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Mental Health 101

5 Ways to Care for Your Child’s Mental Health During The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly shown us is that everything is uncertain. And no one feels the confusion more than our children who suddenly find their carefree lives on pause due to the lockdown. Suddenly, they are no longer allowed to play with friends, eat at their favorite restaurant on weekends, go on vacations. They also have endless questions about the virus, some of which us parents have no answers to, either!

Here are some ways you can help your children cope:

Stick to a schedule

In times of uncertainty, the structure of a daily routine provides predictability. Even if it feels as if they are on vacation because they no longer go to school, children should still follow regular wake-up and bedtimes, mealtimes, study time, and even time for play.

Make exercise mandatory

Just because they need to stay indoors does not mean they should be sedentary. Physical activity not only boosts the immune system (important when we are in the midst of a pandemic) it has also been proven to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Engage in rough play with younger kids, while older kids can do simple exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and planking. 

Explain social distancing in an age-appropriate manner.

While younger children are content to just stay at home, teenagers may bristle at the loss of their freedom of movement, especially when they read on the news that their age group is not at high risk for contracting the disease. Instead of imposing your will, explain to them that while they might not get sick from COVID-19, there is the chance that they will become carriers of the virus and inadvertently infect older, more susceptible members of the household.

Filter news about the pandemic.

While we do want our children to be informed, barraging them with facts and figures (especially with infected, death, and recovery statistics) might overwhelm or frighten them. Instead, focus on imparting news that will make them feel safe and reassured, i.e. that scientists and policy-makers all over the world are doing all they can to find a solution.

Relax the rules on screen time.

If you used to only allow your child to play with their gadgets a few hours a day, consider allowing them an extra hour or so to video-chat with friends and extended family. This helps foster connections in the midst of social distancing. 

Lastly, remember that children take their emotional and behavioral cues from their parents. If they see you being stressed and anxious, they will most likely feel the same. So be a good role model and take care of your own mental health too.

Written by Jac of MindNation

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Mental Health 101 Self Help

5 ways meditation can improve your mental health

People used to think that meditation (or the process of training the mind to focus on the breath) was only something that monks, gurus, or hermits did in mountaintop temples or caves. But in recent years, practitioners of conventional medicine have also begun to prescribe mindful breathing techniques as a means of improving one’s mental health.

Here are 5 science-based benefits of meditation:

  • Reduces stress. When you focus your attention on your breath, you eliminate the jumbled and stress-inducing thoughts that are running around your head.
  • Controls anxiety. By focusing on your breathing, you are directing your mind to the safe present, instead of to an uncertain future.
  • Promotes emotional health. Meditation teaches us that we are like bystanders standing on the sidewalk, and that the cars passing by in front of us are our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Instead of forcing ourselves to run with the cars/emotions (which may cause stress, anxiety, and depression), we should simply acknowledge that they exist, then allow them to go by without making any judgements.
  • Lengthens attention span. Meditation is all about grounding and becoming aware of the “now”. The practice trains your brain to focus instead of wander.
  • Can make you more empathic. When you are calmer and less anxious, you become less irritable and short-tempered. You also develop more positive thoughts and feelings about yourself.

Meditation is to the mind what exercise is to the body. If you want to give it a try but don’t know how to go about it, apps like Headspace and Calm are beginner-friendly places to start. Good luck and don’t forget to inhale, exhale!

Written by Jacq of MindNation

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Mental Health 101 Self Help

8 Ways To Eat Better While On Lockdown

As we approach Week I-Have-Lost-Count of the lockdown, many of us have been eating more canned, processed, or junk food than usual. Whether it’s to pass time or prepare meals quicker, this habit does no good for our bodies or our brains.

Yes, gut health has been scientifically proven to affect mental health as well. There have been many studies showing that people with poor diet exhibit more mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.

But how can you start eating healthy when you barely know how to turn on the stove, or when access to your healthier food supply is limited? Here are some easy suggestions to kickstart your road to better eating:

1. Eat more fruits.

Switch up your sweets with fruits! They satiate your palate with less harmful effects versus its refined, packaged counterparts.

2. Control portion sizes.

We’re not saying you should stop eating junk food – but instead of finishing the whole bag in one sitting, take it as a challenge to not chomp down until you’re full. Take a small serving for yourself, just enough to have a taste of that snack you love and save the rest for next time!

3. Drink more water.

Drinking enough water keeps our brain from having to struggle against the effects of dehydration, allowing us to think more clearly than if we let ourselves get dehydrated. For a refreshing boost, you can add slices of lemon, cucumber, or mint. If you must have juices, go for the unsweetened variants, and just add a bit of honey.

