Categories
Children's Mental Health

10 Ways To Cultivate Positive Teen Body Image

Body image is defined as how and what you think and feel about your body. It includes the picture of your body that you have in your mind, which might or might not match your body’s actual shape and size.

“A person has a positive or healthy body image if they feel happy and satisfied with their body, and are comfortable with and accepting of the way they look,” says Danah Gutierrez, a body positivity advocate and host of the podcast “Raw and Real.mp3” together with her twin sister Stacy. “They accept that everyone is diverse, and that the body is not an ornament to be looked at.”

On the other hand, a person with a negative unhealthy body image feels unhappy with the way they look. “People who feel like this often want to change their body size or shape,” Danah adds.

A person’s body image is influenced by many factors. These include family environment, the attitudes of peers, social media, cultural background, and more.

Puberty is also a big influence. This is a time when a child’s body goes through lots of changes; at the same time, teens encounter the pressures of fitting in and finding a sense of belonging. “In my high school, conversations about who are the best-looking in our batch were common; students would be ranked based on who was the prettiest, and I was told many times that if I lost weight, my rank would go higher,” Danah relates.

This is why if you are a parent to teens or work with teens, it is important to know that you have an influence on your child’s body image. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting your child to be well-groomed or present themselves well; these are good values,” Danah points out. “But how much do you value appearances, and is it perceived in a healthy way? Because there can be situations when teens will not process it the right way.”

An unhealthy teenage body image is directly related to low self-esteem, which are risk factors for the development of risky weight loss strategies, eating disorders, and mental health disorders like depression. “It might also lead teens to look for detrimental ways to feel desired, to feel a sense of belongingness, or to be valued, such as turning to peers or the media,” cautions Danah.

On the other hand, teens who feel good about their body grow up more likely to have good self-esteem and mental health as well as a balanced attitude to eating and physical activity.

“When teens feel good about themselves and who they are, when they carry themselves with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness — that makes them beautiful!”

Danah Gutierrez, body positivity advocate

Here are the things you can do to help your teen develop a positive body image:

  1. Explain that weight gain is normal during puberty. During this time, children feel “out of control” with the changes they are experiencing in their body. It can help tremendously to know about and understand these changes before they occur. Girls who are experiencing their first menstrual cycle, especially, should realize that growth and weight spurts are necessary and normal for their development.

  2. ‘Instagram vs. reality.’ Tell your teen to be more discerning of what they see on social media or tv. Help assuage their insecurities by explaining how the images are often digitally manipulated so that people look more ‘beautiful’ than they really are.

  3. Focus on inner beauty. “Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of body,” says Danah. “When teens feel good about themselves and who they are, when they carry themselves with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness — that makes them beautiful.”

  4. Discuss self-image. “Have an honest and vulnerable discussion with your teen about weaknesses and flaws (theirs and yours), share your own struggles and what healthy ways you took to be better,” Danah explains.

  5. Help establish healthy eating and exercise habits. If your child wants to eat differently or do more exercise, that’s OK – but make sure it’s for healthy reasons, and the dieting and exercise don’t become extreme. “Let your child know that healthy eating and physical activity aren’t just for weight loss – they’re vital for physical health, now and in the future,” points out Danah.

  6. Praise achievements. “Don’t have to limit compliments to appearance, i.e. you’re so fair-skinned, you’re so skinny,” says Danah. “Tell your child that you’re proud of them for things that aren’t related to appearance, such as ‘I love how you’re so eager to learn about life’ or ‘You’re so mature for your age’ or ‘I really enjoy your company.’” 

Also focus on what their body can do, rather than how their body looks. For example, you can say, ‘Wow, you hit that ball a long way’, rather than ‘Gosh, you’ve got big arm muscles’.

  1. Set a good example. If you show that you feel positive about your own body, it’ll be easier for your child to be positive about their body. Talk about eating healthy, not dieting; talk about exercising to be stronger, not to lose weight; and do let your child see you eating a variety of food, vegetables, and lean meats, not only diet foods or fat-free foods.

  2. Discourage family and friends from using hurtful nicknames and joking about people who are overweight. Teasing can have a negative influence on body image and can also lead to bullying. It’s important to let everyone in your family know that teasing about weight or appearance is not okay. “I would call out the commenter by saying right away ‘What did you say? I don’t think that’s funny,’” Danah says. “Then I would have a private conversation with that person and tell them I would appreciate it if they did do that in front of my kid, that’s not going to help my child in any way, and I think my child is beautiful just the way they are.”

  3. Connect them with body positive role models. There are things teens cannot share with their parents, and that is normal. “So make sure there are other older people in your circle who are trustworthy, have good character, are grounded, and who carry themselves with confidence,” says Danah. “This way when your child needs to seek advice, they don’t just rely on their peers who  are just as confused and clueless as they are.”

