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5 Books That Teach Empathy and Kindness

We’ve got a mix of world literature, Pulitzer-Prize winning novels, a non-fiction recommendation, and even something for kids. Take your pick! 

  1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

What it’s about: 10-year-old Auggie Pullman has a facial disfigurement that makes him the target of bullying when he attends school for the first time.

Why we recommend it: “Wonder” is packaged as a children’s book but the situations presented are things that even grown-ups can relate to, such as the  anxieties that come with trying to fit in and the desire to be accepted for our differences.

Quotable quote: “We carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.”

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

What it’s about: An African-American man is wrongly accused of a crime, and his Caucasian neighbor steps up to defend him despite opposition from all fronts

Why we recommend it: The themes and lessons of this book are as important today as they were when the story was first published in 1960. We need to be reminded that despite increasing awareness and belonging to a “woke” generation, racial and class discrimination continue to affect many people around the world today.  

Quotable quote: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

  1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

What it’s about: A father and son travel on foot across a post-apocalyptic land and in the process encounter a variety of people — some good, many bad. 

Why we recommend it: At first glance, killing, stealing, and committing acts of unspeakable cruelty seem to be the only ways one can survive in a cruel world. But the father constantly reminds his son to “carry the fire” — to act with kindness, compassion, and decency no matter how terrible things are. 

Quotable quote: “All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”

  1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

What it’s about: This is the first Afghan novel written in English. The main character, Amir, seeks atonement for betraying a friend. 

Why we recommend it: Amir spends much of the novel plagued by guilt, and it is only through empathy that he finds redemption and self-forgiveness.

Quotable quote: “Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything.”

  1. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

What it’s about: Studies the miscommunication, interactions, and assumptions people make when dealing with those that they don’t know. 

Why we recommend it: How many times have we avoided talking to people who think and act differently from us, resulting in conflicts or misunderstanding? By using real-life examples, Gladwell teaches us how we can bridge this divide and avoid failure of communication.
Quotable quotes: “The first set of mistakes we make with strangers…has to do with our inability to make sense of the stranger as an individual.”

Do you have your own book recommendations? Share them in the comments below!

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

8 Things To Do When Someone Is Mad At You

Being face to face with an angry person can be scary or frustrating, but there are ways to soothe the situation. 

Despite your best intentions, there will be times when you come across someone who is upset, frustrated, or angry with you. If you do not know how to handle this situation, you may end up feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or angry as well. On the other hand, when you respond to anger in the right manner, you quickly restore normalcy, reduce tension and stress, and, in some cases, even make the relationship stronger. 

Below are 8 things you can do when someone is mad at you:

  1. Listen, listen, and listen. In his book “Anger: Taming A Powerful Emotion,” Dr. Gary Chapman, a well-known marriage counselor and author of the bestselling book “The Five Love Languages,” lists down three important steps for dealing with an angry person. “First, listen. Second, listen. Third, listen,” he writes. “The best thing you can do for an angry person is to listen to his story. Having heard it, ask him to repeat it. Having heard it a second time, ask additional questions to clarify the situation. Listen at least three times before you give a response.” By having the angry person retell his or her reason for being upset, you are making them realize that you are taking their concerns seriously as well as giving them ample time to calm down. 
  1. Don’t dismiss their feelings or concerns. “Seeking to put a cap on another person’s anger is perhaps the worst way to respond to an angry person,” states Dr.Chapman. “We may not like the way the angry person is speaking to us, but the fact that he is sharing his anger is positive. The anger cannot be processed positively if it is held inside. It needs to be expressed, even if it is expressed with a loud voice.”
  1. Be calm but assertive. Even if the other person is already shouting expletives or throwing things around, do not respond with a raised voice or physical violence. “When the angry person is spewing out words and you engage in argument with him, it is like throwing gasoline on the fire,” says Dr. Chapman. “An angry person can burn all night if you continue to throw gasoline. But when you listen as the anger burns, eventually the fuel of his anger will burn out.” 

So when talking to an angry person, keep your tone even but maintain assertive body language like standing straight and maintaining eye contact. Don’t slouch or cross your arms because these convey that you are bored or not open to the communication. Don’t stand too close either; leave about a 3-foot distance between you and the other person so that you do not come across as too aggressive. 