4. Switch to whole grains.

White rice is tasty but also highly processed. You can get more nutrients (and maybe feel a lot more full) from unpolished grains – black/red/brown rice. If you find their taste too bland, cook them in broth, add garlic or add pandan instead of just plain water.

5. Try a meatless diet once a week

A balanced meatless diet is that it is full of “superfoods” like berries and nuts that are known to be beneficial for mental functioning. Vegetarians, in cross-sectional and interventional studies, showed fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and mood disturbance than omnivores. Grilled cheese sandwiches, mashed potatoes, and mushroom soup are examples of meatless meals that are delicious but also easy to make.

6. Make yogurt a kitchen staple.

Yogurt is rich in probiotics (friendly gut bacteria) and have been proven to positively affect mental health directly. Purchase the plain/unsweetened variants, and just add fruits or honey for some healthy sweetness.

7. Set up a meal schedule.

Eating whenever you feel like it will just lead to mindless snacking. Instead, follow an eating schedule as if it were a regular workday, so that you become more aware and in control of your consumption.

8. Rearrange your pantry.

Out of sight is out of mind, so keep the sweets and junk food in hard-to-reach places like the topmost rack. Then put the healthier snack alternatives at eye level.

With just a few modifications, you are on your way to locking down a healthier quarantine diet. Bon appetit!

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Mental Health 101

Supermom might be Super Stressed

This weekend, forget the flowers and chocolates; what moms need more are longer naps and someone else to do the meal-planning.

Stay-at-home mom. Single mom. Working mom. Working-from-home mom.

Whatever kind of mom they are, we can be sure that each and everyone of them is more stressed than usual these days, as the day-to-day anxieties of managing the home are now compounded by the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, how about giving your mom the gift of better mental health? Here are some ways you can relieve their mental tension:

  • Take on a task. By taking just one or two things away from her to-do list, you are giving mom the gift of time – time that she can use to rest and for her brain to slow down. No gesture is too small — if you can’t cook, offer to be the one to order takeout; if you don’t know how to operate the washing machine, at least offer to hang the clothes up afterwards.
  • Encourage her to exercise. Physical movement can release anxiety and mentally rejuvenate those under stress. Exercise also releases endorphins (chemicals that make us happy). Look for online workouts that you can do together, or offer to be her timer or spotter when she does her reps.
  • Make her laugh. There’s a reason for the saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” A good belly laugh can dispel worries faster than you can say “Knock knock.” Encourage her laughter, whether it’s looking at funny videos on Youtube or convincing her to watch sitcoms instead of Korean dramas.
  • Give her sleep. Many mothers are plagued by insomnia, so a full-night’s sleep (or even just a quality nap) is the best gift you can give. Watch the kids in the other room while she naps, or take over their bedtime routine at night so that she has time to wind down herself after a long day of managing the household. Then in the morning, be the one to wake the kids and manage their breakfast needs, to allow her a bit of a lie-in. The gift of sleep will give her back her brain, her sense of calm, and allow her to access the parts of herself that become reactive and anxious when sleep-deprived.
  • Listen. Moms often turn to girl friends for advice, but because everyone is isolating at home and there are no more opportunities for girls’ night outs, she must be feeling pretty lonely and unsupported right now. Offer your services instead, and when you do, simply listen and refrain from giving advice (unless she expressly asks for it). Try not to focus on the subject of her worry, but instead, validate the feelings and emotions around it. More often than not, she just needs someone to unburden her feelings to; a reassuring gesture or an understanding nod will make her feel that she is not alone.

Remember that a happy mom can translate to a happy home and family. So if the wonderful super mom in your life continues to struggle emotionally, encourage her to seek care from her doctor and a licensed mental health therapist trained in maternal mental health. Reassure her she does not need to keep it in.

Have a calm and beautiful Mother’s Day!

Written by Jacq of MindNation

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Mental Health 101

5 Common Misconceptions About Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Let us break the stigma associated with mental illness!

In a report published last October 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified mental disorders as one of the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. In fact, it is expected that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives

Globally, there are around 450 million people who are currently suffering from mental problems, but nearly two-thirds of them are not getting professional help. They choose to suffer in silence, mostly because they worry about the stigma and discrimination that they might face if their condition becomes known. Many myths and misconceptions about the mentally ill still abound, and people with symptoms are afraid that their loved ones will shun them, or their careers and employment will be affected.