  4. Actively listen and communicate with your child. Respect that they have insecurities. “Don’t just tell them ‘What you are feeling is wrong,’ take the time to listen and figure them out,” suggests Danah. “Assure them that their looks are not the only thing about them, that they have so much more to offer. Make them understand that their body is an instrument, not just an ornament; it’s an instrument to experience good things and bad things, to enjoy life. And tell them that they can be beautiful in so many other ways than just through their appearances.”

As a parent, teacher, or close adult relative, you are the most influential role model in your children’s life. If your teen seems to have anxiety or stress about how he or she looks, start by talking with them about your concerns. And if things don’t change and you’re still worried, consider reaching out to a health professional. MindNation’s psychologists are available 24/7 for online consultations with you or your child. Book  a session now through http://m/me/themindnation or email [email protected] . Rest assured that all conversations will be kept secure and confidential.

Categories
Relationships

Strategies To Strengthen Your Relationships During The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our lives in many ways,  including our interactions (and lack thereof) with the people close to us.

At home, the combination of financial stress, anxieties, the pressures of working from home, and restrictions in leisure outings are causing most of us to become irritable and short-tempered with our partner and our kids.

We’re missing our social groups — the co-workers, school friends, and yoga/running/spinning/hiking buddies — whom we usually turn to if we need to destress and decompress. 

Lastly, many of us have also started neglecting ourselves. After all, it’s hard to squeeze in self-care when there are just so many social, financial, psychological, and physical stressors surrounding the pandemic.

But it is precisely because of all these challenges that we need to take better care of the relationships we have with our loved ones and with ourselves. “Having healthy relationships can provide us with meaning and a sense of hope and support during difficult times like now,” says Aiza Tabayoyong, a family and relationship coach at The Love Institute, a pioneering company equipping couples, parents, and individuals with skills on how to have fulfilling relationships with those dearest to them. “The lockdown is actually giving us a unique opportunity to identify the things and people that are most important to us, so let’s use the time to get to know them better and enjoy them.”

    Below are some ways we can strengthen and support our relationships:

1. With our spouse or partner

  • Schedule weekly date nights. If you are at home, find a corner in the house where you and your partner can be secluded and have a romantic moment together, whether it’s just binge-watching your favorite Netflix show or having a nice meal. And whether your dates are at home or done virtually, make sure you use the time to have fun, focus on each other, and build each other up. “Do not use this time to write down a list of what errands to do, what repairs need to be done, or discuss problems in the relationship,” instructs Aiza. “Have a separate day to talk about home management concerns or relationship issues.”
  • Frequently tell the other person how much you love and appreciate them, whether it’s verbally, through text messages (even if your home workstations are just a few feet away from each other), or by leaving little notes in their drawers.
  • Know your partner’s love language to make it easier and more efficient to meet their needs.

2. With your children (if any)

Just like with your partner, schedule one-on-one time with your child. Make the conversations light and fun. “This is the time to listen to them and be curious about their interests. Don’t use this time for scolding them or pushing them in the direction that you want,” Aiza reminds. “The stress of remote learning has unavoidably turned your parent-child relationship into a teacher-child interaction, so you need to balance this shift by letting your child see that you are still fun to be around. When that happens, your connection becomes stronger and you have more leverage to better influence them.”

3. With your friends

“Once a week or when your schedule permits, schedule a get-together with people who can lift you up during these tough times, either through virtual platforms or at restaurants that provide al fresco dining options,” advises Aiza. Maintaining ties with friends is crucial because they provide you a safe space to decompress from the stresses of home. It also assures you that you are not the only ones with problems, so make sure each person is given an equal opportunity to vent his or her concerns. 

4. With yourself

This is the most important relationship of all. “Nourishing yourself is actually prerequisite to nurturing all your other connections,” says Aiza. “Make time for self-care, and remember that it is not selfish. Adopt the mindset that ‘I need this, I deserve this, and doing this will benefit everyone else.’” 

  • Remember to get enough sleep and to eat well. 
  • Ask your partner or eldest child to give you massages or haircuts
  • Schedule regular quiet time. “Use it to do deep breathing exercises, to meditate, or for prayer time to connect and communicate with your god,” suggests Aiza.

Self-care also goes beyond meeting one’s physical needs for rest. It involves looking beyond the bad days we experience and viewing ourselves in a kinder light. So remember to: 

  • Reframe negative self-talk. “Always remind yourself that you are valuable as you are, and that you deserve the same kind of love you give others,” says Aiza.
  • Practice self-compassion. “Instead of being your harshest critic and saying things like ‘I’m so stupid,’ or ‘I can’t do this,’ replace these statements with ‘Oh well, that’s not my strength, I’ll just find someone to help me,’” advises Aiza.
  • Celebrate your achievements. “If you don’t hear enough affirmation from other people (probably because they are going through something themselves), you have to give it to yourself,” Aiza suggests. “Look in the mirror and tell yourself ‘I am amazing, I am capable, I am loved.’”  