  1. Acknowledge the other person’s anger. Anger is often a response to feeling misunderstood or ignored, so even if it’s the last thing you want to do, let the person know that you get that he or she is upset. “Put yourself in her shoes and try to view the world through her eyes.,”Dr. Chapman advises. “Ask yourself, ‘Would I be angry in the same situation?’” This is called empathy. It doesn’t matter if the person was the one at fault or if the reason for the anger is irrational. Whether one’s interpretation of the situation is correct is not the issue at this point. “This is not the stage in which to argue with the person about his interpretation. What you are trying to do is to understand his anger so that you might help him process it,” Dr. Chapman advises. 
  1. Be an active listener. Show that you are engaged with the other person by making eye contact, nodding, and using phrases like “uh-huh” and “mm-hmm.” Also, avoid using the word “but” (i.e. “I understand what you are saying BUT___”) When people hear “but,” they tend to get angry again because all they hear is “You’re wrong, I’m right.” Instead, use “and” statements like “I see your point AND I think we can fix this by ___.”
  1. Accept responsibility and offer a solution.  “If you realize that the angry person’s anger is definitive; that is, you have genuinely wronged her—intentionally or unintentionally, what you did or said was unfair and hurt her deeply—then it is time for your confession and efforts to make right the wrong you have committed,” Dr. Chapman advises. “Ask for forgiveness .”
  1. Try to find common ground between you and the angry person to help redirect the hostile situation into an amicable solution. For example, you can say something like “I understand fairness is important to you. It is to me as well. May I suggest we try ___.” This helps communicate to the other party that you are working towards the same goal. 
  1. Thank the other person. If you have been able to resolve the conflict, wrap up the conversation with a word of thanks. You can tell a customer “Thank you for allowing me to make this problem right” while you can tell a loved one “Thank you for sharing your problem with me, I now know what to do and not to do next time.”

As a final word: If you constantly find yourself fighting with a significant person in your life (i.e. a spouse, parent, sibling, or child), or he/she constantly flies off the handle at the slightest provocation, you may need to seek the services of a therapist or psychologist. Not only can these professionals mediate the situation, they can also teach both of you effective problem-solving and communication skills including how to overcome  angry feelings, strategies for expressing emotions, ways to recognize negative thought patterns that cause anger, and ways to relax and handle stress. 

Anger is a universal emotion, so no matter what you do or where you are, it is important to know how to deal with angry people calmly and firmly. Be empathetic, and always remember to stay composed and rational so that you can resolve the problem as smoothly and efficiently as possible. 

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

8 Ways To Help Teens Increase Their Self-confidence

It’s hard being a teenager. On top of dealing with the major physical and emotional changes that come with puberty, they must also grapple with being accepted in friendship groups and fulfill the roles expected of them in school and at home. Successes or setbacks in these areas can affect how they view themselves, which in turn can impact their self-confidence.

Confidence is defined as the belief that one will be successful in a particular situation or at a specific task. For teenagers, having a healthy dose of confidence is important because: 

  • They display more emotional resilience — even if they don’t have all the skills and knowledge required to overcome a particular problem, they are assured of their abilities and resourcefulness to acquire what they need. 
  • Confidence helps teenagers make safe, informed decisions. They can avoid people and situations that aren’t necessarily right for them, and find those that are.
  • Lastly, teens who are confident are also more likely to be assertive, positive, engaged, enthusiastic, and persistent.

Self-doubt

On the other hand, teenagers plagued by self-doubt will feel that they are incapable of accomplishing tasks. They may be afraid to recite in class or try new activities. But don’t panic if your child occasionally displays self-doubt. “Having a certain level of self-doubt is not necessarily a bad thing,” assures Joyce Pring-Triviño, actress, philanthropist, and host of the Adulting with Joyce Pring podcast (https://open.spotify.com/show/0GVJ57XsbtgwRW7TJxNI0c). “A person has healthy self-doubt when even though he or she feels that they are not good at something, they are challenged to do better instead of outrightly giving up.”

That said, parents should be on the lookout for signs of unhealthy and persistent self-doubt, because if left unidentified or unresolved, it can lead to problems such as:

  • Negative moods like feeling sad, anxious, ashamed, or angry 
  • Relationship troubles
  • Low motivation
  • Poor body image
  • Earlier sexual activity
  • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs to feel better

Developing confidence

There are a number of things that you can do to help teenagers develop their self-confidence: 