Below are some common mental health myths:

1. You’re either mentally ill or mentally healthy

First of all, we do not hold our physical bodies to the same either/or standard — we know that it is possible to have the physical health of an Olympic athlete, or be bedridden forever, or to be a relatively normal person with poor eyesight or high cholesterol.

The same is true with our minds – mental health is a spectrum and a person may fall anywhere within that range. They can be severely mentally ill (i.e. diagnosed with schizophrenia or major depression), or simply have an emotional problem or two. Even if you think you are doing well, there is a good chance you are not 100% mentally healthy. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates only about 17% of adults are in a state of “optimal” mental health.

2. Mental illness is a sign of weakness.

Truth: Many people automatically assume that people with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions are mentally “weak.” But mental strength is not the same as mental health. Just as someone with diabetes can still run a marathon, someone with depression can still be mentally strong. In fact, many people with mental health issues are incredibly mentally strong – it’s how they are still able to do what society expects of them (go to work, be a parent, etc) despite feeling the way they do.

3. You can’t prevent mental health problems.

Truth: It’s true that not all mental health problems are avoidable – factors like genetics and traumatic life events make some mental disorders inevitable. But there are steps you can take to improve your mental health and prevent further mental illness – establishing healthy habits (i.e. good sleep, exercise) and getting rid of the destructive ones (i.e. comparing yourself to what you see on social media) can go a long way in making your mind better.

4. People with mental illness are unstable/crazy/unhinged/violent.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Truth: Perpetrators of violent crimes most likely have a mental illness, but not everyone with a mental illness becomes a criminal. In fact, many people with mental health problems are highly productive members of the community.

5. Mental health problems are forever.

Truth: While not all mental illnesses are fully curable (example: schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment even if the symptoms have subsided), most mental health problems are treatable, using a combination of medicine and therapy, and patients are able to return to their regular lives and activities soon after.

People with mental health problems should not be shunned. Just like we would never abandon someone with the flu, or discriminate against someone with cancer, we must also offer care and support to those who are suffering from mental illnesses.

Written by Jaclyn of MindNation

MindNation is offering FREE Mental Health Consultations with licensed psychologists during this very difficult time. Visit http://bit.ly/freemindnation to book your 30-minute session.

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Get Inspired

May the 4th be with you!

Positive mental health advice from Yoda, Han Solo, and other “Star Wars” characters (there’s even one from Darth Vader!)

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone! If you have not yet watched this blockbuster space-fantasy saga, let this current lockdown be your chance to do so! But whether you’re a newbie or a long-time fan of the films, we hope you can look past the special effects and also appreciate the movies for the mental health lessons that they offer.

Here are some classic Star Wars quotes that can help you lift your spirits against anxiety, negativity, and even depression:

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Yoda

How many times have we hesitated doing something because of anxiety and self-doubt? Yoda teaches us that we should believe in ourselves, and to commit 100% to the task at hand. Only then can there be progress.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Darth Vader

If you find yourself feeling depressed because others are constantly putting your down, channel your inner Vader and find the strength to push on.

“Never tell me the odds.”

Han Solo

Don’t spend too much time over=analyzing things that are yet to happen; by anticipating failure, we are actually setting ourselves up for it. Instead, focus on the now, and take things one step at a time.

“You will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.”

Obi Wan Kenobi

Our view of the world depends on many factors – how we were raised, what we learned from school, and our own life experiences. This means that everyone’s mindset is different, and so the things that we perceive to be true (i.e. “I am a failure,” “I cannot do this,” “It’s too hard”) are simply our interpretations of our experiences. Others may see the exact same thing but interpret it differently (“You are amazing,” “You CAN do this,” “It’s not that hard”). So make an effort to have a positive point of view, and see how different your perception of reality becomes.

“The greatest teacher, failure is.”

Yoda

Never be afraid to make mistakes, because it is only when we fail that we learn, improve, or sometimes even find better opportunities.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a real-life Yoda around for us to talk to anytime we are feeling uncertain? That being said, know that there ARE many support groups available to give you mental health support. We many not wield lightsabers, but rest assured that we are always on your side.

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Featured

METHOD TO THE MADNESS: Finding Peace In COVID-19 Pandemic

When the mood is as somber as it has been these past few weeks since the declaration of the pandemic, it is crucial to develop a positive outlook and a healthy mindset if we are to come out of this intact. Why? As much as this virus primarily attacks our respiratory system, the fight is both mental and physical.

A strong mind is one of the most powerful weapons we can wield at a time like this. And here are eight things we can do to help build our mental muscle.