Maintaining relationships may seem time-consuming, but the key to success is to make sure you plan properly. “Having a calendar will help you properly schedule and balance your must-do’s for home and work and your dates with the people most important in your life, including yourself,” advises Aiza. 

If you are feeling isolated, overwhelmed, or need advice on how to manage your relationships better, feel free to reach out to MindNation’s Care Hotline on FB Messenger. The FREE service is available 24/7, 365 days a year,  and rest assured that all conversations will be kept completely confidential. 

Categories
Children's Mental Health

10 Ways To Talk To Teens If They Don’t Want To Talk To You

Whether we like it or not, teenagers are complicated creatures. From being sweet, wholesome, and talkative kids who cannot wait to tell you stories about their day, they can become moody, temperamental, and impulsive adolescents who prefer to stay glued to their phones and answer your questions with grunts and eye-rolls.

Don’t worry, it’s really part of growing up. “There is a science behind this change in behavior during the teenage years,” assures Dr. Margaret Mae Maano, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist. “During adolescence, teenagers experience changes in their bodies and brains and these changes don’t take place at the same time. The first part of the brain to develop would be the limbic system, or the part that deals with emotions, which will explain why teens can become moody. The last to develop would be the prefrontal cortex, which is the decision-making part of the brain, and explains why teens are more prone to engage in high-risk behaviors.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States, this brain remodelling will continue until the teen turns 25, so it’s important that adults around them be a steady and constant presence to protect them from the negative impacts of their impulses. 

In addition, the combination of a developing brain and experiencing so many physical, emotional, and social changes may make teens ill-equipped to handle stress and cause them to develop mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. “Before the COVID-19 pandemic, teens could always turn to their friends for mental health support,” says Dr. Maano. “But now that schooling is online, this support system is no longer as accessible. It’s up to the adults in the house to become their source of strength and support.”

Just because your teens seem withdrawn and reticent does not mean that they will not appreciate your efforts to maintain a close relationship; you just have to approach them the right way. Below are some ways you can connect with your teenagers and get them to open up (even if they seem like they don’t want to):

1. Make family meal times sacred. Aim to have the family complete during one meal time each day and institute a no-gadget rule at the dining table. This creates a safe space where family members can share how their day went or talk about whatever is on their minds. “When family mealtimes are the norm, this will ingrain in our teens’ minds that their parents will always make time to listen to them,” says Dr. Maano. 

2. Ask open-ended questions. This allows teens the opportunity to open up on their own terms and the freedom to talk about what they are comfortable to share.   

3. Keep the conversations stress-free and casual. Limit the lectures. “The key is to actually listen to what your teen says,” points out Dr. Maano.

4. Tone down the criticisms, turn up the praise.  “Sometimes, that positive statement from you may be the only good thing they have heard in a long time,” Dr. Maano says.

5. Don’t demand compliance; opt for negotiation. “Because teens are at a stage when they are trying to develop independence from their parents, they may not respond positively if we force them to do something,” opines Dr, Maano. “Instead of imposing your will, help them come up with a better way to handle their issues. Teens may not want you to solve their problems for them, but some guidance would be great.” 

6. Ask them about their opinions about what is going on in the world. This is a good way to understand what is going on in their minds. “It also makes them feel respected and valued,” points out Dr. Maano. 

7. Be clear with your family rules, such as non-school related screen time, smoking, swearing, etc. Everyone in the household should be in agreement with the rules and even adults should be bound by them; if some parts of the rules are contentious, negotiate during family meal times. 

8. Pick your battles. Don’t fight with your kids over every infraction committed. “Teens feel omnipotent, that diseases and dangers do not apply to them. They also tend to be experimental, so for example, they may try to smoke or drink alcohol out of curiosity but then stop on their own,” explains Dr. Maano. As a parent, the most you can do is guide them in making their own decisions. And if you do catch your teen disobeying your rules, such as skipping class, smoking, or drinking, address the issue calmly. Don’t lecture them because they will only shut you out. Find out why they started doing it, then negotiate on getting them to stop. If there are consequences, help them face up to it; and if they stop, commend them for making a good decision. 

9. Allow them some liberties but give them additional responsibilities at home as well.  Giving them responsibilities also means that you are trusting them as a young adult and boosts their confidence. 

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you find yourself facing an issue beyond your control or expertise, ask help from your child’s school counselors, your pediatrician or adolescent medicine specialist, or from mental health professionals. Dr. Maano gives some examples:

  • If you catch your teen doing drugs, this will require professional intervention. 
  • If you and/or your teen are uncomfortable talking about sex or reproductive health, find another trusted adult whom he or she can talk to, like their pediatrician. “But as early and as often as possible, I encourage parents to teach children about respect for the body, that private parts should remain private. If your daughter feels she is not ready to have sex with her boyfriend, tell her it is ok to refuse and say no.  And if your son has a girlfriend and she says no, he should respect that as well.”
  • Finally, self-harm and suicidal ideation should be treated as a cry of help from the teen. “Consult a mental health expert right away,” Dr. Maano advises. “If your child is reluctant to see a mental health expert, he or she might be more comfortable talking to their school’s guidance counselor first. The counsellor will be the one to recommend further evaluation.”

