Categories
How To

10 Steps To Sustainable Living

Everything we do in our day-to-day life affects the planet, from the straws that we use to drink our milk tea to how often we leave the lights on in our home. Now more than ever, it is important that our actions and decisions do not contribute to the further damage of the environment.

The first step to achieving this is by adopting eco-friendly practices. “This means buying products that do not contribute to air, water, and land pollution, as well as making it a habit to conserve resources like water and energy,” says Potxee De Castro, Sustainability Officer of Planet CORA, a non-government organization dedicated to protecting #LifeBelowWater and #LifeOnLand, and to empowering everyone to take aggressive #ClimateAction for the future of our youth.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of reducing, reusing, and recycling, the next step would be practicing sustainable living, which means being conscious and cautious of how you interact with your home appliances, how you travel from one place to another, how much you buy, and more — all in order to protect and improve the environment. 

“It’s important to practice sustainable living because you are ensuring the quality of life of future generations,” Potxee says.

Potxee de Castro during a CORA Coastal Cleanup in Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, Philippines

“When you do something right, you feel right.”

Potxee de Castro, Planet CORA

Another reason to practice sustainability is not just its positive impact on the environment, but also its effect on one’s mental health. “When you do something right, you feel right,” Potxee points out. “Whenever you feel that everything else in your world is falling apart, just knowing that you are doing something good, not just for yourself but for the sake of others, will make you feel better about yourself.”

It’s possible to practice sustainable living right in the comforts of your own home and among your circle of friends.

Potxee recommends 10 phases to get you started:

#10: Decluttering starts at home.
“Start by going through your things — what do you need, and what do you really, really need?” Potxee advises. “By filtering your items, you get to start thinking about your spending and consumption habits, which leads to better decision-making about how you can maximize your existing resources, and how you can share your excesses with others.”
For the people who like to collect as a hobby (be it toys, shoes, or designer bags), this does not mean they have to give up their pastime. “If collecting really brings them joy and they can’t stop doing it, ask them to do something good for others or for the planet in exchange for every new item that they acquire, like donate some of their clothes or not buy a beverage that comes in a plastic container for that week,” suggests Potxee.

#9: One plant at a time.
No need to create an indoor garden — you can make do with just little pots of herbs or flowers. “And even if you don’t have a green thumb, just keep trying!” Potxee advises. “You gain experience just by making the effort to let a plant live, and you also get to appreciate life from a different perspective.”

#8: Refuse single use.
“It’s so hard to do this now during the pandemic because we rely on deliveries to provide us with our essential needs, and more often than not these deliveries come with huge amounts of plastic and bubble wrap to protect the items,” Potxee says. One way to resolve this is to be very insistent when you place your orders that your items should come with minimal to zero plastic packaging or utensils (if you are ordering food). Another way is to be resourceful and look for alternative products that are closer to home, so that you just can personally pick them up using your own containers and bag. 

#7: Count your carbon footprint like you’re counting calories.
At home, you can do this by conserving electricity. “If you must turn on the air-conditioning, try to gather everyone in one room so you don’t turn on so many units,” says Potxee. Other ways to save electricity include turning off unnecessary lights, maximizing use of natural light, and unplugging unused electronics.

#6: Save water.
Even though water covers 70 percent of our planet, only 3 percent of it is fresh water. As a result, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water to drink, bathe in, or irrigate their farm fields with. In addition, rivers and lakes are becoming too polluted to use, and climate change is altering patterns of weather and water around the world, causing shortages and droughts in some areas and floods in others.
So conserve water. “Take shorter showers; turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or shaving; use your washing machine only when you have a full load, and use the water from the final rinse to water your plants or flush your toilet,” advises Potxee.

#5: Don’t hate, educate.
“I used to feel really bad towards people who would call me pushy or finicky for reminding them to stop using plastic straws or pay attention to their carbon footprint,” Potzee shares. “But later on I learned that if I took the time to patiently explain things to them and increase their awareness of the issue, I could influence them to change their ways.”

