Sparking Joy this Mental Health Awareness Month
Michele Sagan | Head of Coaching and Counseling Services, Asia School of Business | Thought Leadership
There is much to celebrate in the month of May as we will be celebrating Hari Raya (Eid al-Fitr) and Mental Health Awareness month. As such, our theme at Asia School of Business for this holiday season is Spark Ceria, or Spark Joy. Along with celebrating and enjoying the holidays, we also want to remind everyone that this is also a season to care for yourself, connect with others, and be thankful for the blessings in life. Here are a few tips that include our ASB SMART Skills!
Self-care is the act of paying attention to and caring for our own emotional, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. It is about being kind to ourselves!
Mentally and emotionally
Emotional maturity teaches us to learn to love ourselves and to practice self-compassion. If we can’t love and forgive ourselves for being less than perfect, then it will be difficult for us to feel compassion for others. Being kind to ourselves allows us to accept our weaknesses (as much as our strengths) and to accept that life is a journey of continuous improvement. Working towards becoming better versions of ourselves takes time and effort. We can never be happy If we can’t learn to quiet that inner critic (that voice inside your head) who is always telling us we’re never good enough! Emotional resilience allows us to adapt better when faced with multiple perspectives and changing circumstances, and to accept that failure is just as much a part of life as success. At the end of the day, learning to bounce back during tough times is what truly matters.
Taking time to look after ourselves physically is also key.
- Schedule in time to reset and rejuvenate. Resting doesn’t need to involve a long holiday or pampering ourselves at the spa. All that’s important is to spend time doing things you enjoy like soaking in a bath after a long day at work or putting on some music and singing along. This Raya holidays, do take time to really switch off from work and do something fun! We do no one justice to anyone when we’re burned out. Overworking not only increases our stress levels but also impacts our mental agility, making us less productive at work.
- Sleep is super important. Research shows we need an average of 7-8 hours of sleep a night to function well the next day. And sleep hygiene is more than just sleeping — it’s about the things you’re doing before and after bed. Have you checked your phone/TV habits or your caffeine intake?
- Moving your body is also key. Do take time to exercise 3-4 times a week. Even 20 minutes each time is good enough to reduce stress, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- And don’t forget to eat well this holiday season. Enjoy your food but also remember, everything should be done in moderation. Do consider portion control and pace yourself.
As we learn to care for ourselves, it’s also important to take a break and appreciate what we have. This pandemic has been difficult for many, but it is also important to focus on the positives. Emotional maturity and humility allow us to practice gratitude and appreciate what we have in life. Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted a study, asking participants to write a few sentences each week on things that they can be thankful for. After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic, felt better about their lives, exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor!
So ask yourself: what can you be grateful for that you’ve overlooked? Perhaps it’s that we’re still employed, or that we’re in good health. Or maybe it’s that our family and friends are still around and not in a place that is foreign and dangerous. Life will always be full of the bad and the good but learning to adapt and manage our emotions or feelings by focusing on positives can spark joy in our lives. So, start listing down one thing to be grateful for everyday; who knows, maybe you’ll figure out that life is a lot brighter than it seems to be right now.
CONNECTING WITH OTHERS
Raya is a season of celebration and forgiveness and is the perfect time to practice humility and empathy, not just to listen and forgive others but also to humble ourselves to ask for forgiveness. During this Raya, reconnect with family and friends and let them know how much you care for and appreciate them (gratitude towards others). This is especially true as many of us have not been able to bond with our loved ones during the pandemic. Loneliness is a silent killer and can cause depression and anxiety and a whole host of psychosomatic illnesses. Hence, do supply a listening ear to those in need so you can encourage and validate each other. Family time also reduces stress and shifts our focus away from our problems. Research also shows that it can improve self-esteem and children who connect with family and are shown affection do better at school.
If you’re still concerned about contracting or spreading COVID by meeting up in person, then why not pick up the phone? Although texting is the sure-fire way to keep in touch with people, it also removes a sense of connection, because so much of connecting has to do with reading and understanding verbal and physical cues. To up you game a little, why not use technology? Perhaps you can set up a virtual meeting and do an activity together. Having a meal over zoom, playing some video games or even watching a movie together are all activities that can help keep you connected with friends and family during a time when meeting physically might seem daunting.
Do you know of any more ways to Spark Ceria this Raya? If so, do share them with all of us and let’s make this month of May one filled with joy!
With special thanks to Andrea Yong.