Categories
Mental Health 101 Self Help

The Pitfalls of Toxic Positivity

When a friend comes to us with a problem, it’s easy for us to give advice that falls into the trap of toxic positivity — defined by clinical psychologist Dr. Jaime Zuckerman as “the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset or—my pet peeve term—‘positive vibes.’”

Toxic positivity statements may sound like any of the following:

  • “You’ll get over it.”
  • “Don’t be so negative.”
  • “Always look on the bright side.”
  • “Think happy thoughts.”
  • “It could be worse.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”

Focusing on the positive and rejecting anything that may trigger negative emotions may sound like a good thing, but according to Joyce Pring-Triviño, TV presenter, and host of the podcast “Adulting With Joyce Pring,” toxic positivity denies, minimizes, and invalidates genuine human emotional experiences. “When we exhibit toxic positivity, we deny all the negative experiences that make us human,” Joyce points out.

“Furthermore, suppressing or avoiding negative feelings can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and overall worsening of mental health,” Dr. Zuckerman says.

Psychotherapist Carolyn Karoll adds: “The pressure to appear ‘OK’ gives the impression that the person is defective when they feel distress, which can be internalized in a core belief that they are inadequate or weak. Judging oneself for feeling pain, sadness, jealousy—which are part of the human experience and are transient emotions—leads to secondary emotions, such as shame, that are much more intense and maladaptive. They…don’t give space for self-compassion, which is so vital to mental health.”

Lastly, by not acknowledging the wrong in the situation, we don’t leave room for the other person to take steps to resolve their situation. “After all, how can things get better if we’re already saying that they should be okay with what is happening?” says Joyce. 

If you find yourself constantly turning to toxic positive statements to help a friend or loved one cope with their fears and anxieties, the first thing to do is not to  blame yourself. “It’s also human nature to not want to dwell on the bad things,” assures Joyce. “We want to be distracted by the good because otherwise, we will get anxious ourselves.”

The next time the opportunity presents itself, work on doing the following instead:

  1. Listen and validate other people, even if their sadness makes you uncomfortable. Everyone’s entitled to their own feelings. Don’t shame another person for their emotions.
  2. Use healthy positivity statements: 
  • “I know it’s hard but I believe in you.”
  • “It’s okay to feel bad sometimes.”
  • “Always look at the bright side.” 
  • “It can be difficult to see the good in this situation, but we’ll make sense of it when we can.”
  • “Things can get really tough, but I am here for you.”
  • “I know this isn’t the outcome you were hoping for and that can be painful. But trust that this feeling won’t last forever.”
  1. Do not offer unsolicited advice. Instead, ask “How can I support you?” or just say “I’m here if you need me for anything.”

While it may seem beneficial to tell others to look on the bright side of things and find the silver lining in all life experiences, it’s also important to acknowledge and listen to emotions even when they aren’t pleasant. By helping your loved one pay attention and process their feelings as they come and go, you can help them understand themselves and their situation better.

Listen to Adulting with Joyce Pring’s “Toxic Positivity” episode here!

If someone you know is feeling especially stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, MindNation’s 24/7 Care Hotline is available all day, every day, on FB Messenger. The service is FREE, completely confidential, and the staff is trained to ease your anxieties. Drop us a line http://m.me/themindnation

Categories
Employee Wellness Featured Self Help Sleep

6 Secrets To A Good Night’s Sleep

If you’re tired of feeling tired, here are some simple tips to help you achieve better sleep

We all have trouble sleeping from time to time, but when restless nights persist, it can become a real problem. Studies have shown that inadequate sleep can have serious effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health, like increasing our propensity for obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes, as well as making us tired, moody, and unable to concentrate on daily tasks. “Think of your body as a computer,” says Dr. Rhalf Jayson Guanco, a psychologist and faculty member of the psychology department of the Adventist University of the Philippines. “Walking around in a sleep-deprived state is like working on a computer with a fragmented hard drive. You are not getting all the performance from that computer that you could.” 

Experts say adults need to sleep between seven to nine hours per stretch so that the body can repair and recharge itself for the next day. And when we are fully rested, we enjoy benefits such as improved memory and concentration, enhanced creativity, better decision-making skills, a more positive mood and mindset, and a healthier immune system.