There are no hard and fast rules for parenting. “The good news is the majority of teenagers go through adolescence without any problems,” assures Dr. Maano. “Just be a constant presence in their lives, talking to them, listening without judgement, and keeping an open mind. Step back and allow them to discover things on their own. When your teen knows that you are just there, ready to listen, he or she will open up to you when they are ready.”

If you or your teen needs someone to talk to, MindNation’s Care Hotline is available on FB Messenger. The FREE service is available 24/7, all year round, and is completely confidential. Drop them a line here http://m.me/themindnation.

Categories
Children's Mental Health Featured

Supporting Students’ Mental Health And Well-being During COVID-19

With many schools transitioning into remote or online learning because of the pandemic, the toll of the virus, isolation, increased workload, and other associated effects are rising among many students. According to a May 2020 survey by Best Colleges, an online college planning resource, 81% of high school and college students surveyed said they somewhat or strongly agreed that they were experiencing increased stress due to the learning disruptions stemming from COVID-19.

“In the beginning, remote learning seemed easier and fun for kids since classes are only for half a day and they are just at home,” says Dr. Natasha Esteban-Ipac, a pediatrician and adolescent-medicine specialist. “But there are also disadvantages to online schooling, chiefly the lack of physical connection with other humans — no more hallway chats, high-fives, pats on the back, or hugs from friends and teachers. Students also need to contend with virtual learning fatigue because it takes extra effort to interpret the non-verbal cues of the person on the other side of the monitor. Lastly, let’s not forget that there are physical ill-effects of spending too much time online — eye strain, headache, and fatigue can affect their general well-being.”

“If left unresolved, these can affect a child’s ability and capacity to succeed at home, in school, in relationships, and in work later on.”

Dr. Natasha Esteban-Ipac, a pediatrician and adolescent-medicine specialist

All of the above, compounded with other pandemic-related stresses like parents’ anxieties and disruption of routine, can lead to the development of mental health issues in children such as anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, and other mood disorders, sleep disorders, and even addiction to technology. “If left unresolved, these can affect a child’s ability and capacity to succeed at home, in school, in relationships, and in work later on,” says Dr. Esteban-Ipac.

What can parents and educators do to protect a student’s mental health? According to Dr. Estebal-Ipac, “All we need is L.O.V.E.”

  • L – Label and validate emotions. 

“We need to help children recognize what they are feeling and express them in healthy ways to prevent them from bottling up,” she says. This includes teaching them calming techniques such as deep breathing exercises, pausing to count from 1 to 10, or writing in a journal or diary. “When a child knows what to do when he or she is faced with certain emotions, they feel a sense of control and are comforted,” she adds

  • O – Offer to listen and respond.

Empathize and talk with your children when they are feeling tired, stressed, or scared. “Believe in the power of touch—hug or cuddle your children. Do not be afraid to be firm, though, if they do something wrong or anything that will compromise their safety,” reminds Dr. Ipac-Esteban. 

  • V – Value routine, rules, and schedules.

Having a structure at home is very helpful especially during stressful situations like this pandemic. When children have some form of control over the things that will happen throughout the day, they will feel more safe and secure. “Have a routine for waking up, preparing for school, mealtimes, activities such as playing or reading, and bedtime,” she says. 

Things not to miss out in these routines, rules, and schedules include:

  • Eating a balanced diet regularly
  • Having regular physical activity. “There is no need to squeeze in a home gym if you do not have space. Simple exercises like walking or jogging (in place if needed), stretching, dancing, lifting weights (even using home objects such as water bottles) are good enough,” suggests Dr. Esteban-Ipac. 
  • Limiting non-school related screen time 
  • Having adequate sleep and practicing good sleep hygiene
  • Socializing with other people but always making sure to stay safe
  • Always learning. “Constantly explore something new with your children, be it cooking, calligraphy, photography, or other online courses. Part of learning is also teaching the children about life skills, or how they can be functional adults. So involve them in doing household chores, preparing meals, cleaning parts of the house, or doing the laundry,” Dr. Esteban-Ipac advises. 
  • E – Embrace mistakes, chaos and imperfections: both your children’s and yours.
    Negotiating and resolving conflicts is an important skill children should learn because it develops resilience, and they learn it best with adults around them, be it parents or teachers. Some things we can do:
    • Try spending one on one quality time with each child (if you have more than one).
    • Try to solve problems together, and if it is really overwhelming for them, help them break down the task/problem into smaller tasks so they can solve it one step at a time. 
    • Help them organize their time and give them the opportunity to decide how they will tackle their tasks (be it school work or chores). This gives them a sense of autonomy and boosts their confidence.
    • Reframe their mistakes as learning opportunities and involve them in planning ways to improve their work. Reassure them that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that you do not love them any less. 

