates a sense of urgency that can be motivating. 
  1. Embrace the small wins. Maybe your goal is to hold a plank for two minutes, and two weeks into your new workout routine, you’ve improved your ability from 20 seconds to 30 seconds. Even though your ultimate goal is a long way off, take pride in reaching this mini milestone along the way. It can provide the important confidence boost you need to keep pushing toward the bigger goal. 
  1. Think long-term. You didn’t get out of shape overnight, so you’re not going to instantly transform your body either. Expecting too much, too soon will only lead to frustration. Try not to be discouraged by what you can’t accomplish or how far you have to go to reach your fitness goals. Instead of obsessing over results, focus on consistency. And while the physical payoff might take longer, appreciate the instant improvements in your mood and energy levels.
  1. It’s totally normal to not always want to workout. It’s okay to have off days, and understanding that can help you embrace these difficult feelings and move past them, rather than viewing them as signs of weakness and giving up altogether. “If you are experiencing low energy levels because of bed weather, for example, ease into the workout by warming-up longer,” Coach Arcinas suggests. “Once your muscles are properly stimulated, you’ll be energized to proceed to the main set.” But if you really still feel sluggish after warming up and cannot proceed anymore, then that’s okay too, he assures; ten minutes of warming-up is better than five, and even just five minutes of movement is better than zero.

“However, if you are tired because you lack sleep, don’t force yourself to exercise because the risk of getting injured is higher,” Coach Arcinas says. 

  1. Change your vocabulary. Use words with positive versus negative associations to describe how you might feel or are feeling. For example, instead of considering the difficult moments of an exercise as being “uncomfortable,” think of them as being “intense.” You are not “dying,” you are being “challenged.” Shifting your vocabulary carries a more empowering mindset and will help you adopt a more positive attitude. 
  1. Don’t compare yourself to others. As you scroll through social media, it’s easy to feel resentful, intimidated, or even discouraged when you see someone effortlessly execute a yoga pose or consecutive burpees while you have yet to be as accomplished. But you’re likely not considering the fact that these other people were also new to yoga and burpees at one point, and probably put in a lot of hard work to get to their current fitness level. 

Exercise is important to our physical and mental health, but it’s really tough to build the habit. “The key is to build the routine first before advancing to goal-setting,” says Coach Arcinas. “Once you have developed the discipline, that’s when you work with a trainer to set time-based objectives such as ‘In four to six months, I want to be able to do this skill or lose this much body fat.’” 

Lastly, remember that exercising (whether at home outside of it) will always be one of the best investments you can make for your body and mind. “When you are physically and mentally well, you can do the things you enjoy more often and for far longer, like spending more time with your kids or even grandkids,” Coach Arcinas says. “For me, that benefit is even more important than having six-pack abs or being able to do 100 push-ups.”

Written by Jac of MindNation

A holistic approach to mental health wellness

There are many factors that can affect a person’s mental wellbeing. These include their physical health, personal relationships, work life, lifestyle habits, and even whether or not they feel aligned with their perceived purpose in life. This week, we will show tips on how you can acquire positive mental health by also aiming for physical, emotional, behavioral, intellectual, social, and spiritual wellness. 

Follow this blog and our social media accounts for tips on how to sleep better, maintain an exercise routine, stimulate your brain, and find meaning in your work and personal lives. And as always, if you are feeling lost, isolated, or overwhelmed, you are welcome to chat with MindNation on FB Messenger. We are available 24/7 and our services are FREE and absolutely confidential. 

Be your own boss: 8 ways to increase your self-confidence at work

Self-confidence is more than just believing that you can do things; it also means that you are aware of your weaknesses and limitations, but accept them so that you still have a positive view about yourself.    

Having self-confidence in the workplace can be crucial to your success. It can make you more motivated, ambitious, and also help you overcome fear and anxiety so you can be more productive. Most importantly, self-confidence can help improve your performance and develop your skills.

If you find yourself feeling unsure about your capabilities, here are some strategies that you can apply to help increase your trust in yourself: 

  1. Attend professional development training or skills training 

When you increase your skills level or develop a specific skill further (i.e. learning a new coding language if you work in IT, attending a training seminar to learn new project management skills) you improve the way you perform in your role, which can then have a positive influence on increasing your confidence. On your own, you can also read books or watch online resources (I.e. TED Talks, free online courses offered by various universities) that can offer the information you need to add to your qualifications.