If you have trouble settling down to sleep, Dr. Guanco shares some tips below that you can follow:

  1. Maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on the weekends. “Doing so maintains your body’s circadian rhythm (also known as our “inner clock”), which can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily,” says Dr. Guanco.
  2. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. Don’t eat, do moderate to intense exercises, or drink alcohol or caffeine, or smoke three hours before bedtime since these arouse the senses instead of sending you into a relaxed state. “Also avoid doing activities that excite or stress you out, such as working, playing video games, or paying bills,” he adds.
  1. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool. Dr. Guanco advises using blackout curtains to cover your windows, and wearing eye shades or ear plugs.
  2. Sleep on a firm, comfortable mattress. “The average lifespan for a good quality mattress is about 9 -10 years.,” he points out. 
  1. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex. “This strengthens the association between your bed and sleep.  Take work materials, computers, and the television out of the bedroom,” he shares.
  2. Exercise regularly (but not too close to bedtime). Even just short bouts of exercise can lead to improvements in total sleep time, sleep quality, and time spent falling asleep. Exercise may also help reduce the symptoms of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or sleep-related movement disorders. Just make sure to do it at least 3 hours before bedtime. 

If you need help fine-tuning your sleep habits, our WellBeing Coaches are available for online sessions  24/7, all year round. Book your slot now at http://m.me/themindnation or email [email protected].

Categories
Get Inspired

10 Trailblazing Trans Women You Should Know Right Now

A transgender person is one who cannot identify with the gender they were given at birth. For example, one may be born as a male but somehow feels more inclined to identify as female and behave in a feminine manner. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but due to society’s expectations, transpeople have to live with constant prejudice, stigma, discrimination, and — in some cases — even physical violence. They also tend to experience higher rates of mental health issues than the general population, including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

In honor of National Women’s Month, MindNation pays tribute to 10 amazing trans women from all over the world who are breaking free from stereotypes and the limitations placed on them and making their marks in various fields:

  1. Mela Habijan, Filipina actress, writer, content creator, beauty queen
    When Mela first came out to her parents in 2002, her father said, “So what if you’re gay? Why would I be embarrassed by you? You are a smart person. I raised you to be a good person. Most importantly, you are my child.” After coming out to her parents and with their blessing, Mela came out publicly when she turned 30 in 2017. She’s since openly spoken about her relationship with her parents, and has paid tribute to them several times on her social media pages. Last September 2020, Mela became the winner of the first ever Miss Trans Global. She is now organization’s spokesperson for its activities, including work with groups such as  TransValid and TransBeauty Magazine to “raise money, educate, and inspire transgender people globally.”
  1. Gislenne Zamayoa, Mexican architect
    Gislenne knew she was a woman at the age of four, but her transition did not begin until she was 36 and already working as an architect for a multinational soft drink company. During business trips, she would take a suitcase full of women’s clothes, makeup, and high heels. Whenever she finished her work, she would call a taxi from the hotel to take her to another hotel; there, she would change her clothes, put on makeup, and go to bars.

    When she announced to the company that she was transitioning, they offered her an administrative job, which she accepted at the beginning. But sheI had so much repression and worked so hard that her body did not stand it anymore, and she ended up in the hospital.

    Her big break started in 2016, when Apple Inc. hired her to build eight Mac stores in Mexico. The money and renown that the projects bought allowed her to create her own architectural company, Arquia, which now specializes in green design. 

    Today, Gislenne champions labor inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community. She works with the Mexican Federation of LGBT Entrepreneurs (FME-LGBT), and as a result, has been able to boost the projects of 13 transgender entrepreneurs.
  1. Mianne Bagger, Danish golfer
    In 2004, Mianne competed in the Australian Open professional golf tournament, becoming the first openly transitioned woman to play in a sport infamously known for its conservatism. She did not win, but she spent the next few years advocating for the rights of post-transition athletes and arguing that they do not have any clear physical advantage over their female-at-birth counterparts. Through her efforts, many professional golf organizations have amended their practices, paving the way for more inclusion in the sport. 
  1. Jin Xing, Chinese dancer
    Before becoming China’s first openly transgender celebrity and one of the first few transwomen officially recognized by the Chinese government, Jin Xing was a colonel in the People Liberation Army’s, which she joined as a child to receive dance training from a dance company affiliated with her military district. 