#4: Ditch and switch.
Switch to items that are eco-friendlier. “But do you research so that you balance cost with quality,” reminds Potxee. 

#3: Pose and post.
Leverage the reach of your social media followers to influence people to make better choices.

#2: Lead by example.
Don’t say one thing but do another. Whatever you do will be watched and emulated, so make sure you hold yourself to the same standards you preach to others.

#1: Consistency is key.
“Nobody’s perfect, and there will be times when we will inevitably encounter plastic items — someone gifts us with a drink that’s in a plastic cup, for example. In this case, go ahead and enjoy that drink, but just don’t forget to throw it in the proper recycling bin when you are done,” says Potxee.

On the surface, it can be incredibly daunting to reduce your environmental footprint especially when you feel that you are just one person and will probably not make a difference. But when you break it down into the small phases outlined above, you will realize that you have more power than you thought. 

For more information about Planet CORA and how to volunteer, visit www.wearecora.org.

Categories
Self Help

How To Cope With Never-ending Bad News

Bad news and negativity on social media is almost inescapable. As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year and newer, faster-spreading variants emerge, stories about surges in infections and deaths, announcements about renewed lockdowns, and posts about vaccine anxiety are dominating our newsfeeds.

Add into this mix the stressors carried over from last year (i.e. financial stress, isolation, and fear) and it’s no wonder that people are experiencing more mental health challenges than ever.

“Self-care is self-preservation.”

Kevin Quibranza, life coach

What should we do when we feel as if we can’t take it anymore? This is where self-care comes in. And while it may initially feel ludicrous to think of taking a break when there are so many problems that need to be fixed, we are actually duty-bound to take care of ourselves. “Self-care is self-preservation,” says Kevin Quibranza, life coach and MindNation People and Operations Head. “Everything in our lives — our goals, financial security, relationships with others — are dependent on our level of health, and self-care acts ensure that we stay healthy enough to achieve positive outcomes in all of them.” If we fail to take care of ourselves and get sick — whether physically or mentally — then we risk financial uncertainties, damaged relationships, and even our lives.

With this in mind, here are some things you can do to take care of your well-being when it all seems too much to bear:

Don’t forget the self-care basics. Prioritize sleep, eat mindfully, exercise, and stay in touch with loved ones. These promote not just mental health but also our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, enabling us to feel less stressed and more resilient in anxiety-ridden times like these.

Reduce social media use. While social media is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends as well as stay informed about the latest news, studies have shown that excessive use can fuel feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation. And if your newsfeed is becoming an obituary these days, it’s time to modify your habits so that you improve your mood. “You may not have control over the things you see on social media, but you are in control of the amount of time you expose yourself to it,” Kevin points out.

Some things you can do:

1. Use anti-distraction software. “I will only check social media for one hour each day” is easier said than done because social networks were deliberately designed to be as addictive as possible by some of the smartest people in the world. The solution — use tools that enforce discipline. Focus apps like Forest, Focus To-Do, and Pomodoro Timer can block the websites or apps that you want for an amount of time that you set, and can be a bit cumbersome to disable so you think twice about “cheating.”

2. Adjust who you are following. You don’t need to follow every news outlet or every famous journalist — limit it to just two or three so you are not bombarded with the same bad news in a short period of time. And if you have friends or relatives who regularly post fake news or propaganda that raises your hackles — that’s what the “Unfollow” function is for.

3. Institute a social media free day each week. Pick one day a week to go without your phone or social media, and it will go a long way to giving your mind the space it needs to slow down and rest.

Give yourself permission to express and feel your emotions. Apart from fear and anxiety, guilt and shame are two other emotions experienced by many during this pandemic. It is frequently felt by those who look at the infection and death tolls and wonder how they were spared, as well as by those who recovered after being infected. And while these feelings are normal, they can lead to longer-term mental health issues if left unresolved. If you are feeling survivor’s guilt, try to manage them by doing the following:

4. Practice being kind to yourself. Instead of asking “Why me?” try “Why not me?”

Meditate, breathe, journal. These mindfulness activities can provide a much-needed break from the barrage of bad news that tends to worsen your guilt.