  1.  Learn entirely new skills

When you learn something new and you apply it to your job, you increase your productivity and are able to take on new tasks more confidently. 

  1. Dress for success.

Research has shown that the clothes you wear can affect your mental and physical performance. Dressing to appear more professional may help influence the confidence you feel when performing your job and interacting with your peers and superiors. 

This holds true even when you are working from home. Slipping into structured but comfortable pieces instead of fuzzy loungewear will not only give you a confidence boost, it will tell your brain to make the distinction between work and home life. 

  1. Leave your comfort zone 

It can be harder (not to mention riskier) to apply this at work, but leaving your comfort zone is one of the most effective ways to gain more confidence in your career. For example, if you have always dreaded giving presentations in front of your colleagues, you can step outside of your comfort zone by volunteering to give the next presentation or co-hosting with a teammate. 

  1. Emulate confident peers

Look for co-workers who appear confident and self-assured in their job and observe their mannerisms and how they interact with other people. How do they sit, stand, or talk? How do they command attention during videochat meetings?  Incorporate these into your own actions to help you develop your own confidence.

  1. Set goals for yourself.

Setting short-term and long-term career goals can impact the way you perceive your strengths and success. Consider setting a goal for yourself to develop an overall capability or new skill, then measure your success by targeting small objectives to help you reach your result. Doing it this way can help boost your confidence because you can see where you are applying effective strategies to further your development.

For example, if your overall goal is to increase your work productivity,  you can set smaller target objectives to help you reach that goal such as improving your time management skills or focusing on single tasks rather than multitasking. 

  1. Focus on your strengths

Make a list of your strengths and abilities and a second list of your achievements. Make it a habit to read through the lists everyday, or anytime you need a confidence boost.

  1. Ask questions

Make it  a habit to ask at least one question during team meetings, project planning sessions, or conferences to help clarify any information that you might not have understood. This can show your team members and supervisors that you will take initiative when you feel you might need more direction, and when you do this as part of your work routine, you can increase your feelings of confidence and self-worth through contribution. 

As you work toward developing confidence at work, remember to take your time and be patient with your progress and professional development plans. Changes can take time to make and you might need to adjust your goals to reflect any changes in circumstances. But if you remain consistent in your actions and improvement plans, you will keep progressing toward becoming braver and more self-assured. For anything else, MindNation is on Facebook Messenger if you need someone to talk to. We are available 24/7; it’s completely FREE and absolutely confidential. 

Written by Jac of MindNation

Mental Health for Beginners: 10 answers to the most common mental health questions

While understanding and awareness about mental health and its issues has increased in the recent years, we are sure there are still some topics that need clarification. As part of our celebration of World Mental Health Month this October, we asked MindNation’s go-to psychologist Riyan Portuguez RPsy RPm (also known as Your Millennial Psychologist) to answer the 10 most common questions about mental health and wellness:

  1. What is mental health?

Riyan: Mental health is the science of self-love. It’s about honoring your emotions and boundaries, and allowing yourself to receive proper and evidence-based care so that you attain personal growth, maximize productivity, and make significant contributions to your community.

  1. What causes mental health problems?

Riyan: Mental health is a complicated matter, varies from person to person, and occurs from the interaction of the following factors:

  1. Neuro-biological (i.e.chemical imbalances in the brain, genetic predispositions to certain disorders that may be triggered by stress or trauma)
  1. Socio-cultural (i.e. a dysfunctional family life, substance abuse)
  1. Psychological (i.e. severe psychological trauma, neglect)
  1. How can I tell if someone I love has a mental health concern?

Riyan: If your loved one exhibits the following warning signs for two weeks or more, you are right to be concerned:

  1. Significant changes in their behavior, such as extreme angry outbursts or bouts of sadness
  2. Withdrawal from friends and other normal activities
  3. No longer pays attention to grooming and/or personal hygiene
  4. Confused thinking, inability to concentrate, lapses at work
  5. Significant weight gain or loss, loss of appetite or overeating
  6. Talks about doing harm to themselves or to others. Suicidal thinking may be active (i.e. “I want to end my life”) or passive (“I don’t want to wake up tomorrow.”)

