Disclaimer: The following content provided is for general information only. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition.
In August, Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) released the latest figures concerning suicide rates in Singapore. Statistics show a notable increase in figures as compared to the year before, with youths aged 20-29 accumulating a large proportion of deaths by suicide.
Mental illness has time and again proven to be a leading cause of suicide in Singapore and all over the world. Being in the 20-29 age group, the increasing frequency in which I am learning of my peers’ mental health diagnosis is disheartening, to say the least.
2020 has been a stressful year – Covid-19, soaring unemployment rates, Australian bushfires, premature deaths, plane crashes, racial protests flooded the media. As if living with mental health issues is not distressing enough, Circuit Breaker fanned the flames for more stress, anxiety and loneliness. One consolation for me is that youths nowadays are more aware and open about mental health issues; and there are considerably more resources and emotional outlets available where people can seek help and comfort.
Here are 7 ways to attain and maintain mental wellness, most of which have helped me keep a healthy balance between mental health and all other aspects of my life.
#1 Take care of your body.
Eat well. Your choice of food not only affects your overall physical health, but is also important in maintaining your mental wellbeing. Unhealthy eating patterns cause blood-sugar fluctuations and nutritional imbalances which will cause mood swings. (food-mood connection!)
Keep physically active. We all have differing opinions on what ‘exercise’ means to us. It might be in the form of a stroll or brisk walk, home based workouts, yoga, dancing, swimming or HIIT classes – anything to keep your heart pumping and serotonin level high!
Get enough sleep. It can be easy to dismiss sleep as a priority especially among young people who should be bursting with energy. Maintaining a sleep cycle of at least 7hours every night helps us to ‘recharge’ and optimise brain function – much like our phone battery that we charge after prolonged use.
#2 Find a hobby.
An activity that can offer some respite on dull days.
I have been on a search for a perfect hobby for years now! Having tried a handful of activities, it is important that I test the sustainability of that activity to ensure it is in tandem with my lifestyle. Online gaming and watching Netflix can definitely offer some form of comfort, but other options that can help enrich your life include:
Physical – Rock climbing/ bouldering, working out, yoga, jogging, spin classes.
Crafts – Painting, embroidery, pottery, cooking.
Educational – Learn about web designing/ coding, learn a new instrument/ language, make or listen to podcasts.
Tip: Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, everything’s better when done with a friend!
I have recently picked up bouldering! As an overseas university student currently doing online learning in Singapore, my days are pretty repetitious and I get restless easily. Besides having fun with my friends, I love the feeling of getting stronger after every climb!
As I got deeper into the vertical realm of bouldering, I have also learnt to think strategically and not give up so easily; Boulder routes need to be thought through, tried and tested time and again, before you succeed, much like how things work in our lives.
#3 Develop good relationships.
Surround yourself with friends and family you genuinely like and respect, no matter how little friends you have. This will allow you to open up to people you trust, should you be faced with a roadblock in life. Do ensure to maintain good communication with these loved ones through lunch appointments, exercise or even lounging.
#4 Practicing gratitude
These days, happiness is but a fleeting moment. The thing is not to be overly cautious and constantly comparing our lives with those in crisis or poverty, that you forget to enjoy your own. It is about making a conscious effort to acknowledge and express gratitude for the big and little things that happen in your life. This can help build a positive mindset which will come in handy in times of adversity.
I take note of the times throughout the day when I feel my happiest (usually captured on instagram) and when in times of need, I try to recreate these memories to bring my spirits up.
#5 Talk kindly to yourself.
Sometimes, we are our own greatest critic and get stuck in a self-critical dialogue when life gets in our way. This inner dialogue can get a little harsh and unknowingly affect our self-worth and confidence. When our loved ones are in crisis, it is second nature for us to be there for them and say encouraging things; Why don’t we do the same for ourselves?
Speaking kindly to yourself can look like:
‘It’s OK. I forgive myself. That took courage.’
And not: ‘I failed and embarrassed myself.’
‘I deserve to be treated with respect.’
‘Learning from my mistakes means I’m one step ahead of becoming who I want to be.’
What other kind, positive statements do you say to yourself?
#6 Slow down.
It is no secret that Singapore is a fast-paced society. We are engineered to think that if we move fast, we can accomplish more – but the stress adds up! There are many ways we can take a breather, such as meditation, a nap, going to the beach, doing art, or a simple stroll in the park. When we relax, we see things clearer, and in a different light. It will be easier to focus on the present, rather than worrying about the past or future.
Whenever my schedule gets too hectic, I go for a jog at the beach. I love that I am able to clock in some exercise as well as enjoy nature in the evenings.
#7 Care for others.
Evidence has shown that helping others can benefit our own mental health and wellbeing, in terms of an improved mood and self-esteem. If volunteering at local charities and shelters seems too huge a step for you, start with smaller actions like offering to cook, take out the rubbish and saying ‘yes’ more often to requests. Showing others you care speaks volumes to them, and at the same time, you feel good about yourself!
Just like we have to care about our physical health, maintaining good mental health is crucial in being emotionally happy. There are many ways in which life can take a toll on our mental health but keeping a good balance will help us better manage our thoughts, emotions, and stress. Let’s all work towards a healthy mind!
This article is brought to you by Hazel, an undergraduate from University of Newcastle Australia who is currently interning at SNCF (August to November 2020). She is an earl grey enthusiast, caffeine addict, avid reader and passionate about all things health and lifestyle related.