Use compassionate self-talk. Accept that what you are feeling is part of being human.

Drop some responsibilities. Stress is caused by an imbalance in the different aspects of your life (i.e. work, relationships, “me” time) so analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. “If your body and your mind are both telling you that you need a break – listen to it. Stop what you are doing and indulge in activities that can boost your happiness or gratitude,” Kevin says.

5. Find ways to help others. Studies have shown that happiness and life satisfaction increases when we volunteer or help others,” shares Kevin. “It might seem hard to do while maintaining social distancing, but simple acts like talking to and empathizing with friends who are in need or helping your family with chores at home can really change your perspective.”

6. Talk to a mental health professional. You don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you feel pain or discomfort in your physical body, so neither should you delay talking to a psychologist or WellBeing Coach if you are feeling stressed, empty, alone, afraid, or overwhelmed. And even if you are not struggling, there’s no harm in checking-in with an expert. At the end of the day, we all benefit from knowing that someone will always be there to listen.

MindNation offers 24/7 online sessions with licensed psychologists and WellBeing Coaches. Book your session now through bit.ly/mn-chat or email [email protected]

Categories
Financial Wellness

6 Ways To Help Someone Struggling Financially During The Pandemic

Money concerns are one of the main causes of stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the results of a 2020 Pulse Survey conducted among 6,085 employees by MindNation’s Consumer Insights Team, nearly half (46%) of respondents listed financial pressures as their source of mental health problems. 

“Financial security is really uncertain right now,” says Mariel Bitanga, a financial planner and founder of Simply Finance, a boutique financial planning firm committed to empowering Filipino women. “So many have been retrenched or furloughed, and even those who are lucky enough to still be employed are always worrying that their company will go under at any moment.” 

This constant threat of ongoing debt or insufficient income can result in feelings of loss of control, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. If you are in a position to ease the financial stress of a loved one, know that even the smallest acts of care can make a difference. Mariel suggests the following simple and concrete ways you can support someone who is struggling with money:

  1. Offer emotional support. Start by simply reaching out to let them know that you’ll be there for them in any way you can. “This lets the person know that they are not alone and eases their anxiety,” says Mariel. 

    Also, because people tend to anchor their identities and self-worth with their work and income, emphasize to your loved ones that they are cherished and valuable no matter what. Remind them of their core strengths and highlight the small things they do each day to contribute to their family and the community. 
  1. Help them come up with a money-making gameplan. “Sit down with them and brainstorm ways they can earn extra money or manage their existing finances,” Mariel suggests.
  2. Utilize your connections. If you have another friend whose business is stable or thriving, ask if they have job openings, or if they would be willing to hire your friend on a freelance basis. “But if you’re unsure about the financial state of your friend’s business, best not to bring it up,” cautions Mariel.
  3. For those who have put up businesses, support them through social media. This past year has seen many people turning to home-based side businesses to augment their income. While the pressure to buy their products can be strong, Mariel assures that there are other ways to show support. “One of the most powerful ways you can help their business grow is to spread the word on social media. Be deliberate in tagging them on online marketplaces, sharing their posts, and leaving glowing reviews,” Mariel says. “Doing these won’t even cost you anything.”  

    In the event that you disagree with your friend’s business plan (i.e. you feel the product is too expensive), be careful in voicing your opinion. “Just express it subtly, like ‘Hey, I saw another person selling the same thing as you but at a lower price, and it’s doing very well; maybe you can try doing the same?’” advises Mariel. “Always make sure that feedback is constructive, not solely critical.”

“One of the most powerful ways you can help their business grow is to spread the word on social media. Be deliberate in tagging them on online marketplaces, sharing their posts, and leaving glowing reviews,”

Mariel Bitanga, SimplyFinance (on supporting your loved one’s business for free)
  1. Help them find local resources. “Good financial planners don’t just help with money management, we can also sit down with them and strategize how to earn extra money,” explains Mariel. 