When you are in doubt about your friend’s condition, always seek the assistance of a mental health professional. 

  1. How can I tell if I have a mental health problem?

Riyan: The answer is the same as the above, although it can be harder to recognize the warning signs if you are talking about yourself. This is especially true if you are the type of person who is frequently perceived by others as “strong,” or if you are the one always providing help to others. Listen to friends and family and keep an open mind if they express concern about the state of your mental health. 

  1. I feel strong, negative emotions like anger and fear sometimes; does this mean I need to see a therapist as soon as possible?

Riyan: Not right away. Emotions, even the negative ones, are a normal part of life, so go ahead and allow yourself to feel them and to lose yourself in them. Suppressing or dismissing these emotions because they are “bad” will only lead to emotional or psychological disorders. But if you experience negative emotions recurring too often or last more than two weeks, or you feel they are getting stronger or more out of control, then seek help. 

  1. What is the difference between sadness and depression?

Riyan: Sadness is an emotion. It is a response to a specific situation — something happened that made you sad. But you are still able to function (i.e. work, do homework) and experience other emotions (i.e. you feel happy when friends comfort you). It usually goes away after a few days.

On the other hand, depression is a mental illness. It is pervasive sadness — it affects all other areas of your life, like your work and relationships with others. There is also no known or specific trigger — you don’t even know why you feel sad anymore — and it is usually accompanied by feelings of apathy and numbness. 

  1. What is the difference between fear and anxiety?

Riyan: Similar to sadness, fear is an emotion caused by something that is in the present and it is specific — there is an imminent situation that causes you to feel afraid, but you are still able to do normal things like eat, sleep, or work. Once the source of fear passes, you don’t think about it anymore. 

Anxiety is a mental disorder — it is an intense level of fear or worry about something that will occur in the future. You anticipate that something terrible will happen. People with anxiety tend to exhibit the following behaviors:

  1. Unhelpful thinking patterns — i.e. “What if–?” scenarios, “Should” and “Must” statements
  2. Magnification — the source of fear is insignificant but in the person’s mind, it is catastrophic
  3. Overgeneralization — the problem attaches itself to all other parts of their lives (i.e. “I did poorly at work” becomes “I am such a loser”)
  4. Physical symptoms such as hyperventilating and heart palpitations

People experiencing normal fear will also have negative thoughts, but after awhile they will follow these up with questions or narratives that will challenge those negative beliefs and cultivate optimism. For example, someone whose boss gives them a difficult task will worry about doing well, but after some time will figure out strategies to cope. And once the difficult task has been completed, they move on to the next assignment. 

  1. What is the difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist, and therapist? How do I know which is the right one for me?

Riyan: A psychiatrist is permitted to prescribe medicine, so their focus is on treating the neurobiological aspect of mental disorders. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication, and will focus on the patient’s sociocultural factors before diagnosing the illness. They are also therapists because they are the ones who create the interventions or treatment plans for patients. 

Psychologists and psychiatrists work together. If psychologists feel that the physical symptoms of a patient are strong, they may refer the person to a psychiatrist first to lessen the symptoms, then ask him or her to come back to continue with other forms of therapy.  

  1. Is there a way I can prevent mental health problems?

Riyan: Practice healthy lifestyle and self-care habits like eating the proper diet, frequently exercising, and getting enough sleep. Get help whenever you feel overwhelmed by your problems, beginning with talking to friends and family. Don’t be afraid to consult a mental health professional if the need calls for it. 

  1. Is there a cure for mental health problems?

Riyan: If by “cure” you mean it will disappear forever, then the answer is “no.” However, mental health problems are treatable. There are many people who recover, but they need to continuously work with psychologists or monitor their lifestyle to reduce incidences of relapse. 

And always remember that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It is similar to having eyesight problems — there is no cure for nearsightedness, but you can wear corrective lenses and carry on normally for the rest of your life. 

Do you have other questions or concerns about mental health? Type them in the comments below and we’ll try to address it in future articles. Or you can message MindNation on Facebook Messenger if you need someone to talk to. We are available 24/7; it’s completely FREE and absolutely confidential. 

Mourning in the time of COVID-19

Grief is a normal, sorrowful reaction to losing someone (or something) you love. Grieving practices like funeral rites are important because they allow those left behind to process and handle their grief, allow people from different places to come together to support the grieving and commemorate the life of a person who has died, and form tighter bonds. 