All these strategies will really require time and patience, so if you are a parent or teacher, don’t forget to practice self-care. “One of my favorite sayings is ‘Mental health begins with M.E,’” says Dr. Esteban-Ipac. “A stressed parent will lead to a stressed child, and in the same way a happy and healthy parent will result in a happy and healthy child.”

“A stressed parent will lead to a stressed child, and in the same way a happy and healthy parent will result in a happy and healthy child.”

If you feel your child is really troubled with online learning, talk to them and help them identify their reasons for being stressed or sad. But if it is really overwhelming, even for you, do not be afraid to seek professional help if needed.

MindNation’s Care Helpline on FB Messenger is available 24/7, all year round, if you or your child needs someone to talk to. The service is FREE, completely confidential, and the staff is trained to ease your anxieties. Drop them a line at http://m.me/themindnation.

Categories
Mental Health 101

5 Ways To Help Teens Find Their Passion And Purpose In Life

New year, new goals — how are your teenagers doing in this area? Perhaps it’s time to nudge them into thinking about what they want to do with their lives, i.e. finding their purpose. Do they want to be professional athletes? Social media influencers? Or do they simply want to raise a good family? Or spend their lives volunteering? Whatever the scale, it is important for people to have a life purpose because studies have shown that it will make their lives meaningful and — by extension– happier.

There is no rule that says teenagers need to find their life’s calling at this age. Some do, but others find it only upon reaching young adulthood. “The adolescent stage is all about exploring and experimenting with one’s identity and eventually reaching a commitment to that identity,” points out  Dr. Cara Fernandez, the Executive Director of the Ateneo Bulatao Center (www.ateneobulataocenter.com). 

But while we should not expect young people to identify their passion right away, adolescence is the perfect time to help them examine their options and guide their choices. below  are some ways:

  1. Open a dialogue. How do you know what your child is interested in? What does he or she want to do with their lives? Some questions that you can ask to get your young adult reflecting on purpose:

— What’s most important to you in your life?

— Why do you care about those things?

— Do you have any long-term goals?

— Why are these goals important to you?

— What does it mean to have a good life?

— What does it mean to be a good person?

— If you were looking back on your life, how would you want to be remembered? 

“During such conversations, [parents are reminded to be] good listeners as well as good interviewers, probing children to elaborate on their views, frequently asking the ‘Why’ question, and encouraging them to think more deeply about the things they find noteworthy and interesting,” writes Prof. William Damon of Stanford University in his book ‘The Path To Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling In Life.’ “[W]e become better able to hear their first murmurs of purpose; and in this way we provide the nurturing conditions for further exploration.”

  1. Let them explore. Because teens do not yet have the experience to know what excites them, it is the job of the adults around them (parents, extended family, and educators) to create opportunities for them to be exposed to new things. “Introduce them to different areas — the arts, music, reading, writing, religion, politics, sports, etc,” advises Dr. Fernandez. Let them talk to relatives or friends whose careers they find interesting. “If they show an interest in something, deepen it with positive reinforcement and encourage them to look further into it,” she adds. 
  1. Mind your biases. “If your teen says he or she likes to do X or Y, but you want them to consider Z because you think it’s better, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Dr. Fernandez says. “But be aware of your tone and the kind of encouragement you give. Be upfront and tell them that ‘I am biased for Z but it’s up to you, tell me if you think I am pushing.” This assures your child that he or she is free to tell you if they are feeling pressured into doing something that they do not like.  
  1. Be encouraging but offer realistic expectations. What if your teen’s passions are headed towards a path that you have reservations about? For example, “I want to teach underprivileged children” is a noble purpose in life but not a financially secure one. In this case, Dr. Fernandez advises parents to counter not with rejection but with information. “Explain to your child that certain life paths will result in certain lifestyles,” she suggests. “If they want to devote their lives to teaching, show them data about how much money a teacher makes, what the job will entail, and what lifestyle they will most likely follow. Then show them how different the situation is if they follow another life path. The purpose of doing this is not to discourage them, but to make sure that they go into the situation with their eyes open.” And if your child insists on his or her first choice, then accept it (as long as the goal is not criminal or destructive). “Ultimately, I know that parents value their child’s happiness,” Dr. Fernandez says. “If you tell them that this is going to be their life, and they are okay with that, then just be supportive.”

The purpose of [setting realistic expectations] is not to discourage them, but to make sure that they go into the situation with their eyes open.

Dr. Cara Fernandez PhD
  1. Convey your own sense of purpose and the meaning you derive from your work. “Parents should share their own goals and sense of purpose with children,” writes Prof. Damon. Discuss as a family how what you are doing is meaningful to you, whether it be as a company manager or as a homemaker. You can share that what you are doing helps others, contributes to society, is your means of self-expression and personal growth, or even because it provides jobs to others. “It is motivating and inspiring for children to hear why their parents find their daily efforts significant,” he adds.