    When choosing a financial planner, make sure they have legitimate credentials and offer a holistic program. This means that instead of just focusing on a specific area of a person’s finances (i.e. insurance or investments), the financial planner considers all aspects of the client’s personal circumstances and financial position to identify the actions that need to be taken to meet their goals for the future. 

    Finally, Mariel adds that there is also a wealth of credible and free financial planning resources available online. She recommends the following:
  • Chinkee Tan’s “Chink Positive” (available on YouTube and Spotify) 
  • Thea Sy Bautista (available on YouTube)
  • Marvin Germo (available on YouTube)
  • Vince Rapisura (available on YouTube)
  • Simply Finance TV (available on YouTube)
  1. As a last resort, you may offer a cash gift or loan — but tread lightly. Only offer to lend or give money if you have a close relationship with the other person. “Otherwise, you risk hurting their pride or making them feel beholden to you,” explains Mariel. 

    When you do decide to offer financial assistance, do so without expectations of repayment. “When you put conditions on your assistance, you put an additional burden on the other person. So make sure your offer is an amount that you are comfortable letting go of,” Mariel advises. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, your loved ones may truly need your financial assistance. Before you commit to helping, be sure to think through what you can and can’t afford to do. Remember that if your own resources are limited, there are meaningful, effective, and creative ways to help others.

If someone you know needs help managing their financial worries, MindNation’s WellBeing Coaches are available 24/7 for teletherapy sessions in the PH and in the Middle East and North Africa Region. Book a slot now on FB Messenger or email [email protected].

Categories
Children's Mental Health

10 Ways To Cultivate Positive Teen Body Image

Body image is defined as how and what you think and feel about your body. It includes the picture of your body that you have in your mind, which might or might not match your body’s actual shape and size.

“A person has a positive or healthy body image if they feel happy and satisfied with their body, and are comfortable with and accepting of the way they look,” says Danah Gutierrez, a body positivity advocate and host of the podcast “Raw and Real.mp3” together with her twin sister Stacy. “They accept that everyone is diverse, and that the body is not an ornament to be looked at.”

On the other hand, a person with a negative unhealthy body image feels unhappy with the way they look. “People who feel like this often want to change their body size or shape,” Danah adds.

A person’s body image is influenced by many factors. These include family environment, the attitudes of peers, social media, cultural background, and more.

Puberty is also a big influence. This is a time when a child’s body goes through lots of changes; at the same time, teens encounter the pressures of fitting in and finding a sense of belonging. “In my high school, conversations about who are the best-looking in our batch were common; students would be ranked based on who was the prettiest, and I was told many times that if I lost weight, my rank would go higher,” Danah relates.

This is why if you are a parent to teens or work with teens, it is important to know that you have an influence on your child’s body image. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting your child to be well-groomed or present themselves well; these are good values,” Danah points out. “But how much do you value appearances, and is it perceived in a healthy way? Because there can be situations when teens will not process it the right way.”

An unhealthy teenage body image is directly related to low self-esteem, which are risk factors for the development of risky weight loss strategies, eating disorders, and mental health disorders like depression. “It might also lead teens to look for detrimental ways to feel desired, to feel a sense of belongingness, or to be valued, such as turning to peers or the media,” cautions Danah.

On the other hand, teens who feel good about their body grow up more likely to have good self-esteem and mental health as well as a balanced attitude to eating and physical activity.

“When teens feel good about themselves and who they are, when they carry themselves with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness — that makes them beautiful!”

Danah Gutierrez, body positivity advocate

Here are the things you can do to help your teen develop a positive body image:

  1. Explain that weight gain is normal during puberty. During this time, children feel “out of control” with the changes they are experiencing in their body. It can help tremendously to know about and understand these changes before they occur. Girls who are experiencing their first menstrual cycle, especially, should realize that growth and weight spurts are necessary and normal for their development.

  2. ‘Instagram vs. reality.’ Tell your teen to be more discerning of what they see on social media or tv. Help assuage their insecurities by explaining how the images are often digitally manipulated so that people look more ‘beautiful’ than they really are.