    At the age of 20, she traveled the United States and Europe to study and perform, returning to China six years later for a very specific purpose — to become the woman she’d realized she was meant to be. She insisted on having sex reassignment surgery in China, even though doctors there didn’t have much experience in the procedure at the time. The operation left one of her legs partially paralyzed and it took three months before she could dance again.

    Today, Jin Xing is the artistic director of her very own contemporary dance company in Shanghai, an in-demand choreographer, actress, talk show host, and an infamously hard-to-please judge on China’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” And while she says she never aspired to be an LGBT+ activist, she is now eyeing politics, saying she has the power and presence to help society.
  1. Breanna Sinclaire, American soprano
    As a child, Breanna sustained intense physical abuse at the hands of her father, who was deeply uncomfortable that he had an expressive, non-conforming child. When she was 13, her parents got divorced and the abuse eased up. She went on to study at the Baltimore School for the Arts where she found her niche, and then moved on to the California Institute of the Arts. In her final year at CalArts, she began her transition which included a transition in voice type from tenor to soprano. She faced heavy discrimination throughout the rest of her studies, but ultimately succeeded in finishing her studies and would go on to become the first transwomen in the opera program of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Today, she is widely known for her impressive four-octave vocal range.

    In 2015, she also became the first trans woman to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at a professional sporting event.
  1. Padmini Prakash, Indian news anchor
    In 2014, 31-year-old Padmini made history by becoming the first Indian transgender television news anchor. Before this big break, however, she experienced a troubled childhood — her family disowned her when she was 13 years old because they would not accept her gender identity, and she even attempted suicide but was saved by some people. She enrolled in an undergraduate programme in commerce through distance education, but had to drop out after two years due to financial problems and bullying. Undeterred, she went on to find work as a dancer, then as an actress, and even went on to compete in the trans beauty pageants.

    In 2014, after the Indian Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling recognizing the right of every human being to choose their gender” and ordering the government to provide equal protection and opportunity for transgenders, Lotus TV, a Tamil news satellite channel, hired Padmini. Today, she is also quite active in conducting awareness campaigns, even once working with the local police force to conduct transgender sensitivity workshops.
  1. Sasha Elijah (Lebanese model)
    In 2012,When Sasha’s devoutly Christian family opposed her desire to undergo hormone therapy when she was 15 years old, she pushed through with it anyway. It was a decision she says she does not regret, even though it took years to mend the relationship with her parents.

    She began modelling and, at the age of 17, became the first openly trans woman of the MENA region to walk the catwalk on an international TV channel. This attracted both local and international media, and she saw a way for her to raise awareness of the transgender community in her own country.

    In 2018, a district court of appeal in Lebanon issued a groundbreaking ruling that consensual sex between people of the same sex was not unlawful. Despite this positive development, Lebanese society still remains deeply rooted in religious and political conservatism.  Sasha hopes her outspokenness will encourage transgender people in the Middle East to be who they want to be, and help improve society’s understanding of the issues they face.
  1. Lynn Conway, American computer scientist
    Born in 1938, Lynn was a shy child and experienced gender dysphoria — the distress a person feels due to a mismatch between their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth. Upon completing her transition in 1968, she took a new name and identity, and restarted her career in what she called “stealth mode,” or passing as a cisgender woman instead of a transgender. In the course of her work, she became known for various pioneering achievements — much of today’s silicon chip design is based on her work — and won many awards and high honors, including election as a Member of the National Academy of Engineering, the highest professional recognition an engineer can receive.

    But it was only in 1999 (31 years after her gender transition) that she began to emerge from stealth mode and come out as a transwoman to friends and colleagues. She began work in transgender activism, intending to “illuminate and normalize the issues of gender identity and the processes of gender transition.” Today, she continues to work to protect and expand the rights of transgender people. She has provided direct and indirect assistance to numerous other transgender women going through transition and maintains a well-known website (https://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/conway.html) providing medical resources and emotional advice. Parts have been translated into most of the world’s major languages.
  1. Titica, Angolan singer and dancer
    Born in Luanda as Teca Miguel Garcia, singer and dancer Titica adopted her female persona four years ago following a breast enhancement operation in Brazil. Her stage name means “worthless” or “useless” in Portuguese, as a way to reclaim the hateful words that people have thrown at her as a transwoman.