Despite the above efforts, there is always the possibility that your child might end up not having any passions at all. Dr. Fernandez assures that this is also okay. “There are people who are not really strongly inclined towards anything,” she points out. “They are the ones who graduate from college and apply for work anywhere and everywhere, and wherever they land is okay. These are people who are simply accepting of life, who are spontaneous, and open to different opportunities — and that’s fine. We need people like them in society too.” 

Ultimately, our teen’s life choices are theirs to make. As parents and educators, all we can do is cultivate a nurturing and supportive environment that will allow our children to choose the better options. It’s more important that we inspire rather than demoralize them, so that we provide them with a lifelong sense of wellbeing that will translate into confidence, security, and happiness. 

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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Featured Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

8 Ways To Raise Grateful Kids

Help kids develop an attitude of gratitude so that they will grow up to be happier, more positive, and more content with their lives.

As 2020 comes to an end, it’s time to start thinking about our goals and intentions for 2021 — not just for ourselves but also for our family. One resolution in particular that we would like to suggest — teach kids to be more grateful and less entitled. 

“Children become entitled when they always get what they ask for, when parents say ‘yes’ more than they say ‘no,’” says Maribel Dionisio, a parenting and relationship expert, author, and founder of the Love Institute, a pioneering company equipping couples, parents, and individuals with skills on how to have fulfilling relationships with those dearest to them. “When children are raised with everything handed to them, they grow up to become demanding, high-maintenance adults who are not equipped to handle life when things don’t go their way,” she adds.  

On the other hand, when children learn to be appreciative, responsible, and not take things for granted, they have better relationships with other people, can empathize more, are easier to please, and become generally happier in their later years. 

Below are some ways you can reinforce the importance of gratitude:

  1. Be mindful of your words and actions. You may be feeling proud that you are not entitling your children because you do not buy them every toy that they ask for; but an entitlement mentality can be shaped in other ways, some of which you may not even be aware of, such as: 
    • Attributing other people’s actions to their character and not because of outside forces. When your kids complain that someone took the last cookie without asking, don’t immediately say “Yes, he’s a bad boy, don’t be like him.” This teaches children to be judgemental and quickly blame others for their misfortunes.

      A better way to manage such situations would be to ask your children to think about what the other person may be going through or how they might be feeling, i.e. “Maybe he took the cookie because he didn’t get to eat lunch and is really hungry.” This act of empathizing makes kids stop immediately seeing others as bad, and makes them more grateful for their circumstances (i.e. at least they are not THAT hungry).
    • Overprotecting and overpraising them. The first will make them dependent on you, the second will make them feel that they can do no wrong. 
    • Jumping through hoops to make sure their path to success is paved for them, so they never have to work hard to get what they want. 

2. Set a good example. Kids learn a lot from watching their parents. So model gratitude every chance you get, such as offering a sincere “Thank you” to the person who delivers your packages or making it a point to share little things that you are grateful for during casual conversations. 

3. Be encouraging and positive. “When you catch your children doing good or beyond what is expected, praise them for it; don’t always focus on the things they did not do,” says Maribel. For example, if your toddler packed away four out of his seven toys, don’t scold him for not doing a perfect job; instead, tell him thank you for doing that, then remind or offer to help him pack the remaining items away. This reinforces the positive behavior and lets them know that what they do (no matter how small) is appreciated. 

4. Put things in perspective. Talk to your kids about those who are less fortunate, like the owner of their favorite restaurant who had to close shop because of the pandemic, or the people who lost their homes because of natural disasters. Understanding that not everyone has the same advantages will help them develop compassion for others and gratitude for their own privileges.

5. Let them do chores. Part of feeling gratitude is being aware of the effort someone else went through to give us something. One way to let your child experience this effort is to involve them in household tasks, such as making the bed, folding the laundry, or helping prepare meals.  “Chores reduce entitlement because it helps children see the value of work,” Maribel points out. “In addition, children learn to be responsible, feel more confident, discover their strengths, and see the value in their work.” 

6. Show them how to find the money. It can be hard for children to understand why they can’t just buy everything they want if they have never paid for anything. “Give your children opportunities to manage money, whether it’s giving them an allowance, helping them start their own business, or even paying them for doing extra chores,” says Mariblel. “When they see the time and effort it takes to be able to buy a new item of clothing or new gadget, they won’t feel entitled about money.”

7. Establish boundaries. “Do not let your children get away with everything,” Maribel instructs. “Have rules, and explain the importance of these rules so that your children cooperate. And if they deviate from rules, counter with logical and natural consequences, not with screaming, shouting, or spanking because these will only make them resent you.”

