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Mental Health 101

Ease The Anxiety: 4 Ways You Can Cope With Fear And Worry

In a survey of more than 6,000 Filipino employees conducted by MindNation between September 2020 to April 2021 on the state of their well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half (53%) of the respondents said they felt varying degrees of anxiety mainly due to fears of the COVID-19 virus, financial pressure, and personal matters..  

“Anxiety is defined as distress or uneasiness caused by fear of danger or misfortune, as well as excessive worry,” says MindNation psychologist Jessa Mae Rojas. While a little bit of anxiety is normal and can be helpful in signaling danger —  for example, it reminds you to practice social distancing policies when you are in a populated space — too much anxiety can leave you feeling weak, tired, irritable, or find it difficult to concentrate on tasks. You can even experience physical symptoms like gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, hyperventilation, and heart palpitations. All these can affect your productivity at work and relationships with loved ones. 

Managing anxiety
While we cannot stop anxious thoughts from entering our minds, there are things we can do to control our reactions to them. “Always remember to keep calm,” Jessa reminds. This means:

  • C — Cultivate positivity.
    Negative thoughts produce more unnecessary anxiety, so always practice positive self-talk. “Instead of saying ‘I can’t do this,’ say ‘I can do this,’” Jessa suggests. “Another thing you can do is stand in front of the mirror every morning and tell yourself that you are smart, beautiful, confident, and that you can do anything.”

    Additionally, try to develop a story with positive outcomes. When you reframe an experience, it turns something stressful or traumatic into a challenge that can be overcome; or, it can turn a really bad day into a mildly low point in overall wonderful life.  Just be careful not to fall into the trap of toxic positivity, or the assumption that you should always be happy despite being under difficult circumstances. “All our feelings are valid, and suppressing negative ones can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and overall worsening of mental health,” Jessa points out.
  • A — Allocate time for worrying.
    Jessa advocates the Worry Time Technique, which involves designating a specific time, place, and length of time each day solely for worrying.” Anytime you become aware of a worry during the day, write it down on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket or somewhere out of sight; since you will have time to think about that worry later, there’s no need to get anxious over it now,” Jessa instructs. “Then at the end of the day, when your worry time comes around, settle yourself down at the worry place, pull out the scraps of paper, and reflect on your worries.” Journaling can help at this point; just write out whatever is on your mind, instead of ruminating. 

“The Worry Time Technique makes worrying less intrusive in your life and allows you to manage your anxieties effectively, giving you a greater sense of control,” she adds.

  • L — Label your emotions.
    Giving emotions a name (i.e. “I feel angry,” or “I feel confused”) provides a deeper understanding of what happened, how it affects you, and helps you see the possibilities for what to do next. Instead of your emotions spiraling out of control, you feel less anxious and triggered.

    Start by writing down the event that activated your anxiety: “I made a mistake at work.”

    Then, write down what that event made you believe about yourself: “I am such a failure. I should always do a perfect job.”

    Name the emotion you feel: “I’m worried I’m going to get fired.”

    Finally, dispute this belief: “I usually do a good job but I am not good at everything. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. My boss was very happy with my report last week. I will learn from this and perform better next time.’ 

    By labelling your emotion, you are able to understand what is going on through your mind more clearly, and build a road-map to address the problem. This makes you more relaxed and confident.
  • M — Meditate regularly.
    “Mindfulness meditation —  or the type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment — is an effective strategy for managing anxiety,” Jessa shares. By training your brain to stay in the moment, whether it’s through focusing on your breath or your five senses, you let go of regrets of the past as well as anxieties about the future.

If you notice a team member struggling with anxiety, you may want to refer them to a professional for help. Mental Health professionals can help with streamlining the process of identifying triggers, maintaining long-term strategies through behavioral therapy, and more.

The MindNation CareNow Plan provides your team access to 24/7 teletherapy sessions with MindNation psychologists and WellBeing Coaches through sms chat, video chat, or voice call. Email [email protected] today to inquire!

Categories
Mental Health 101

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. 

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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