  3. Focus on inner beauty. “Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of body,” says Danah. “When teens feel good about themselves and who they are, when they carry themselves with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness — that makes them beautiful.”

  4. Discuss self-image. “Have an honest and vulnerable discussion with your teen about weaknesses and flaws (theirs and yours), share your own struggles and what healthy ways you took to be better,” Danah explains.

  5. Help establish healthy eating and exercise habits. If your child wants to eat differently or do more exercise, that’s OK – but make sure it’s for healthy reasons, and the dieting and exercise don’t become extreme. “Let your child know that healthy eating and physical activity aren’t just for weight loss – they’re vital for physical health, now and in the future,” points out Danah.

  6. Praise achievements. “Don’t have to limit compliments to appearance, i.e. you’re so fair-skinned, you’re so skinny,” says Danah. “Tell your child that you’re proud of them for things that aren’t related to appearance, such as ‘I love how you’re so eager to learn about life’ or ‘You’re so mature for your age’ or ‘I really enjoy your company.’” 

Also focus on what their body can do, rather than how their body looks. For example, you can say, ‘Wow, you hit that ball a long way’, rather than ‘Gosh, you’ve got big arm muscles’.

  1. Set a good example. If you show that you feel positive about your own body, it’ll be easier for your child to be positive about their body. Talk about eating healthy, not dieting; talk about exercising to be stronger, not to lose weight; and do let your child see you eating a variety of food, vegetables, and lean meats, not only diet foods or fat-free foods.

  2. Discourage family and friends from using hurtful nicknames and joking about people who are overweight. Teasing can have a negative influence on body image and can also lead to bullying. It’s important to let everyone in your family know that teasing about weight or appearance is not okay. “I would call out the commenter by saying right away ‘What did you say? I don’t think that’s funny,’” Danah says. “Then I would have a private conversation with that person and tell them I would appreciate it if they did do that in front of my kid, that’s not going to help my child in any way, and I think my child is beautiful just the way they are.”

  3. Connect them with body positive role models. There are things teens cannot share with their parents, and that is normal. “So make sure there are other older people in your circle who are trustworthy, have good character, are grounded, and who carry themselves with confidence,” says Danah. “This way when your child needs to seek advice, they don’t just rely on their peers who  are just as confused and clueless as they are.”

  4. Actively listen and communicate with your child. Respect that they have insecurities. “Don’t just tell them ‘What you are feeling is wrong,’ take the time to listen and figure them out,” suggests Danah. “Assure them that their looks are not the only thing about them, that they have so much more to offer. Make them understand that their body is an instrument, not just an ornament; it’s an instrument to experience good things and bad things, to enjoy life. And tell them that they can be beautiful in so many other ways than just through their appearances.”

As a parent, teacher, or close adult relative, you are the most influential role model in your children’s life. If your teen seems to have anxiety or stress about how he or she looks, start by talking with them about your concerns. And if things don’t change and you’re still worried, consider reaching out to a health professional. MindNation’s psychologists are available 24/7 for online consultations with you or your child. Book  a session now through bit.ly/mn-chat or email [email protected] . Rest assured that all conversations will be kept secure and confidential.

Categories
Children's Mental Health Featured

4 Ways To Prevent Student Burnout

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.

If you or your child need someone to talk to, MindNation psychologists are available 24/7 for teletherapy sessions. To book a session, visit https://bit.ly/mn-chat or email [email protected].

“There are many 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,” says Dr. Natasha Esteban-Ipac, a pediatrician and adolescent-medicine specialist. “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 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 express their emotions in healthy ways so they do not bottle up their feelings,” 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 they are 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:

  • Regular times for meals and exercise
  • Limiting non-school related screen time 
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Always learning. “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 to solve problems together. 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).
    • 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. “‘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.



Categories
Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

6 Ways To Cope With Holiday Depression

Are the holiday blues bogging you down? Find out how you can manage your emotions better so that you can still enjoy the Christmas season. 