8. Cultivate a good relationship with your child. All of the above tips require you to be able to talk to your children openly, honestly, and without judgement. To achieve this, Maribel suggests the following ways:

  • Set aside one-on-one time for each child, at least 20 minutes a day. Make the conversation light and easy-going so that he or she opens up to you about what’s on their minds, and you in turn can share stories that impart the values of empathy, gratitude, and kindness. 
  • Set aside one-on-one time for each child, at least 20 minutes a day. Make the conversation light and easy-going so that he or she opens up to you about what’s on their minds, and you in turn can share stories that impart the values of empathy, gratitude, and kindness. 
  • Set aside one-on-one time for each child, at least 20 minutes a day. Make the conversation light and easy-going so that he or she opens up to you about what’s on their minds, and you in turn can share stories that impart the values of empathy, gratitude, and kindness. 

The only way children will learn gratitude (along with other positive values) is by having a relationship with them that is open, honest, and managed by boundaries. “When we do away with limitations and give our children everything they want because we want their lives to be easy, it is OUR lives that become complicated,” says Maribel. “On the other hand, when children feel loved, respected, and secure, they will not misbehave or feel entitled. They will want to return those loving feelings to you, absorb the values you impart,  and do everything to make you happy.”

If your children are struggling with strong emotions or if you need advice on how to manage their wellbeing and happiness, feel free to drop us a line on our FB Messenger chat helpline. We are open 24/7 and the service is free, secure, and confidential. 

For more information about the Love Institute, visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/theloveinstituteph/

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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

Do’s And Don’ts For Supporting A Colleague With a Mental Health Concern

There are many ways to help someone going through a tough time, just make sure you do it properly

What should you do if you think that a team meamber is exhibiting signs of a mental health concern? What if you want to help but can’t find the right words to say? How can we be more present to those in need?

 The good news is more often than not, you don’t even need to say anything. “What’s more important is you respond sensitively to their needs and show that you care,” says Riyan Portuguez,  RPsy RPm (also known as Your Millennial Psychologist). “Your mere presence already has a powerful effect,” she assures.

Below are some ways:

Do:

  1. Dedicate enough time. If you want to get to the bottom of their issues, staying behind for an extra 30-minutes after an online meeting will not cut it. “An honest-to-goodness conversation will take hours, so be sure you won’t be distracted by other matters,” points out Riyan. 
  1. Let them lead the discussion. Allow them to share as much or as little as they want to. Don’t pressure them to tell you anything that they are not ready to talk about. Talking takes a lot of trust and courage; you might even be the first person they have been able to talk to about this issue. 
  1. Validate their feelings. “Listen actively and empathize as much as you can,” advises Riyan. Remember, you don’t have to agree with someone’s feelings or choices to acknowledge that their emotions are valid.
  1. Offer to accompany them to a mental health professional to prevent further harm. They may be hesitant to take this next step because of the stigma associated with seeking professional treatment for mental health concerns, but assure them that it is a good way for them to receive proper care. Another option you can suggest is MindNation’s 24/7 chat helpline on FB Messenger. Assure your friend that the service is free, completely confidential, and that the staff are trained to ease their anxieties. 
  1. Know your limitations. “Make sure YOU are mentally and emotionally prepared to offer help,” Riyan reminds. Self-care is critical when you are supporting someone who is in crisis. When someone unburdens themselves to you, you might end up absorbing all the strong emotions, so make sure you set boundaries and take steps to protect yourself by doing activities before and after the conversation that leave you feeling rested, relaxed, and recharged. And if you feel you have reached your limit, don’t feel bad about stepping back, but do it properly.

Don’t

  1. Diagnose. Do not make assumptions about what is wrong with the person. “When you initiate the conversation, avoid blurting inappropriate things like ‘I notice that you seem down lately, are you depressed?’” Riyan instructs. “A better way to phrase it would be ‘You seem down lately, are you okay?’ or ‘Is there anything I can do?’” 
  1. Start with “How are you?” Riyan says this is because it would be easy for the person to just say “I’m fine” even though he or she is really not. She suggests that if you want the other person to open up, a better way would be to phrase the question in such a way that it compels the responder to do an action, such as “Hey, are you free later? Let’s talk.” 
  1. Break their trust. Do not gossip about your friend’s problems to other people; neither should you report his or her mental health concerns to their boss even if your intentions are good (i.e. you want to alert them that their team member has mental health struggles). “This will cause your friend to resent you, when what you want is to maintain his or her trust in you,” Riyan points out. If you really feel that you need to get others involved, ask for permission first, i.e. “Is it okay to open this up to your team leader?” Then follow up with “I think it would be nice to mention what you told me to them, so that they can also help you.” Lastly, offer to accompany the person when he or she has that conversation as a form of moral support. 
  1. Invalidate their feelings. According to Riyan some of the things you should not say to someone struggling with a mental health concern include: 
  • “It’s all in your head” 
  • “Things could get worse” 
  • “Have you tried chamomile tea/lavender lotion/praying/going out more/etc” 
  • “Shake it off.” 
  1. Ghost, ignore, or avoid them. If you become too overwhelmed to engage with them, don’t just disappear without a world. Step back, but do so respectfully and thoughtfully. Be honest about your reasons for stepping back, and do not blame the person (in the same way that you would not blame a cancer patient for the stress that results from their struggles). Set a date on when you will next touch base with him or her so that they feel assured that you still care for them and that the timeout is only temporary. Lastly, reach out to other members of your friend’s support network and make sure they can commit to helping out if there is an emergency. 