  1. Don’t let them be defined by their failures or successes. Teenagers often see the world in black and white. If they get a low grade in a subject, they feel that they are not smart students. If they don’t win at sports events, they think that they are poor athletes. If a romantic relationship fails, they bemoan that they will never find love again. “But life should not be measured by one’s successes or failures,” Joyce advises. Assure your teen that he or she is not just a student, an athlete, or a boyfriend or girlfriend; they are also so many other things, including being sons, daughters, cousins, someone’s friend, a budding artist, etc.  
  1. Prioritize self-improvement. “‘Life is an infinite game,’” Joyce says, quoting from the book “The Infinite Game” by motivational author Simon Sinek. “There is always the opportunity to become better. If you did not do well today, you can always do better tomorrow.”
  1. Praise effort instead of outcome. While your teen cannot control the outcome of an exam, he or she can control how much effort they put into studying for it. If they get a low grade as a result, don’t berate them; instead, refer to the tip above and tell them to pay attention to the mistakes made so that they can do better next time. And if they get a good grade, praise them for all the studying they did instead of getting the high marks (i.e. “Your efforts really paid off!”). By doing this,  they will feel that they can always develop their abilities to become better or persist when the going gets tough.
  2. Teach your teen to speak up for himself or herself (in an appropriate manner). Assure them that it’s okay to ask for help when they don’t understand school work, rather than stay quiet, preserve their pride, but end up falling behind. Encourage them to speak up if they feel they are not being treated right by others — this will make them less likely to be treated poorly by peers. When they grow up, they will have the confidence to ask for what they need in a more direct manner, and protect themselves from untoward situations. 
  3. Encourage your teen just try. This is especially true when your child needs to step out of his or her comfort zone, like performing onstage or participating in a sporting event. “The only thing that keeps us from being confident is taking that first step to try,” Joyce says. Don’t focus on whether or not the attempt ends in success, because as we mentioned in tip #1, one should not be defined by what he or she did or did not achieve. But the very act of trying new activities is already a win because your  teen will end up discovering hidden talents, challenge himself or herself, or master a new skill — all of which can help grow his or her confidence. 
  4. Promote body positivity. Basing self-worth on superficial things, external circumstances, or other people leads to a lack of confidence in the long run. For example, if your teenage daughter only feels good when she fits into a certain size of clothes, this can have an effect on her body image and self-esteem. If your son feels anxious because his latest social media post is not getting many “likes,” he is basing his worth on other people’s opinions. Help your teen build a healthy and stable foundation for self-worth. Emphasize your values and teach that true self-worth is about living according to those values. For example, help them see that it’s more important to be kind and caring rather than thin or attractive.
  5. Avoid being a helicopter parent. When you micromanage your teen’s life, you will only reinforce that he or she can’t be trusted to make good choices on their own. Guide them when they make decisions, but also allow them to make their own mistakes and learn from them. Over time, they’ll develop increased confidence in their ability to make healthy choices.
  6. Avoid comparison. “One of the reasons self-doubt is so prevalent is because we tend to look at other people and how good their life is, instead of looking at ourselves and how good our life is,” Joyce points out. “Start life with an attitude of gratitude instead of from a place of comparison and entitlement. The more we expect our lives to be as perfect as others’, the more unhappy and disappointed we will be.” 

When you nurture your child through supportive words and actions, you nurture his or her self-esteem and give them the confidence needed to face any challenges that come their way.  “The key to developing your teen’s self-confidence is to make sure that he or she is grounded in the more important things of life,” Joyce says. “One is the unconditional love of the people around them. Another is the acceptance that life is not perfect. As long as they are able to give their best at everything, then they are doing the right thing.”

–Written by Jaclyn Lutangco-Chua of MindNation

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Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

6 Habits That Build Mental Resilience

Learn ways to cultivate your mental strength so that you can cope with stress better

If you encounter a personal failure or setback, are you able to pick yourself up and adapt to the circumstances? Or do you find yourself completely overwhelmed and unable to deal with the challenge?

Your answer will reveal how much mental resilience you have — defined as the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or return to pre-crisis status quickly.

“Resilience is not tenacity,” clarifies Cat Triviño, Chief Marketing Officer of MindNation. “More importantly, resilience is not about bouncing back and going back to our normal selves. It is about moving forward and becoming better versions of who we are.”

Go back to the question in the first paragraph; if you answered in the latter category, don’t worry. There are strategies you can adopt so that you build better mental resilience and become better equipped to cope with stress and other challenges

  1. Take care of yourself. Self-care is an essential strategy for building resilience and helps to keep your mind and body healthy enough to deal with difficult situations as they arise. Taking care of yourself means paying attention to your own needs and feelings, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Examples include: 
  1. “Listen to what your body needs, whether that’s extra time to breathe or a little stretch in the morning,” advises Cat. 
  2. “Get some sun. Only if you can and only if it’s safe, open the window and bring in that vitamin D,” she adds.
  3. Meditate. “Don’t stress about how you’re not doing it right the first few times,” Cat assures. “The simple act of breathing, grounding, and of being aware of our surroundings can make us less anxious and bring us back to what we need to address.”

