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6 Ways To Succeed In Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

Here are some psychological strategies to help you stick to your goals.

The holidays are officially over and it’s time to spend today doing what most of us often do on the very first weekend of the year — making our New Year’s resolutions. 

But writing goals is one thing; making sure you are able to keep them throughout the year is another matter. Studies have shown that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fizzle out by mid-February, with the reasons ranging from loss of motivation to lack of social support. If you want to belong to the 20% who are able to successfully turn their resolutions into a lifelong habit, below are some things you can try:

  1. Rephrase your resolutions. In a study published last December 9 in the American scientific journal PLOS ONE, scientists discovered that those who phrased their resolutions as an “approach goal,” or where they tried to adopt a new habit or introduce something new to their lives, were the ones that had the highest rate of success. On other hand, resolutions about avoiding or quitting something, or “avoidance goals,” proved to be less successful. This is because it’s easier to introduce a new behavior than to erase a bad habit. 

So for example, if your goal is to stop eating sweets in order to lose weight, you will most likely be more successful if you say ‘I will eat fruit several times a day’ instead. You then replace sweets with something healthier, which probably means you will lose weight and also keep your resolution,” says Professor Per Carlbring at the Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, one of the collaborators of the above study. 

  1. Tell someone about it. Don’t keep your resolution a secret. Tell friends and family members so that they will support your goals and remind you when you start to forget about them. An even better thing to do would be to find a friend who has the same New Year’s resolution as you so that you can motivate each other.
  1. Set SMART goals. The SMART acronym was first coined by corporate consultant George T. Doran in 1981 and has since become the benchmark for making an effective goal, whether professional or personal. For your resolution to stick, it has to be:  
  • Specific. When you have a concrete idea of what you want to accomplish, you become more motivated. “I will eat healthier” is admirable but vague; “I will eat more fruits and vegetables every meal” is more defined and gives you a blueprint to follow.
  • Measurable. When you can track your progress (see #4), you will feel more confident to carry on or make tweaks when needed. 
  • Achievable. Don’t resolve to “Climb Mt. Everest by the end of the year” if you have a sedentary lifestyle. Amending your resolution to “Go hiking with friends every month” is more realistic.
  • Relevant. Your goals need to be significant to you, and suitable to your existing skills and resources, otherwise it can easily be discarded. For example, if you feel you have been doing a good job at work, aiming for a promotion is a logical and relevant next step. On the other hand, aiming to learn skills that are better suited in another department, while admirable, is not an efficient way to make use of your strengths. 
  • Time-bound. This helps you track your progress. “I want to be able to do 10 full-body push-ups in two months” gives you something to work towards than if you just leave it as “I want to be able to do 10 full-body push-ups, period.”
  1. Aim for progress not perfection. Celebrate every step in the right direction, no matter how small. Being able to do two push-ups out of 10 is better than zero; “small wins” can also reinforce the belief that you have the ability to change, and that your goals are within your reach.
  1. Learn and adapt. Encountering a setback is one of the most common reasons why people give up on their New Year’s resolutions. So if you suddenly relapse into a bad habit, don’t view it as a failure; instead, use it as a learning opportunity. One way to keep track is to maintain a resolution journal, where you can write down important information about when the relapse occurred, what might have triggered it, and what you might do differently next time. By understanding the challenges you face, you will be better prepared to deal with them in the future.
  1. Be patient. Change is a process. Those unhealthy or undesired habits that you are trying to change probably took years to develop, so don’t expect to change them in just a matter of days, weeks, or months. 

It may take longer than you would like to achieve your goals, but remember that working toward your resolution is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line. Once you have made the commitment to changing a behavior, it may be something that you have to continue to work on for the rest of your life. 

If in the process you feel you are losing motivation, become overwhelmed by self-doubt, or need to ease your anxieties, you can always reach out to us on our 24/7 FB Messenger chat helpline. Our service is free, secure, and completely confidential. 