If you find yourself feeling persistently sad, anxious, or hopeless around Christmas time, seek professional help. MindNation psychologists are available for teletherapy sessions 24/7 (even during the holidays). Book a session now through https://bit.ly/mn-chat.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many of us are celebrating the holidays. As we struggle with financial insecurity, the death of loved ones, and fear of contracting the disease, we may be feeling additional stress, sadness, or anxiety instead of love, peace, and joy. 

“First of all, it’s completely normal if you do not feel happy during what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year,” says Riyan Portuguez, RPsy RPsm (also known as The Millennial Psychologist). “Studies have shown that the holidays can trigger or exacerbate feelings of isolation, grief, and sadness, and anxiety.”

That being said, there are things you can do to minimize the stress and depression that you may be feeling during the holidays.

  1. Plan ahead. When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. So for next year, try to prevent strong emotions from hitting you hard during the holidays by doing all your Christmas preparations before December comes around. “This way, you don’t have to go out as much during the weeks leading up to Christmas and see all the decorations or hear the music, all of which can trigger your depression,” says Riyan.
  1. Reduce social media use. When you are bombarded with images of other people enjoying time with their loved ones, enjoying their new gifts, or eating yummy food that you cannot afford, you will be reminded of what you don’t have and feel worse instead of happy. Take a social media break for your own peace of mind. 
  1. Remember the reason for the season. “If you are feeling down because you feel pressured to give gifts even though you have limited funds, reframe your thinking. Remind yourself of the things that matter — that you still have friends and/or family who care for you, that you have a house, food on the table, that you are alive — and celebrate those,” points out Riyan. “Don’t let the idea that Christmas has to be commemorated a certain way rule your life.” 
  1. Continue to do self-care. Exercise, sleep well, and eat healthy meals throughout the holidays. Overindulging will only compound your stress and guilt. 
  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones because of physical distancing measures, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. “Don’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season,” says Riyan. “Cry if you want to cry.”
  1. Reach out. “If you are feeling isolated or lonely, ask a trusted friend or family member to spend time with you, even just virtually,” suggests Riyan. “Talking to them will ease your concerns and offer you support and companionship during this stressful time.”

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

 

Categories
Financial Wellness

5 Tips For Financial Wellness During the Holidays

The Christmas season is the most wonderful time of the year, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be stressful for team members who are grappling with reduced income and yet feel that they have to spend to celebrate properly. So instead of feeling love, peace, and joy this Christmas, they end up feeling stressed, anxious, and guilty. 

“Financial worries can lead to poor mental health and productivity.” says Mariel Bitanga, a financial planner and founder of Simply Finance, a boutique financial planning firm committed to empowering women. “And it can get worse during this time of the year when people end up overspending and enter January with less savings or in debt.” 

To ease the anxiety and achieve financial wellness, your team needs to be more mindful and responsible about how they manage their money during the holiday season. Here are some suggestions you can share with them: 

  1. Start early. Ideally, planning for the holidays should begin in the months leading to December, not during December itself. This way, you have a head start in setting aside cash and avoid the panic that comes with scrounging for funds when D-Day comes along. MindNation WellBeing Coaches are available for teletherapy sessions 24/7 to help your team set goals and build better habits. Visit http://www.mindnation.com to know more about the MindNation CareNow Plan©.
  1. Make a list, check it twice, and stick to it. Just as your parents taught you to never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach because you’ll end up buying more food than you originally planned, neither should you do your holiday shopping without a ready list of recipients and corresponding budget.
  1. Great gifts don’t need to be expensive. “Scour online for cheap but useful finds,” Mariel advises. “If you are crafty, make something out of your own hands. Lastly, promote sustainability by normalizing giving secondhand gifts, like a dress that doesn’t fit you anymore but you know will look good on your friend.”