2. Control your exposure to anxiety-provoking situations. This includes limiting your news instake. “Personally, I only follow one Telegram group to get all my COVID related news; for others I only rely on trusted news sites but even so I limit that intake,” shares Car. “We don’t need that much all the information; all we need is to be informed well enough for our peace of mind, and then we cut off and go about our day.

3. Make connections. “Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing,” Cat reminds. “Please do keep connected, and as much as possible, call. Hearing someone else’s voice, especially someone we love, can give us the instant calm that we need.”

4. Be thankful. When something bad happens, always remember that things could be worse. “Be grateful for anything and everything good. Starting or ending your day with a grateful mindset will only set us up to see things in a better light,” cays Cat. 

5. Ask — even if you won’t receive. Many of us are afraid to ask –for help, questions, or anything — because we fear hearing the word “No,” looking inadequate, or coming across as difficult. “But constantly avoiding rejection will not make us resilient,” counters Cat. Instead of staying away from the “No’s,” get your mind used to the feeling of being rebuffed to build your resilience threshold. “Start with small things like asking for your deliveries to be brought up to your unit, or requesting for a discount in the market. You may get rejected for various and legitimate reasons, but the point is to get used to hearing no!” she advises. “Once you realize that rejection is not debilitating, you build inner strength and become confident enough to ask for bigger things.”

6. Cultivate positive self-talk. “The next time you face challenges or adversities, identify how you’re describing them and see if you can reframe the words in a more positive way,” instructs Cat.

A. Instead of: “ I feel like a failure for not being able to lead my team through this pandemic.”

Say: “Being a leader during this pandemic is an obstacle, but not one I will face alone.” 


B. Instead of: “Working from home is horrible.”

Say: “Working from home is challenging.”

C. Instead of: “I asked for a promotion, and got rejected.”

Say: “I asked for a promotion, and got redirected.”

Just like other traits, resilience is something that can be learned and developed. All it takes is an awareness of the bad thoughts and actions that you may be doing, learning about the good ones, and having the discipline to enact them when the need arises.

But if the situation continues to be difficult for you and you are finding it hard to cope, always seek the help of a professional. A good place to start will be MindNation’s chat helpline on FB Messenger, available 24/7. The service is free, completely confidential, and the staff is trained to ease your anxieties.

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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Employee Wellness Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help Work in the New Normal

Shake it off: How to properly let go of work at the end of the day

One of the reasons people struggle to achieve work-life balance is because they find it difficult to disengage from their jobs at the end of the workday, such as eating dinner while sitting in front of the laptop or continuing to reply to emails or texts while having conversations with family members. And even if they don’t do physical work, they might end spending the evening in bed thinking about all the work-related tasks they need to accomplish the next day, leading to what MindNation wellness coach Nicole Fabian, RPm, calls “anticipatory stress” — or any stress that you experience concerning the future. All of these negatively impact one’s physical and mental well-being, as well as affect quality time with family members. “This is why it’s important to make a clean break from work at the end of the day; when you mentally unplug from work, you reduce stress and protect your mental health,” she advises. 

If you are one of those who find it difficult to take a break between your professional and personal times, below are some end-of-day routines that can help: 

Before leaving the office:

  • As much as possible, always end work at the same time. “Set an alarm if possible,” Fabian advises. “This signals to your brain that work is over, and when you do it often enough, it will become a habit.” For an added mood boost, make the alarm tone a snippet of your favorite happy song. Don’t worry if it will look to others as if you can’t wait to go home; on the contrary, doing it this way will even make you a better employee. “You will actually become more productive and improve your time management skills because you know that you have to get all the important tasks done within your work time,” she assures.
  • Do one more small task. Whether it’s making a short phone call, signing a document, or responding to an email — these help end your work day on a positive note and leave you feeling pleased and gratified that you have one less thing to do the following day.
  • Make a to-do list. Write down all the tasks that you need to accomplish tomorrow, in order of importance. That way you can go to bed without worrying that you might forget to do something the next day. 
  • Straighten up your work area. 

Clean out your email as well. Block off a few minutes to delete unnecessary CCs or spam invitations. Emails can stack up fast in the morning, so decluttering your inbox the night before makes sure you don’t miss out on the important ones the next day.

  • Choose a specific ritual that will symbolize the end of thinking about work. An example includes shutting down your computer, calling home, then locking your office door. When you do this, you shift your mental state out of work mode and towards a state of rest.
  • Have something to look forward to at the end of the work day. Whether it’s working out or catching up on your favorite show on tv, have a relaxing activity that will keep your mind occupied. “Not only is it a form of self-care, it also ensures that your thoughts won’t be tempted to stray towards thoughts of work,” Fabian says. 