The best thing you can do for someone struggling with a mental health concern is to instill hope. “Saying ‘We will get through this together’ assures the person that he or she is not alone,” says Riyan.

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

Categories
Self Help

8 (Other) Effective Ways Parents Can Practice Self-Care

If you’ve been taking breaks throughout your work-from-home-day, no longer need to remind your kids to be quiet when you are napping, and manage to squeeze in some exercise in-between doing household chores — congratulations! You have made self-care a part of your life and are on the right track to experiencing reduced stress, more energy, and increased resilience. 

How about trying a few other ways to destress, decompress, and reward yourself? We’ve compiled some suggestions for you: 

  1. Watch a different genre on TV. We all love our Hollywood movies and sitcoms, but how about trying out some new categories for a change? If your goal is to temporarily escape reality, Korean dramas, cooking shows, and home improvement shows will surely take you there. 

What we recommend: “Start-Up” if you are a K-drama newbie, “Nailed It,” if you want a comedic baking show (yes, there is such a thing!)  “Tiny House Nation” if you want tips on how to live simply.

  1. Engage in light reading. Reading is good for your brain but that doesn’t mean your bedside table has to be stacked with Pulitzer-Prize winning works or other serious tones. Romance novels, comic books, and other forms of light reading do not tax a brain that’s already tired from a full day and provide much-needed stress relief.  

What we recommend: Dilbert and Calvin & Hobbes comic books for humor; anything by Julia Quinn for romance; the Trese comic series for action and a fresh take on Philippine mythology.

  1. Build something. When you work with your hands to create something from scratch, you trigger your brain’s reward centers and experience pleasure, which leads to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. 

What we recommend: Lego and other construction blocks if you are a beginner and need step-by step guidance; jigsaw puzzles if you’ve had more experience; plastic model kits (i.e. Tamiya, Bandai) if you are up for a challenge. 

  1. Dress up, just because. Holiday parties may be put on hold because of the pandemic, but there’s no law against jazzing up your looks in the comfort of your home. Nothing will make you feel better faster than the sight of you in the mirror looking well-groomed and stylish. 

What we recommend: Set aside one day of the week (i.e. Fancy Fridays) where you and your partner will both swap the loungewear for dressier choices, complete with styled hair and makeup for the ladies. 

  1. Pop some bubble wrap. Odds are you’ve amassed quite a bit from all the orders that have arrived from your online shopping. Instead of putting them straight into the recycling bin, spend a few minutes popping the row of bubbles. What makes it so pleasurable is the instant gratification you receive from pressing out all the air; studies have even shown that popping bubble wrap for 60 seconds relieves as much stress as a 33-minute massage!

What we recommend: Another way bubble wrap can bring relief — cut up big sheets into the shape of your shoes and use them as shoe inserts the next time you have to go out to purchase essential items. Instant foot massage! 

  1. Cook or bake something simple. Both activities can help improve mood by providing small tasks to focus on in a manner similar to meditation. Let’s also not discount the sense of accomplishment you get when you smell or taste the end result of your kitchen experiment. If you find the prepping or cleaning to be a chore, round up the partner and kids to help out — instant family bonding time!

What we recommend: If you’re a beginner in the kitchen, start with store bought cake mixes that only need a few additional ingredients to yield the finished product (less mess to clean up too!) If you want to try your hand at cooking, we love Laura Vitale’s Youtube videos (laurainthekitchen.com) because the recipes are beginner-friendly but no less yummy.

  1. Keep physically close to your partner. According to Hans Delos Reyes, a MindNation wellness coach, positive physical contact with a partner can increase your mood and decrease your stress levels. 

What we recommend: If privacy is hard to come by because the kids are home ALL day, you and your partner need to get creative and even go easy on some of the household rules. Put them to bed earlier than usual, or wake them up later in the mornings (because 1-on-1 time does not only have to happen at night). If you can only spare an hour in the middle of the day, let them play with their gadgets or watch tv longer, then find other spots at home where you can have privacy.   

  1. Take care of plants. There’s a reason more people are buying plants during the pandemic. “It’s not just a trend, it is also a good way to take care of yourself,” says Hans. When you expose yourself to nature, you help the body increase melatonin, which is responsible for regulating sleep and lowering stress labels. “In addition, watching your plants to grow provides you with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction,” he adds.

What we recommend: Don’t have a green thumb? Try puttering with succulents first, which are inexpensive, don’t take up a lot of space, and are low-maintenance. 

Always remember that self-care isn’t just important, it’s crucial. Practicing self-care doesn’t make you weak; it helps you stay strong and recharges you so that you can care for your family and do your work better. 

Written by Jac 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

Categories
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