    Gifts can also be non-material. “During these tough times, a simple gesture or word of encouragement will mean the world to someone who is struggling,” assures Mariel.
  1. “Don’t go into debt just to impress people or make them happy,” Mariel says. This means you shouldn’t feel obliged to give gifts if you really cannot afford it. “If the gift giver is sincere and a real friend, they will not expect anything in return; just don’t forget to say ‘thank you,’” she adds.
  1. When all the spending is done, reflect on what you could have done better and set your goals for NEXT YEAR. “Financial responsibility entails a lot of self-reflection,” Mariel reminds. “When you have the time, sit down and audit your finances. Think about what you can improve on, and what your financial goals are for the following year so that you can start preparing.” A financial planner can help you outline your goals in an objective manner, help you make sense of the computations, and create recommendations and action steps to fulfill those goals. “We’re here to give advice and present a clearer picture about your financial status,” Mariel explains.

And in case you do overspend or miss out on your financial goals this Christmas season, forgive yourself. “We are going through tough times right now, so don’t be too hard on yourself,” Mariel assures. “There are always ways to change the financial plan and save more, you just have to be creative and trust the process.”

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Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

Happy Hour: 8 Simple Ways To Unwind After A Stressful Day

At the end of a long and tiring day, it’s tempting to just plop down on the bed and sleep off the stress. But research has shown that doing so has the adverse effect of keeping you up at night because you did not give your body and brain the time to detach from work mode.   

Instead of trying to go straight to sleep, do some fun and relaxing activities first to clear out the stressful and negative emotions that stayed with you throughout the day. Once you have sufficiently decompressed, you will sleep better and wake up the following day more refreshed and prepared for the challenges ahead. 

Here are some suggestions for unwinding:

  • Take a warm bath

A warm bath is perfect for relaxing because it activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for the rest-and-digest response that occurs in our body when we’re at rest) and it relaxes the muscles. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to truly enjoy the bath. A rushed shower will not help you feel very relaxed.

  • Use aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. Oils like lavender and lemon in particularly are used to improve sleep. If you are hesitant about lighting scented candles, purchase a diffuser instead and plug it in your bedroom or bathroom. 

  • Listen to music

Music is a powerful stress management tool – it has been proven to help slow heart rate, decrease stress hormones, and lower blood pressure. Singing along to your favorite songs can also take your mind off your worries. So listen to your favorite playlist or CD while you get ready for bed.

  • Drink tea

Tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that reduces mental and physical stress and keeps us calm. If you have the time, brew a pot from loose tea leaves rather than simply dunking a tea bag in a cup. 

  • Meditate

Science has shown that controlled breathing can help manage stress. Find a quiet spot where you can sit properly, then take slow, deep, measured breaths that swell your abdomen rather than your rib cage. Stay this way for five to 10 minutes. You can even use meditation apps like Headspace or Calm to guide you.

  • Indulge in some comfort food

If you have three or more hours to spare before bedtime, have a proper dinner. Avoid caffeine or sugary foods though, because these can mess with your sleep. Instead, fill your plate with whole grain carbohydrates, leafy vegetables, fatty fish, and fruits.

  • Ignore your phone

Responding to messages and repeatedly checking social media can amount to a serious energy drain and increase in stress, so switch your phone to silent mode as soon as you get home, and put it someplace where you cannot readily see it so that you won’t be tempted to take a peek when temptation strikes. 

  • Laugh

Laughter is the best medicine for stress. It relaxes the whole body, triggers the release of endorphins, and reduces stress hormones. Watch a few episodes of your favorite sitcoms, goof around with pets or children, or go to karaoke bar with friends.

Always take time to relax after a long day at work. Simple things like taking a warm bath or eating a warm dinner with friends can rejuvenate your mind and body and get you ready for a brand new day tomorrow.

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Featured Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

7 Ways To Become More Everyday

Mindfulness is defined by the dictionary as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgement. 

In today’s fast-paced world, getting many things done in the shortest time possible is seen as a benchmark of success. Slowing down and staying focused on the present is seen as unproductive and a waste of time. But practicing mindfulness has been scientifically proven to have benefits. These include:

Improved overall well-being: Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, it helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with challenging events. By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are able to form deeper connections with others.

Improved physical health. Mindfulness can help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate digestive difficulties.