    At age 25, she became the new face of Angola’s unique urban rap-techno fusion music style known as “kuduro”. By day her songs boom from minibus taxis, by night they fill Luanda’s dance floors, and at the weekends she has become the essential soundtrack for children’s parties. Named “Best Kuduro Artist of 2011”, she is a regular on television and radio, and has even performed at a Divas Angola concert attended by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

    In 2013, she was named a goodwill ambassador for UNAIDS. Through this role and her international popularity, Titica has increased awareness of HIV risks and treatment, sexual health, and issues regarding the LGBTQ community. Her success in the industry combats the homophobic and transphobic sentiments that exist in Angola and globally.
  1. Geraldine Roman, Filipina congresswoman
    In 2016, Gerladine became the first transgender person elected to the Congress of the Philippines. She, along with other elected lawmakers (collectively known as “equality champs”), launched the passage of the anti-discrimination bill on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (now known as the SOGIE Equality Bill) through a speech in the House of Representatives that garnered international support for LGBT rights in the Philippines.

    She was also named as one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2016 by US-based Foreign Policy magazine, as well as one of the “13 Inspiring Women of 2016” list by Time magazine.

Way to go, ladies!

Know any more amazing trans-women we should feature? Tag us in on Instagram and follow us at @themindnation!

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
Self Help

Intention Setting For Beginners

Setting intentions used to be something people only did at the start of a yoga or meditation practice. It is defined as the act of stating what you intend to accomplish through your actions. Examples would be “Inner peace,” “Gratitude,” or “Happiness.” 

When differentiating between goals and intentions, one thing to remember is that “goals” are what you want to do, while “intentions” are what you want to achieve and revolve around self-care and personal development. 

“An intention is the ‘why’ or the desire behind the goal”

Kimi Lu, http://www.kimilulifecoach.com

“An intention is the ‘why’ or the desire behind the goal,” says life and corporate coach Kimi Lu (@kimilulifecoach). “We all have deeper reasons why we want to achieve certain goals – and bigger or more ambitious goals usually involve achieving something that is bigger than ourselves.” This is where intentions can help. 

Intention setting can help you be more present and mindful in your day-to-day life. It serves as a compass to guide you in your day, month, or even year. “Anytime you feel like there are too many things running through your mind, go back to your intention to regain clarity,” advises Kimi. 

If you are new to intention-setting, keep them small and achievable first. This way, when you become successful, you gain the confidence to make and achieve bigger intentions. Kimi recommends some easy ones below that you can start with: 

  1. “Breathe”
    Make this your mantra during stressful times, so you can stay calm.
  2. “Listen actively.”
    When you are about to join a meeting, this intention can help you learn more from others.
  3. “Heal.”
    Set this if you have been through heartache, so you can let go of past hurts and welcome the next phase of your life with a heart filled with self-love and gratitude. 

As you progress, you can set advanced intentions such as “Love unconditionally,” “Be kind even when under pressure,” or “Lead by example.”

It helps to write down your intentions as soon as you make them so that you have a visual reminder of the commitment you are making to yourself. Then make it a habit to refer back to them at the end of the day, week, or month for reflection. By checking in with yourself and your actions, you create a space for self-awareness and self-development. 

Finally, feel free to share your intentions with others so that you have a support network to keep you accountable, motivate you, or even cheer you on on your journey to success. 

MindNation is available through 24/7 chat on FB Messenger if you need help crafting an intention or sticking to one. Our service is free and completely confidential. Talk to us here here http://m.me/themindnation

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

5 Ways To Disagree With Your Boss (Without Getting Fired)

Speaking up for what you believe is a good thing, but when it comes to disagreeing with your boss, you need to be careful and tactful.