Grieving during a pandemic, however, presents a new set of challenges. With social isolation policies in place, many family members have not been able to visit or take care of loved ones suffering from the disease, or hold a proper funeral when they pass away. 

If you have lost a loved one during the pandemic, know that it is normal to feel uncertain, unprepared, frustrated, or even angry at yourself. Being away from your normal support networks might also make you feel isolated and lost. But there are some things you can do to help cope with grief over the loss of a loved one during this difficult time. 

  1. “Remember that grief is a natural and ongoing response to loss,” assures Dr. Lillian Gui, a psychologist and former Chairwoman of the Counseling Division of the Psychological Association of the Philippines. “It is a healthy process of feeling comforted and coming to terms with the loss,” she adds. Because times today are more scary and uncertain, you might feel as if your sadness is more pronounced. But this does not mean that you should put your feelings off for another time; do not be afraid of any emotion you experience. 
  1. Don’t get caught up in guilt. When you are robbed of the opportunity to properly say good-bye to someone, you might start ruminating about whether your loved one was in pain before dying or feel guilt that you did not say or do something in time. You might also experience survivor guilt, which makes you feel that you should not enjoy things yourself. Know that it’s okay to experience positive feelings. “No one has the right to tell you how to feel,” Dr. Gui reminds. “There is no right or wrong emotion, so you are entitled to your own feelings.” 
  1. Make the most of virtual support. The in-person support systems you would normally turn to after the death of a loved one, like the extended family members who visit you or the friend who hugs you when you cry, are no longer available now. But you can still find comfort by staying digitally connected with others. While “virtual memorial services” fall short of actual graveside mourning surrounded by friends and family, they can still provide an outlet for collective grief. 
  1. Understand that a funeral during COVID-19 will be different. Acknowledge that there will be things you cannot control, such as the ban on social gatherings. Instead of feeling bad about it, focus on the details that you can control, such as enquiring if it would be possible to do a live stream or a recording of the service, arranging a digital guest book, or sharing messages from those not present. 
  1. Create a space for sharing memories. Sharing good memories about the deceased is helpful to bereaved people, so figure out ways to tell the story of the person who died. For example, you can create a Facebook group where people can share their stories, or organize a video chat conference for the same purpose.  
  1. Plan something special for when you and your loved ones can mourn together again. Think of the socially-distanced mourning you are able to do now as temporary measures. Be reassured that there will be a time when you can hold a more formal, in-person memorial. Planning a future service can even function as part of the grieving process. 
  1. Say good-bye in your own way. In your own time, find a quiet place where you can be alone, and say what you want to say to the other person as if they were still there. 
  1. Create rituals to memorialize your loved one. “Healthy grief is about finding ways to remember loved ones and adjust to life without them,” says Dr. Gui. So go ahead and engage in activities that make you feel attached to the deceased or fill you with fond memories of the person. This could be cooking a favorite recipe that you associate with them, making a playlist of songs that you both enjoyed, or writing a letter to them every week at the same time. 
  1. Be prepared. There will be events and moments in the future that will trigger your memories and sadness. When this happens, give yourself permission to express your grief in ways that work for you. To help sort through your feelings, Dr. Gui suggests journaling, using the following prompts:
  • What did the person mean to you?
  • What did you learn from him or her?
  • What good has come from this difficult experience?
  • What have you learned about yourself, other people, or life?
  • Are there things you appreciate more?
  • Who are the people who have been there for you? Were they the people you expected? What have you learned about them?
  • In what ways have you grown or matured based on this experience?
  1. Understand that you will heal. Rest assured that in time you will feel better and move forward in new and different ways.

The death of a loved one can be very stressful and traumatic, especially if regular mourning rituals are unavailable due to the current pandemic. Be gentle and patient with yourself as you go through the grieving process. “It’s okay to feel grief for days, weeks, or even longer,” says Dr. Gui. “Every person’s situation is different.” Slowly pace yourself and reach out for safe and helpful relationships, even if it’s just through virtual means. Lastly, don’t bypass the pain by bottling up your emotions or rejecting your feelings; this might cause you physical problems or lead into depression.