  1. EXERCISE. Countless articles have been written about how exercise releases the happy hormones called endorphins. They can’t possibly be all wrong. So get up, and get going.  Even 20 minutes of moderate exercise 3x a week is a good place to start.
  2. GET SOME SUN. Studies have shown that a decrease in sun exposure may cause a drop in Serotonin—the chemical that contributes to one’s sense of well-being and happiness.  Anywhere from 15-20 minutes of exposure is recommended. Can’t go outside? Experts say even sitting by a window will suffice.
  3. DISTANCE YOURSELF PHYSICALLY, NOT SOCIALLY. The term “social distancing” actually refers to the physical distance you maintain in a social setting. Other than that, please reach out to family and friends online. A strong support group in trying times like these is as essential as oxygen is to daily life.  We all need someone to rant to, laugh with, cry with, and laugh with again.
  4. FEED YOUR MIND HEALTHY STUFF. Just as we shouldn’t feed our bodies with junk, the same is true for our minds. A good serving of reality (or news) balanced with a very generous serving of good vibes should do the trick. We only need to watch enough news to be aware of what’s going on. Not stuff ourselves with it.
  5. BE KIND TO EVERYONE, OURSELVES INCLUDED. These are not normal times. So it’s okay to feel uneasy or a bit off. No need to judge ourselves (or anyone else, for that matter) for feeling that way. Know and accept that the days ahead are challenging, and we are all just trying to get by as best as we can. And that is enough.
  6. FOCUS ON THE NOW. It’s been said that thanks to the virus the days of the week have been cut down to three… yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  With all the uncertainty, we can only live one day at a time. And that day is today. That moment is now. So focus on now, live it and make the most of it.
  7. FIND AN ANCHOR. When we find ourselves getting swept away by thoughts that run at breakneck speed to Worryville, we step on the brakes. Then we find something to help us anchor ourselves. This is where those breathing exercises or mantras come in handy.
  8. USE THE OFF SWITCH. For seven to eight hours each day, allow your brain to rest completely. Find a routine that will help you settle in for the night—meditation, drinking a cup of warm milk or tea, listening to music; and give your brain permission to unplug and reset.

If we mindfully practice these things (along with all the precautionary measures we’ve been told to take), there’s no reason we can’t make it to the other side safe. And sane.

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Featured

ISOLATION: A view less lonely

Isolation. Reading the word alone is enough to make anyone feel distraught. Unfortunately, to contain this virus the world is currently waging war against, this is something we all have to endure in one form or another.

Lonely as it sounds, it really doesn’t have to be. It’s all a matter of perspective.

True, being cooped up isn’t as much fun as being outside with people. But there are things you can do to brighten up this period of isolation. You can:

Interact with people online. Just because we have to maintain a 2-meter distance from people physically doesn’t mean we can’t chat them up online. We’ve got smartphones, computers, and practically every household has some form of online access. Group video calls are the way to go.

Switch perspective. Instead of looking at this as a time of being alone and lonely, let’s think of it as me-time. So why don’t we make a list of the things we can do now that we have time. Working from home? Why don’t we enjoy the fact that we can actually work in our jammies?

Organize and redecorate. Let’s face it; this isolation thing has really given us more time. So why not change the way things look around us. Our room is messy, the desk is cluttered, the cabinet is busting at the seams—let’s clean up! Or maybe everything is clean and in order—then let’s rearrange things and give our space a new look.

Learn something new. There are tons of videos online that can teach you a thing or two. Now is the best time to try and learn new things. Maybe we can even learn how to make face masks.

Ask about other people. Let’s take our mind off of our situation and think about someone else’s. Maybe check-up on someone we haven’t spoken to or seen in a while. Spend some time catching up with them online. Everyone already accounted for? Then maybe we can challenge ourselves to find ways to help other people from where we are. Sometimes looking at it from someone else’s perspective makes us see our situation differently.

Take the time to breathe. We don’t have to fill every moment in isolation with some form of activity just so we don’t feel lonely. We can simply sit and enjoy the silence.  Now would be a good time to develop the habit of meditation.

Exercise. Yes, this is nothing new; this is probably among the top three things that we get as a suggestion for what to do with extra time. But we have to admit it isn’t a bad one. If exercising alone sounds dreary, we can always organize a group exercise activity online.

These are but a few of the things we can do to make isolation more bearable. To list everything down would probably take up the entire prescribed isolation period.

How we react to this situation largely depends on the perspective we choose to take on it. We can choose to feel sorry for ourselves and wallow in loneliness. Or we can be grateful for this time to ISOLATE.  Being in isolation, for now, doesn’t mean you have to be alone, but in times like these, it does mean being safe.