A 2018 study by Gallup reported that 94% of people feel stressed at work, with 35% saying that their boss is a cause of workplace stress. One possible reason for the latter is the fear and anxiety that comes when you need to voice a disagreement with a higher-up. While most workplaces these days are trying to establish a healthy culture where communication is open across all levels, dissenting with a superior is still a tricky thing. Doing so might make him or her think you are being difficult or disrespectful, but staying silent might give everyone else the impression that you are apathetic or complacent.

So how can you deliver your opposing opinion without suffering unfavorable consequences? Below are some strategies that you can employ: 

  1. Take note of the timing

Sometimes it’s not just what you say — it’s also when and where you say it. If you are in a relaxed team meeting where everyone is sharing suggestions and ideas, then feel free to chime in with your own thoughts. But if the discussion is starting to get heated and your manager is starting to display signs that they are getting angry, embarrassed, or feeling ganged-up on, it might be best to wait until things cool down. Then set up a separate, private meeting to talk it out. 

  1. Start off on a positive note. 

While work conversations should ideally be honest and straight-to-the-point, you will need to moderate your bluntness when you are talking to a person of authority. So begin your opposition by clearly mentioning something positive, like a portion of the idea that you liked. Segueing into the disagreement is much better than blurting out “I think your idea is wrong because…” right off the bat.  

  1. Ask and listen before reacting. 

Take a deep breath and try considering the issue from your superior’s point of view. Try to know his or her motivations for making such decisions; the best way to get them to listen to your side is to be able to reflect back to them that you understand what’s important to them. So ask questions, research the context, and gather information so that once you state your opposing view, it is based on facts and logic, not on emotions. 

  1. Rephrase the disagreement in the form of a suggestion

Instead of telling your boss what you think should be done, make it seem like you are asking for an alternative take on the matter. For example, you could say something like “I like your idea of holding team meetings every week, but what do you think about holding them on Wednesdays instead of Mondays so that….?” By letting your manager make the final decision, you still show respect for his or her authority. 

  1. Respect the final decision. 

Always mentally prepare for the possibility that you will speak your mind but nothing will change. If that happens, you need to respect your boss’s decision and let it go. Instead of feeling angry or sad, take the rejection as a learning opportunity; even if you disagree with his or her point, try to at least understand it, so you are able to support it. At the very least, rejection builds mental resilience, so you still get something positive out of the whole experience. 

By following the tips above, you can hopefully disagree with your boss in a way that is courteous and convincing but won’t cost you your mental health or your job. 

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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

10 Tips For Handling Difficult Conversations At Work

How to manage contentious exchanges at work without making things worse

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. You have to deliver bad news, ask someone to make a change, or correct an inappropriate behavior. These moments all require conversations and these conversations are difficult. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified potential conflict. New working conditions and external threats and pressures have led to a rise in mental health concerns, possibly affecting work performance and team dynamics. As a manager, you need to resolve these conflicts in a timely and professional manner that minimizes disruption to productivity. But this can be easier said than done when emotions are running high. 

“We tend to view difficult conversations as a personal attack, a power struggle that becomes a win-lose situation,” says Salma Sakr, Chief Growth Officer of MindNation. “But if both parties treated them as an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, to increase understanding, and to achieve goals, then we can address the situation sooner and with more ease.”

While there is no one way to have a difficult conversation, there is a blueprint that we can use to support us as we head into those conversations:

  1.  Before inviting the other person to a conversation, clarify your primary and secondary purpose. Salma suggests you do this by asking yourself two questions: first, what is this person doing that they should not be doing? And second, what is the person not doing that they should be doing?
    For example, you have an employee who does great work but is always a day or too late with projects. The primary purpose of your conversation is to emphasize the importance of getting work turned in on time. Your secondary purpose is to understand why there might be delays, what is the root cause of them being late all the time? 
  1. Never initiate a conversation when you’re overly emotional. “It’s okay to feel emotions. Your emotions tell you that a conversation needs to happen,” Salma assures. “But you’ve got to time it right. When you are calm, you’re in a better position to initiate and engage.”
  2. Anticipate resistance. Resistance is defined as any form of negativity or non-acceptance, an unwillingness to move forward. It means the conversation is either not happening or it’s not going in the direction you want. Examples of ways people can be resistant in conversations: 
  • “What you’re asking for is not possible”
  •  “This isn’t fair”
  •  “It will cost too much” 
  • “I don’t have enough time to do what you want”
  •  “I told you I’ve already tried that”

Resistance leads to non-productive conversations. The good news is there’s actually a way to test for resistance without getting trapped in an unproductive back and forth with the person you are speaking to. “Frame your request using the magic phrase ‘Would you be willing…?’” Salma suggests. “By doing this you are gauging how resistant they are and giving them space to decide if they are willing or not.”