Improved mental health. Psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including: depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, couples’ conflicts, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How to practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is not about sitting cross-legged and meditating for hours; rather, it’s making a deliberate attempt to focus on your present thoughts, feelings, and activities. This means you can practice mindful living in your everyday activities. Here are 7 ways:

  1. Mindful eating

Mindless eating occurs when you simply go through the motions of putting food in your mouth and your thoughts are somewhere else – i.e. on the tv show in front of you, on the newsfeeds of your social media accounts, or on the difficult emotions that you are trying to comfort through food. When you eat without focus, it can contribute to physical problems like overeating and consuming too much salt or sugar.

Mindful eating is simply pay attention to what you are eating. Really see what is on your plate, so that you can check if you are eating a balanced meal. Junk foods should be taken in moderation, if not kept to a minimum. Don’t gobble everything in one go; chew the food slowly to make it easier for your stomach to digest it. Savor the tastes. Notice when you are getting full so that you can stop. When you become more intentional about what you’re eating, you’ll be better equipped to focus on fueling your body with the nutrition it needs.

  1. Mindful listening. 

When someone is talking to you, give him your full attention. Look at him in the eye instead of doing work, chores, or scrolling through your phone. Accord your companion the respect that you would also like to receive. 

  1. Mindful communication.

When you talk to someone, think before responding, especially if the subject is contentious. Don’t interrupt — wait until they finish talking before responding. 

Do not lash out in anger, as it can make the situation worse. Pay attention to how you are feeling, then see if you can give your opinions calmly and rationally.

  1. Engage in day-to-day activities mindfully.

Do you ever have trouble recalling whether you’ve brushed your teeth already before going to bed? Or do you sometimes forget why you walked into a certain room? Those are signs that you have a lot of things going on in your mind and you aren’t being mindful. The best way to focus on the present is to tune in to the physical sensations of the activity at hand, becoming fully aware of everything you do, and not thinking about anything else.

So if you are brushing your teeth, savor the feel of the warm water in your mouth, of the bristles going around your teeth, or of the minty fresh flavor of the toothpaste. If you are about to go into a room to get something, think about what the object looks like and how it will feel to grasp it in your hands. Don’t think about doing other things if you have not yet completed the task that you originally set out to do.

  1. Take pauses throughout the day

If you are having a busy day and are moving from one task to the next, it can be difficult to stay mindful. When this happens, try taking mini-breaks throughout the day to practice a few basic mindfulness exercises, like:

  • Focusing on your breath – inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale through the nose as well. The length of your inhales and exhales should be the same. Count your breaths; continue breathing in and out in an even manner until you reach one hundred.
  • Gentle stretches – chair yoga can be done without having to leave your desk, and it only takes 15 minutes 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation — work on tensing and relaxing your muscles, one muscle group at a time. With practice, you’ll learn to recognize when you’re tensing up certain parts of your body.
  1. Do one thing at a time

Many people equate multi-tasking with being productive, but the truth is when your brain is madly shifting from one activity to the next, it is losing attention and not retaining as much information as it should – so it ends up being very unproductive! The next time you are tempted to do more than one thing at the same time, bring your focus to the task that is more important. Put your phone on silent mode or log out of your social media accounts so that you will not be tempted to check every notification that pops up; set a timer for the amount of time you need to work, and it is only when time is up that you can move on to doing something else. 

  1. Accepting yourself

Lastly, the best way to stay focused on the present is to focus on yourself. This means perceiving your experience and simply acknowledging it rather than judging it as good or bad. For example, when you feel pain, whether it’s physical, (such as a painful shoulder) or mental (like depression or anxiety) don’t wallow in despair or blame yourself or others. Simply acknowledge what happened, learn what mistakes were made so you don’t repeat it in the future, then focus on things in the present that can make you happy.

Mindfulness is a “practice” because no one will get it when they first start, and no one can claim that they are living mindfully 100% of the time. It is human nature for the mind to wander and be distracted. But just keep trying and be patient; the goal is not to live mindfully all the time, but to do so more often than not. When you begin to focus on the present, you can start enjoying benefits like decreased stress, improved relationships (with others and with yourself), and greater overall happiness.