And if you really cannot contain or handle the pain anymore, seek professional help. MindNation connects individuals with counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat, 24/7, anytime, anywhere. The service is completely confidential and the staff is trained to help you ease your anxieties. Start chatting here: http://m.me/themindnation

Written by Jac of MindNation

4 Psychological Benefits of Family Meals

Family mealtimes are not just for rest and sustenance; research has shown that when families eat together, the members reap gains that go beyond better physical health.

Below are 4 research-backed reasons why eating together as a family can contribute to improved mental and emotional well-being:

1. Children tend to be happier.

Because eating together improves parent-child relationships, children feel more stable, secure, and are less inclined to engage in risky behavior like suicide and unsafe sex practices. They are also less likely to have mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. The same is true for adults — studies show that mothers who ate with their families often were also found to be happier and less stressed compared to mothers who did not.

2. It’s easier for parents to monitor and protect the kids from bullying.

Bullying and cyber-bullying have become ever present threats to school-going children. Although parents can do little to avoid bullying from ever occurring, conversing over meals can help them find out if their child is being bullied and help him respond to the situation.

3. Children do better academically.

Scientists have found that when parents converse with their children during mealtimes, the child will have a better vocabulary than children whose parents don’t have a sit down meal with them. Children also seem to score academically better on an average when they eat regularly with the parents – possibly since mealtimes are a great opportunity for parents to discuss projects, identify weak spots, and encourage strengths in the child’s academic progress

4. Better parent-child relationships.

Parents and children who eat regular family dinners seem to share a better relationship. They are more honest and open with each other, and the parents are more likely to know what is happening in the child’s life. Studies also show that children from families who eat together regularly felt that they could share their problem with their parents and turn to them for advice and support. On the other hand, teens from families that did not eat together regularly were more likely to feel isolated from their parents.

When eating together:

  • Focus on enjoying each other’s company, not on what or how much each child is eating.
  • Keep conversations positive. Encourage children to talk about their day. This helps to develop more communication between family members.
  • Schedule difficult or disciplinary conversations for some time other than meals.
  • Turn off distractions like the TV, computer, tablets and phones during mealtimes. Keep toys and books off the table.

Family mealtimes provide parents and children a great opportunity to socialize, relax, and improve their mental health. If conflicting schedules do not allow for everyone to be together in the evening, then schedule family meals at breakfast or lunch; just pick a time when everyone can be together in a relaxed setting, and do it regularly.

We can all help prevent suicide. If you or a loved one is in distress, MindNation connects individuals with counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat, 24/7, anytime, anywhere. The service is completely confidential and the staff is trained to help you ease your anxieties. Start chatting here: http://m.me/themindnation

Do’s and Dont’s Supporting a Loved One Who Has Lost Someone to Suicide

CONTENT WARNING: This article includes descriptions of suicide that may disturb some readers

If comforting a sad friend is hard, supporting someone who has lost a loved one to suicide is especially difficult and awkward. Often times, the grieving person is not just depressed — they may also be feeling a mix of guilt, confusion, anger, or shame; worse, he may even have suicidal thoughts themselves.

In such cases, the key to helping your friend through this difficult loss is to offer a listening ear. Sit with your friend and listen to the story and feelings in a nonjudgmental way, without trying to problem-solve.

DO:

1. Address the elephant in the room.

Example: “I heard __ died by suicide; how are you?” is one way to start the conversation. Using the word “suicide” can be scary, but when you show your friend that that you are able to talk more openly about what happened, it eases the stigma and encourages him to open up.

2. Express your concern and don’t hide your feelings.

Even if you do not have all the answers, show your friend that you are aware that the death has affected him, and that you are there when he needs help. Example: “I’m sorry to hear that this happened. I’m not sure what to say, but I am here when you need me. Tell me what I can do.”

3. Be an active listener.

Often finding the right words is less important than letting your friend express himself. While you should never try to force your friend to open up when he is not ready, being able to have this conversation when he is ready is important.

Some strategies to be an active listener include:
  • Let your friend know that whatever he is feeling is OK — it’s okay to cry, become angry, or break down in front of you. Your friend should feel free to express feelings knowing that you are willing to listen without judgment, argument, or criticism.
  • Communicate non-verbally. If your friend is not yet ready to talk or you don’t know what to say, you can still show your support through eye contact, a squeeze of the hand, or a reassuring hug.
  • If you’ve gone through a similar loss, share your own experience, if you think it would help. However, don’t give unsolicited advice, claim to “know” what the person is feeling, or compare your grief to his or her.