Outside of work: 

Turn off your email notifications or put work-related apps on mute. “If it’s really an emergency, your colleagues can call you,” Fabian points out. Also remember that part of good mental health is establishing and communicating boundaries, so be sure to let colleagues know from the start that your time after work is your own. 

How you end your day has an effect on the level of stress and happiness that you carry home, which in turn can impact your health, marriage and family life, your ability to sleep, and your overall level of happiness. Closing out your work day in an orderly and positive note makes a clean psychological transition into the personal side of life.  

–Written by Jac of MindNation

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Self Help

Hold your Ground: How to Stop Saying “Yes” When You Want to Say “No”

Are you what others would call a “people pleaser?” Do you say “Yes” to every favor or request that is asked of you? Or do you spend a great deal of time doing things for other people, making all the plans, and always being there for them — all on top of (and at the expense of) your own needs and work? 

You may think that being always helpful and accommodating makes you a good person, but in reality it is an unhealthy pattern of behavior. Podcaster Danah Gutierrez of “R & R with Danah and Stacy” (@thedanahsoars) even describes the behavior as “dangerous.” “There are many negative effects from saying ‘yes’ all the time,” she says. “You will be more tired, stressed, and irritable, and increase your risk of getting burned out. But more importantly, you will resent the person asking you for the favor, which will damage your relationship in the long run.”

But many of us fear saying “No” because we worry that the other person will be disappointed or angry with us, or think we are rude or unkind. In such cases, Danah reminds us that while there is nothing wrong with wanting to maintain amicable relationships, we should not do so at the expense of our own mental health. “Saying ‘no’ also means saying ‘yes’ to yourself,” she points out. When done right, “No” can help you build better relationships and free you up to do the things that matter to you, like spending more time with your family or focusing on self-care. 

If saying “No” is a struggle, Danah recommends some ways you can start trying: 

  1. Accept that you cannot do everything. Even Superman cannot be in two places at once. If you take on multiple tasks, especially at the request of other people, you will only end up stretching yourself too thin and unable to give your best to any of your commitments. 

Also, If you find yourself saying “yes” all the time, especially when it comes to work, Danah says it could be a sign that you do not trust other people, which is also not a good trait to have. 

  1. Enforce your boundaries. Boundaries are defined as the emotional and mental space between you and another person. In order to establish boundaries in a relationship, you need to be clear with the other person about who you are, what you want, your beliefs and values, and especially your limits. “It’s your responsibility to communicate these limits to others because people are not mind readers,” Danah points out. “So if someone asks something of you but your plate is full at the moment, then say so; and if you really value the relationship, say what you can do for them the next time you are more available.” 

Danah also recounts an experience involving a friend whose boss wanted to pile more work on her; what the friend did was present an Excel chart to the boss detailing the amount of work that she was already doing. “When the boss was faced with such measurable facts, he backed off and asked someone else to do it,” she says. 

3. Be polite but direct. Say “No” in a friendly and respectful way. Do you want to decline an invitation to a party? Just reply with a simple “Thank you for the invitation but I’m afraid I already have plans.” Is a co-worker expecting you to take on extra work? You can say “Thank you for the opportunity but I don’t think it’s something I can take on right now.” “There’s no need to make the conversation dramatic, just get straight to the point,” Danah advises.  

4. Don’t make excuses or apologize. Don’t say “I’ll think about it” if you don’t really want to do it. This will just prolong the situation and make you feel even more stressed. Neither should you say sorry because all the more it will reinforce the feeling that you did something wrong by saying “No.”

5. Know that you can’t please everyone. Trying to make everyone happy is literally impossible and only guarantees that you will experience stress, frustration, and guilt. You may worry that people will be angry or disappointed in you, but odds are the majority will be fine with your decision. 

And if the other person DOES get mad at you for saying “no,” Danah suggests you respond by gently saying “I trust/love you enough to express my boundaries and I was hoping you would respect them. When you react this way, it lessens my trust in you.” “If the other person reacts badly, it’s time to assess the relationship,” Danah says. “Is it even healthy for you to continue to be in a relationship with a person who keeps pushing your boundaries even if you are communicating it nicely?” 

Like all other skills, knowing when to say “No” and having the courage to say it will take time to learn. Keep practicing it, starting with people whom you know to be understanding and trustworthy, so that you are able to say it more comfortably in other situations. Remember that once you stop saying “Yes” to every little request made of you, you prioritize more effectively, become more efficient, save time, and decrease stress. In saying “No,” you are modelling good self-care to those around you.

Written by Jac of MindNation

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Get Inspired Self Help

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

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Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

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. 

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Mental Health 101 Self Help

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

Categories
Featured Mental Health 101 Self Help Suicide Prevention

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