  1. Don’t use electronic or digital communication to engage in a difficult conversation. “The urge can be pretty strong to hide behind an email, text or chat when emotions are hot but things can be ‘lost in translation’ when written,” Salma points out. A face to face conversation (even just through video call) is always best. And, if someone triggers you with their email, don’t take the bait and don’t defend yourself. “Just don’t respond. Ask for a face to face meeting. If that’s not possible, ask for a phone meeting,” says Salma. 
  2. Don’t play the blame game. The go-to response when you are angry is to point fingers, which will make the other party defensive. So control your urge to be right, to be understood, and to win.  Instead, practice active listening and get their side of the story. Until the other person feels heard, you’re only going to get defensiveness and disagreement. You don’t even have to agree. All you have to do is acknowledge their reality.
  3. Cultivate curiosity. “Being a know-it-all closes off possibilities,” says Salma. “If you think you already know someone’s motives, you won’t try to understand them. And if you already know what someone is going to say, you avoid communication.” So genuinely show eagerness to understand, ask questions, and make sure you are having a dialogue not a monologue. There are two people in this conversation, so make sure you act that way.
  4. Stay focused You’ve probably been engaged in a conversation that took a wrong turn. Chances are, you got distracted, you forgot your objective. Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. When you keep your focus on what you want, it’s easier to get to your end result and move forward.
  5. Redirect so you are in control of the conversation. If you do find yourself facing a lot of resistance, or the person using many distracting phrases, you can use the following statements to help get you back on track. Examples include:
  • “I understand where you are coming from, but right now we are talking about your project delays.” 
  • “That may be true but that is not as urgent as what we are discussing now. Let’s prioritize.” 
  • “I suggest we park that and come back to it once we finish our conversation.” 
  • “Clearly you have a lot on your mind, let’s set up more time to discuss that after we finish what we came to discuss here.” 

“This way, you are giving space for their emotions but putting a boundary that this conversation is focused on a certain discussion and that you won’t deviate,” says Salma.

  1. Don’t generalize. Eliminate words like “always” and “never” because you will lose the other person, i.e. “You always do this…” or “ You never do that…” Instead, you bring forward the specific observable behavior. “Last week, I observed you did this…”
  1. Create accountability. Just because the conversation has happened and you both got through it doesn’t mean it ends there. Make sure to put a deadline within which you want to see the behavior or results changed/improved. “Ask them to book it in your calendar so you can reconvene and assess progress,” shares Salma. “This will ensure they remain accountable to the changes you have requested.” 

By following the tips outlined above, it is possible to transform difficult conversations into constructive exchanges. You may not be able to control how others think and react, but you can control our own emotions, thoughts, and responses so that the relationship with the other person becomes better for it. 

MindNation offers Company Culture Drive Ⓒ Talks — interactive webinars featuring experts on mental health and other dimensions of wellness. One of our most popular talks is “Having Difficult Conversations In The Workplace” where we train managers on how to handle tough conversations with team members, ensuring the well-being of all involved. To know more about this email us at [email protected]

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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

6 Ways To Support Employees With Mental Health Problems

As mental health in the workplace becomes an increasing priority, business leaders must do more to care for their staff

Despite an increased awareness of mental health issues, many employees still struggle in silence because they either do not know where to go for help or they fear that they will encounter stigma and discrimination at work.

This lack of action can have serious implications for any organization’s bottom line. According to the World Health Organization, the estimated cost of depression and anxiety to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity. On the other hand, workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, and benefit from associated economic gains.

