It's World Mental Health Day on 10 October! We’ve compiled some ideas on how to take care of your mental health – not just for today, but throughout the year.
For the longest time, there’s been a stigma around mental health. Those with mental disorders often face criticism from the public and, sadly, even their loved ones. There’s also little understanding when it comes to mental illnesses. Because of this, many do not seek the help that they need. A worldwide study involving 90,000 people confirmed this – it found that so many people don’t receive the proper care due to the stigma around mental illnesses.
Many folks felt the effects of social isolation, anxiety, and depression during the pandemic. Now, having conversations on mental health issues is not so taboo. But what can one do to take care of their mental well-being? Here are some tips that we find helpful and relevant to everyone – parents, youths, working adults, and all…
What you should do to take care of your mental health
1. Recognise the signs when something is wrong
All of us have our bad days now and then. However, it’s essential to know the signs of poor mental health. That way, you’re able to take action when needed. What you can do is recognise some of the symptoms of common mental health conditions. Take note of your feelings and experiences, which can help identify if it’s more than a bad day.
2. Talk to someone about your mental well-being
Talking about your mental health with someone, particularly with family and friends, can be challenging. You may not want to burden others with your problems, you don’t want to show vulnerability, or you don’t want to be stigmatised. It could even be a combination of factors. However, it would be best if you didn’t suffer in silence.
If you struggle with sharing or find it daunting to talk about your mental health, you can pen your thoughts down first. Having talking points can guide you in your sharing. When you’re finally ready to share, ensure you’re in a space that makes you feel safe and comfortable and can talk without interruption. More importantly, be open and honest. Don’t feel guilty for sharing and being vulnerable.
3. Or, speak to a therapist
Eventually, you might exhaust option #1. Your family and friends may be unable to provide you with the help you need. Or, you’ve decided (from the start) that speaking with a licensed mental health professional is more beneficial for you. Either way, it’s essential to find someone you can trust. A good therapist offers an outside perspective, helps you develop healthier coping skills, and assists you in making better decisions.
So how do you find the right therapist? You’d want someone experienced in treating the problems you’re faced with. Take into consideration other personal factors in your search. For example, a queer person may wish to have a queer-affirming therapist. Remember, therapy is a safe space where you can be yourself and talk about the things you’re going through.
Cost is another factor to consider. Mental healthcare can be expensive in Singapore, and limited insurance plans can help with the costs. If you’re looking for affordable options, there’s Safe Space, CaperSpring, and Clarity Singapore. Of course, there’s also mental healthcare in the public system, but you could be on the waiting list for some time before you finally see someone.
4. Set boundaries
Putting yourself first can be challenging but necessary for your mental health. Establishing boundaries helps you be more aware of yourself and your relationships. When you do this, you’re not being selfish – instead, it’s another way to care for others and yourself. However, realise that when you set limits, others may not accept them. That’s okay! It takes time. Speak from your heart and tell them why this is important for you (and them).
So, how do you set boundaries? The best way is by being direct and offering open, honest feedback about your limits. Let the other person know if a conversation makes you uncomfortable or if you don’t have the capacity to deal with something. Once you’ve set your boundaries, be consistent and follow through with what you’ve said.
5. Stop doomscrolling
Nowadays, everyone can easily stay informed on current events through various sources. You check some news sites and social media, and you’re inundated with bad news after bad news. You tell yourself you’ll stop, but your thumb does the opposite. Soon enough, you become affected by everything you’ve read. What you’ve just done is known as doomscrolling (or doomsurfing). This phenomenon is not entirely new, though it’s gained prominence during the pandemic.
Yes, it’s good to be updated about the goings-on in the world. However, there’s only so much you can take in before it harms your mental health. One way to combat doomscrolling is to limit news consumption. Designate a time of day when you can catch up and set a time limit. Another thing you can do is to get your news from a maximum of three reliable sources only.
6. Take a break from social media
It’s been said that excessive social media usage can hamper one’s mental well-being. Various studies have linked social media usage to anxiety, depression, and loneliness. If you’re not getting enough rest, feel bad about yourself, and even have FOMO (fear of missing out), you must step back from social media.
Most of us go through our social media before we sleep or within minutes of waking up. Thus, just like doomscrolling, schedule a time when you allow yourself to go on social media. Use the digital health apps on your phone to keep track of your usage and set a time limit. Spend more time on physical activities such as exercise or habits that stimulate your brain, like reading. Turn off your social media notifications.
If you fall back into your normal routine, perhaps you’re more addicted to social media than you realise. What you can do is go on a social media detox. Decide how long you want the detox to be, sign out from your social media accounts, and delete the apps.
7. Take a mental health day
You may encounter those days when you’re extremely stressed and too tired to deal with anything. Perhaps you’re on the verge of burnout and don’t even realise it. When you feel like you’re not yourself, it might be time to take a mental health day: a quick break from work or school where you can reset and recharge. You can either plan your mental health day in advance (if you’re allowed) or take it when you’re not feeling so hot. What if you’re in a situation where there’s no such thing as a mental health day? Go ahead and use your sick leave or apply for urgent leave. You don’t need to divulge the reason/s for taking the day off.
Once your mental health day has been approved, take a minute to reflect on how to spend your day. Are you exhausted? Rest is what you need. Need a change of scenery and inject some fun into your day? Plan something you’ve always wanted to do or have not had enough time to do. It could be a hobby you’ve neglected or something wild like taking on an escape room. You can also use the day to reevaluate and restructure your life. Whatever you plan to do, make the most of your mental health day.
Mental health doesn’t deserve the stigma that’s long been the norm. Mental health struggles don’t go away once today ends – and thus, mental health advocacy shouldn’t immediately disappear, too.
Let’s continue to make mental health a priority so that everyone can understand and be more supportive.