DON’T say the following:

1. “I know how you feel.”

We can never know how another person may feel. It’s more helpful to ask your friend how he feels.

2.“There’s so much to be thankful for.”

Part of grieving is being able to experience the feelings of sadness and loss.

3.“He is in a better place now.”

Your friend may or may not share your religious beliefs. It’s best to keep your personal spiritual beliefs to yourself unless asked.

Watch Out for the Following Warning Signs:

If you notice any of the following warning signs after the initial loss, especially if they continue for more than two months, or if you feel that your friend is in danger of committing suicide himself, encourage him to seek counseling or connect him to suicide survivor support group resources.

  1. Extreme focus on the death
  2. Talking about the need to escape the pain
  3. Persistent bitterness, anger, or guilt
  4. Difficulty making it to class and declining grades
  5. A lack of concern for his/her personal welfare
  6. Neglecting personal hygiene
  7. Increase in alcohol or drug use
  8. Inability to enjoy life
  9. Withdrawal from others
  10. Constant feelings of hopelessness
  11. Talking about dying or attempting suicide

To avoid seeming invasive, state your feelings instead of outrightly telling your friend what to do: “I am worried that you aren’t sleeping. There are resources online that can help you.”

Remember that grief after losing someone to suicide can feel like a rollercoaster, full of intense ups and downs and everything in-between. People will never fully “get over” their loss, but over time, with your support, they can begin to heal.

We can all help prevent suicide. If you or a loved one is in distress, MindNationconnects individuals with counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat, 24/7, anytime, anywhere. The service is completely confidential and the staff is trained to help you ease your anxieties. Start chatting here: http://m.me/themindnation

9 Things to Do When You are Feeling Hopeless

Someone who feels hopeless believes that nothing good can happen, that a happy ending is impossible. Whether it’s because you lost your job because of the pandemic and are having difficulty finding another one, or you ended a romantic relationship and feel that you will never find love again, you can say that you’re feeling hopeless.

It’s normal to feel dejected from time to time after encountering failure. But if your hopelessness starts to make you isolate yourself from friends and loved ones, interferes with your daily routine, discourages you from trying anything new, or, worse, makes you feel that you have nothing left to live for, you may be in danger of lapsing into depression or suicidal thoughts. Below are some ways you can rise up from the hopeless feeling:

1. Always remember that nothing lasts forever — including failure.

When it feels as if nothing can go right, respond to the situation with positive and constructive actions so you can break out of the negative thoughts and things can get better. Think “Will this even matter in one year?” If the answer is “no,” then you know that the situation is not as dire as you initially thought. Distract yourself from your hopelessness by actively engaging in other areas of your life. Let time pass and resist the temptation to overreact and aggravate the problem.

2. Recall how you overcame similar struggles in the past.

When going through a challenging time, think about or list down all the occasions in your life when you overcame hurdles and rose above difficulties. Doing this will help you find renewed faith in yourself and in your ability to cope.

3. Look at the bigger picture.

Your problems are merely a small part of everything else that’s going on in your lives, so you should not let the worries, fear, and anxiety overtake your mind. And, even if every area of your life — i.e. Health, relationship, work, money — seems to be filled with problems, the fact that you are alive means there is still hope for things to turn around.

4. Practice gratitude.

Don’t get caught up with the things that are not working out in your lives and forget the good.

5. Try something new.

Many times you feel hopeless because you think you have already “tried everything” to no avail. But have you really tried everything? Maybe you only tried 10 other ways of doing something; there are lots more out there that you have yet to consider. Another option is to try a new way of thinking about the situation; let go of the mindset and behavior that has not worked for you, and do the things you don’t want to do but could be good for you.

6. Live in the present.

Hope and hopelessness are both about the future; when you practice mindfulness, then neither have any hold on you. Learn to be present in your own way, through meditation, exercise, or taking a walk in nature.

7. Ask for help.

Hopelessness is often just a reminder that you can’t do it all by yourself. Many situations that feel or truly are hopeless suddenly become doable when other people get involved. Ask your loved ones for help or a different perspective; or join an online support group.

8. Remember that success takes time (and many steps).

You won’t get six-pack abs after only two sessions at the gym; you will need to exercise for far longer than that, work with a trainer, and change your diet. The same goes for doing other difficult tasks; you will need to do things for some time before you see significant results. Don’t expect too much too soon because that will only set you up to feel dejected and disappointed.

9. Seek therapy.

This is especially important when your hopelessness is affecting your ability to work, appreciating things you’ve always appreciated, or spending time with loved ones. These are indications that your hopelessness is a sign of depression.

Remember that hopelessness is only a feeling, not your reality. It isn’t a sign that you need to give up; rather, it simply means that you need to assess your current way of doing things so you can figure out what you need to improve on and what you need to stop doing. Once you become aware of the alternatives (and there are always better options out there), you can rise from hopelessness and work on achieving your goals with renewed optimism.

We can all help prevent suicide. If you or a loved one is in distress, MindNation connects individuals with counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat, 24/7, anytime, anywhere. The service is completely confidential and the staff are trained to help you ease your anxieties. Start chatting here: http://m.me/themindnation

6 Virtual Team-Building Ideas You Can Do Anytime.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to shift to a work-from-home set-up. While some have made the transition to working from home with ease, others are struggling to adapt. This is because remote teams have fewer opportunities to socialize and get to know each other, which can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection from colleagues, and may translate to poor work productivity and an increase in mental distress.

In the previous article, we mentioned that one of the ways companies can improve and support the mental health of their employees is by regularly holding activities that allow staff to build rapport, improve communication, and increase co-workers’ understanding of one another’s strengths and weaknesses. If you are a business owner or a manager with staff who are not working in the same physical space, you might want to consider conducting virtual team-building exercises. As long as the participants can interact using an internet-connected tool like chat, video conference, etc., you can adapt many traditional team-building exercises to accommodate remote workers.

Below are 6 fun and effective activities that will help your team members work together and start bonding:

1. Favorite Things.

This simple activity is a good way for team members to get to know each other in a fun and relaxing way — because there are no wrong answers, participants will not feel stressed or anxious when they are called to share.

Mechanics: Assign a favorite thing topic, such as “Favorite thing about working from home” or “Favorite part about working for [company].” Everyone takes turns speaking.

2. Birth Map. 

This allows people to share something more personal about themselves. Share a country or world map on your screen and ask people to place a pin on or near their birth place. 

Mechanics: Ask participants to share a story or interesting trivia about their place of birth. 

3. Virtual Coffee Breaks.

This is an easy but effective way to catch up with team members.

Mechanics: Schedule a 15-minute period every day or even once a week when everyone in the team joins a video chat with a cup of coffee or their favorite beverage in hand, and they just talk to each other. Ideally, conversations must be not related to work and purely for fun, just like they might be if everyone was having a coffee break at the office together.

4. Game Day.

There are many group games that can be done online. At the start of the week, send out an email asking the team to vote on what game they would like to play for the week. 

Mechanics: Once a week, block off an hour within office hours or immediately after work and create a separate meeting room where participants can play as a group. 

5. Movie Night 

Similar to #4, you can host a monthly or quarterly movie night (or day). Ask everyone to vote for a movie and a time to watch it. Make sure that the films being considered are appropriately-themed and will not offend anybody’s religious, political, or gender views. 

Mechanics: Consider opening the chat function on the videoconferencing software so that everyone can share real-time reactions during the movie. 

6. Personality Test

Completing personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator helps team members and managers figure out each other’s potential strengths and weaknesses as well as who might work well together and who would do best being left alone. Use the results of the personality tests to open up a conversation. If you’re a manager, use the opportunity to find out what your employees’ goals are for personal and professional growth, and help them reach those goals. If you’re a worker, think about where you want to be in the company—and use your test results to discuss those goals with your supervisors.

Mechanics: The Myers-Briggs Test can be taken online at a cost. But the benefits include giving team members the chance to get to know each other on a deeper level, which will help everyone bond and learn how to communicate more effectively. 

Virtual team-building activities are a safe way to help team members feel more comfortable with each other, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness and building better connections and shared understanding. 

We can all help prevent suicide. If you or a loved one is in distress, MindNation connects individuals with counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat, 24/7, anytime, anywhere. The service is completely confidential and the staff is trained to help you ease your anxieties. Start chatting here: http://m.me/themindnation