So how can business leaders manage and support their employees with mental health concerns? Below are some ways: 

  1. Make mental health training mandatory for managers and supervisors. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that of the 2,921 managers who had access to mental health training in their workplaces, all displayed an improved understanding of mental health overall, with half  reviewing the responsibilities of their staff in an effort to prevent possible mental health issues and 57% of them starting discussions with their employees to improve their understanding of anxiety and depression.
    Managers are in the perfect position to help colleagues in the workplace because they are the ones who have a better understanding of an employee’s day-to-day well-being and can provide a direct line for inquiries and support. Note that training does not mean instructing team leaders to diagnose and treat mental health concerns; instead, it’s teaching them what to do if they see signs and symptoms of emotional distress in their juniors, including how to obtain help.
  2. Support employees through listening rather than telling. The most meaningful and helpful way to fight the stigma of mental illness is to encourage all members of staff to be willing to listen when a colleague is talking about their experiences — and to listen with empathy. According to Rob Stephenson,  founder of InsideOut, a social enterprise working to end the stigma of mental ill-health in the workplace — “We don’t need to understand every condition, or every person, to be good, human listeners. We just need to become better active listeners in the workplace, so we can say ‘OK, I can see you’re struggling here, let’s have a…chat and you can tell me about it.”
  3. Establish an employee assistance program (EAP) and encourage employees to use it. While many companies use an EAP to support workplace mental health, a 2017 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information revealed that only 1%-5% of employees of a company avail of the benefits of an EAP due to stigma, shame, and concerns about confidentiality.
    Here are some things you can do to assuage their fears:
  • Communicate — during onboarding sessions and through visuals or email reminders — what EAP services are available and how these can help employees respond to personal or work issues. Emphasize that the services are confidential and free of charge. 
  • Provide direct access to mental health professionals via phone, email, or chat. This allows an extra layer of comfort and privacy.
  1. Use communication to reduce stigma and increase access to mental health resources. Don’t wait until Mental Health Awareness Month (May) or Suicide Prevention Month (September) to talk about mental health, EAP benefits, and other resources. 
  • Promote them frequently, such as in monthly newsletters, weekly departmental meetings, or even in casual virtual catch-ups. 
  • Ensure that your executives mention emotional well-being every time they talk about recruiting talent and building an inclusive culture that helps employees bring their best selves.
  • Offer webinars so employees can learn more about mental health and resilience.
  1. Promote holistic well-being. Mental health is more than just one’s state of mind; it involves several factors, including physical, social, emotional, and cultural wellness. Business leaders therefore need to integrate all aspects of this by:
  • Building as much flexibility as possible into all employees’ schedules so that they have opportunities for work-life balance. A 2019 survey conducted by UK-based event management company Wildgoose discovered that 39 per cent of those who worked flexibly had benefited from better mental health and increased productivity.
  • Promoting or offering access to apps that can help with stress reduction, sleep, and meditation such as Headspace or Calm. 
  • Offering fitness center memberships, subsidies or reimbursements for fitness classes. Ultimate Kronos Group, an American multinational technology company, set up virtual fitness classes for employees and their children in the middle of 2020 and even held a competitive company-wide step challenge in October.
  • Encouraging employees to use their vacation time, such as by limiting the amount of vacation employees can carry over into the next year
  • Providing accommodations and developing a return-to-work process so that employees who need to take a leave of absence because of a mental health issue feel supported when they come back. An example would be letting the returning employee resume work step-by-step, gradually increasing work hours and task complexity until the symptoms of the mental health concern have subsided.
  1. Make work interesting, social, and fun. Create opportunities for employees to build connections with each other, such as through virtual social events and electronic message boards. When team members have strong positive relationships at work and  are able to tell their co-workers and managers what they struggle with and how they can best be supported, it opens communication and smooths out many misunderstandings, paving the way for higher productivity. 

It is an employer’s responsibility to create a workplace where people feel they can be open and supported. Helping employees who are unwilling to talk about their struggles is a daunting task, so it might be a good idea to partner with a mental health and well-being company to help you craft a mental health program for your workplace. MindNation (www.themindnation.com) is a one-stop shop for all your well-being needs. Their program is based on an individual’s holistic dimensions of wellness to ensure that services provided suit his or her unique requirements and objectives. Email them at [email protected] to learn more about their products and services. 

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation