Imagine one day you broke your nose while you were playing sports. When you go to school the next day with a purple, swollen nose, many of your friends might ask you, “What happened?” or “Are you okay?” That scenario seems perfectly normal, doesn’t it? But what if you came to school with an equally bad overwhelming anxious feeling or chronic depressive mentality? Things are likely to be a lot different, as the struggle isn’t as visible as physical harms, making it harder for people around you to detect them.
Mental health issues are not visible or tangible like other health issues. And with their ever-increasing prevalence among the world’s population, many of us are struggling with unseeable, chronic mental discomfort and have limited awareness in order to seek help.
Yet there is some cause for optimism. The attention to mental health has been increasing dramatically throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With more people looking into the issue and acting upon it, there is more information available regarding mental health. This information has been collated into numerous different forms of resources.
One thing that is certain, people are realizing that nurturing their mental health is fundamental for their holistic wellbeing. Instead of searching for reactive, post-symptom interventions, we should try to develop preventative, self-care plans for the long term.
How can we flourish and cultivate our mental health in a chaotic world? Here are some tips to help you get started!
Understand yourself with acceptance and self-compassion
Think about how you would react if your close friend tells you they are sad, angry, or devasted about something in their life. What do you tell yourself when you experience these feelings?
Self-compassion is a therapeutic approach defined and developed by Dr. Kristin Neff. It advocates that we should give ourselves the same kindness and care as we would give to a good friend.
We need to acknowledge that our negative feelings towards imperfection, failure, and personal inadequacy are inevitable. Being warm and understanding towards ourselves when we suffer from emotional pain rather than suppressing the negativity inside is crucial for fostering a healthy mental outlook.
Build up your social support network
A social support network is essential for our self-value, identity, and resilience. This is the safety net that will socially and emotionally hold you when you trip on the hard patch along your way.
- Think of five people you enjoy having a comfortable conversation with.
- Think of three things you can do to cheer yourself up.
- Think of three places that make you feel safe and settled.
- Think of one or two people you could share deep thoughts with.
By thinking about these statements, you are forming your basic social support network. Identifying, utilizing, and developing your social support resources based on a self-compassionate core strengthens your ability to become more resilient and adaptive during instability.
Enrich your mental health care toolkit
Due to our individual characteristics, lifestyles, values, and beliefs, we have different approaches towards how we nurture our mental health. There is no strategy that fits everyone, but here are some recommendations that you could pick up for your own mental health care toolkit.
- Remain grounded
Make sure you have some simple grounding activities to help you reestablish a bond with your environment. It could be the commonly used 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique, or a simple thing like organizing your room, taking a mindful walk, or having an eyes-closed mindful body scan. RAIN practice could also be a good choice for meditation combined with self-compassion, as it helps to deal with many types of negative feelings.
- Stay balanced
Being balanced should be an essential part of your mental health care goals. It emphasizes cohesion with your physical health such as an exercise plan, diet, adequate sleep, and other parts of your lifestyle.
- Create your own well-being plan
If you are struggling with where to start, try this PERMA wellbeing survey to get to know yourself more and begin creating your own well-being plan with their help.
Caring is helping
If you are witnessing someone around you who is struggling with their mental health, feel free to reach out. Caring is helping.
Your acknowledgment and compassion towards their situation are a great support to them. Most importantly, there are many professionals striving to help and you can encourage them to seek support!
Mental health is a state of well-being where an individual recognizes their strengths and abilities and can cope with normal stresses in life. Mental health isn’t only about psychiatric diagnoses or psychological disorders, it is our holistic wellbeing, day-to-day mindset, and our relationship with our body and emotions.
To empower ourselves to look after our own mental health and provide support to others, let’s join together to celebrate #WorldMentalHealthDay on Oct.10th and start an open conversation about mental health!
By Arina Mei School Psychologist at the Western International School of Shanghai.
Ms Arina Mei is starting her fourth year being part of the WISS community. With a Master’s degree in Applied Psychology, she originally trained as a licensed psychologist before switching her career path to school counseling, as that was where her passion lay – to work closely with kids at school. To better support her students in an international context, she further obtained counseling certification for international schools and has worked closely with students at WISS since 2018.
Throughout the years she worked at WISS, she has been working with students from various age ranges, cultures, and capabilities in the forms of individual counseling, group counseling, and social-emotional learning lessons. She also provides parent workshops, teacher workshops, and student workshops to share her experience with all the stakeholders in the WISS community.