— 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

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Financial Wellness

5 Tips For Financial Wellness During the Holidays

The Christmas season is the most wonderful time of the year, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be stressful for people who are grappling with reduced income and yet feel that they have to spend to celebrate properly. Even though you get to save on some expenses since travel is curtailed and parties are banned, there is still the pressure to send gifts to loved ones or buy extra-special food for the holiday table. Instead of feeling love, peace, and joy this Christmas, one may end up feeling stressed, anxious, and guilty. 

“Financial worries can lead to poor mental health.” says Mariel Bitanga, a financial planner and founder of SImply Finance, a boutique financial planning firm committed to empowering women. “And it can get worse during this time of the year when people end up overspending and enter January with less savings or in debt.” 

To ease the anxiety and achieve financial wellness, you need to be more mindful and responsible about how you manage your money during the holiday season. Here are some suggestions: 

  1. Start early. Ideally you should be planning and listing down all your possible holiday expenses in the months leading to December, not during December itself. This way, you have a head start in setting aside cash for it and avoid the panic that comes with scrounging for funds when D-Day comes along.

How much of your income should you allocate for spending? Mariel advises people to follow the 50-30-20 budgeting method. “It’s beginner-friendly, generous towards your wants, and makes you feel more in-control of your spending,” she explains. Under this method:

  • Allocate 50% of your income to your necessities, or the things you need in order to survive, such as utilities, rent, and basic groceries.
  • 30% can be used to cover your “wants.” Wants are defined as non-essential expenses — things you choose to spend your money on although you could live without them if you had to. These include clothes shopping, dining out, entertainment subscriptions (i.e. Netflix), and groceries that are not part of the essentials. Your Christmas fund can fall under this category. 
  •  Finally, 20% can be put towards achieving your savings goals, investment opportunities, or paying back any outstanding debts.
  1. Make a list, check it twice, and stick to it. But even if you started late with your holiday planning, no worries, there are still ways to save. One is to make sure you approach your shopping methodically and not haphazardly. Just as your parents taught you to never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach because you’ll end up buying more food than you originally planned, neither should you do your holiday shopping without a ready list of recipients and corresponding budget. This makes you less likely to overshop and overspend. 
  1. Great gifts don’t need to be expensive. “Scour online for cheap but useful finds,” Mariel advises. “If you are crafty, make something out of your own hands; it’s cheaper but will be more meaningful for the recipient. Lastly, promote sustainability by normalizing giving secondhand gifts, like a dress that doesn’t fit you anymore but you know will look good on your friend.”

Gifts can also be non-material. “During these tough times, a simple gesture or word of encouragement will mean the world to someone who is struggling,” assures Mariel.

  1. “Don’t go into debt just to impress people or make them happy,” Mariel says. This means you shouldn’t feel obliged to give gifts if you really cannot afford it. “You’re the one who will suffer if you spend beyond your means and get the credit card bill next month.” Mariel says. “If the gift giver is sincere and a real friend, they will not expect anything in return; just don’t forget to say ‘thank you.’”
  1. When all the spending is done, reflect on what you could have done better and set your goals for NEXT YEAR. “Financial responsibility entails a lot of self-reflection,” Mariel reminds. “When you have the time, sit down and audit your finances. Think about what you can improve on, and what your financial goals are for the following year so that you can start preparing.” A financial planner can help you outline your goals in an objective manner, help you make sense of the computations, and create recommendations and action steps to fulfill those goals. “We’re here to give advice and present a clearer picture about your financial status,” Mariel explains.

And in case you do overspend or miss out on your financial goals this Christmas season, forgive yourself. “We are going through tough times right now, so don’t be too hard on yourself,” Mariel assures. “There are always ways to change the financial plan and save more, you just have to be creative and trust the process.”

Finally, always remember to go back to what the holidays are really about. “It’s about giving thanks for your family, friends, and all the other blessings you received this year; focus on those rather than on material things,” says Mariel. “Then make a firm commitment to change your ways and do better (financially) next year.”

If you need help managing your finances, send Mariel a message on www.simplyfinanceph.com and book a free Discovery Call to know more about their services. And if you want to talk to a friend to beat the holiday blues, message MindNation at http://m.me/themindnation!

Written by Jac of MindNation