Women’s presence makes the workplace more meaningful. But do organizations create an equally nurturing environment where they can flourish? Companies should cultivate psychologically safe spaces for female employees. And that’s what Home Credit Philippines and its Chief People Officer, Alpha Omega Aquino, are doing.
Alpha was one of the many Filipinas who struggled with work-life balance when she worked abroad. Apart from long, stressful work hours, she had to be absent from important family events, felt isolated, and was constantly on the verge of burnout. Working as a woman in a non-Catholic country and male-dominated industry was challenging due to her gender. These negative experiences led to frustration and anger, feelings of inadequacy, and even depression.
After 15 years of working overseas, Alpha decided to go back home and eventually found her way to Home Credit in 2019.
Home Credit provides world-class financial inclusion, lending, and other similar services to customers, mostly first-time borrowers. They take pride in being a financial ally that develops and delivers innovative financial services for financing purchases, for their clients to save for the future, and for businesses to develop closer relationships with their customers. As the company’s current Chief People Officer for four years now, Alpha takes care of over 14,000 employees, ensuring that their physical, mental, social and financial needs are met. She especially strives to make sure that the women of Home Credit won’t have to experience what she has gone through.
Creating a #HavenForHer: What Companies Can Do To Promote Women’s Safety And Wellbeing In The Workplace
Home Credit and Alpha are at the forefront of ensuring that Home Credit’s employees, especially women, work in a safe space where they won’t have to feel excluded, stressed, and mentally depleted. “Twice a year we have our eNPS survey, [in] which more than 85% of our employees participate. It’s a very good data point for us to improve the services we provide for our employees,” Alpha tells MindNation. This way, Home Credit can stay on top of employee wellbeing, maintain their job satisfaction, and foster engagement. The data that they gather also informs how Home Credit can address their concerns, create positive mental health outcomes, reduce stress and anxiety, and help employees at risk for mental health issues by providing them with psychosocial support and resources.
Home Credit is also committed to promoting gender equality in the workplace by providing equal pay and opportunities for women to advance in their careers. They also offer hybrid work arrangements and wellness leaves to support work-life balance. In addition, they foster a culture of respect and inclusion by addressing and preventing harassment and discrimination of women and promoting diversity and inclusion.
Home Credit is also committed to promoting gender equality in the workplace by providing equal pay and opportunities for women to advance in their careers.
Supporting Companies In Creating A Gender-Inclusive Workplace Culture
The commitment of Home Credit and Alpha to building a work culture that prioritizes health and wellbeing has earned them Workbean’s Workplace Health Advocate of the Year Award. last March 2023. Read all about it here. With the initiatives mentioned, Home Credit and Alpha successfully created a positive, respectful, and supportive workplace culture that every woman can describe as a #HavenForHer.
MindNation is also committed to supporting companies in creating a gender-inclusive workplace culture that prioritizes employee wellbeing. With the help of our mental health professionals, we can guide you in building a culture of empathy and mutual support that employees will find healthy, fulfilling, and meaningful. For more information, email us at [email protected].
The social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed people to situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation from loved ones, fear of the virus, business bankruptcy and job loss, and even return-to-work anxiety. Because of this, experts have declared that the next global health crisis will be a mental health pandemic.
To help address these issues, the local government of Pasig City in the Philippines and MindNation renewed and expanded the partnership that began in December 2020. Under the terms of the revised agreement, MindNation will be providing FREE mental health services to City Government frontliners. Plans are also underway to extend the same service to Pasig City residents who are small and mid-size enterprise owners.
These services include 24/7 teletherapy sessions with psychologists, 24/7 chat support with a trained mental health professional, mental health webinars, and Premium access to the MindNation app.
“We are very thankful to MindNation for reaching out to our local government unit and greatly alleviating the stresses of our public servant employees through their advocacies in mental health.”
Atty. Diego Luis Santiago, Asst. City Government Department Head II from the Office of The City Administrator.
The partnership kicked off this morning with an onboarding talk from MindNation Chief Product and Data Officer, Cat Triviño, and a stress management seminar conducted by MindNation Chief WellBeing Officer, Eiza Fusingan for members of the City Government’s Ugnayan sa Pasig Unit and the Office of the City Administrator.
“A barrier to mental health support is inaccessibility; many are unable to receive appropriate, affordable services in a timely manner ” says MindNation Chief Impact Officer Kana Takahashi. “Community partnerships like these are key to improving access to mental health care and ensuring that people know where to go for help.”
“The importance of mental health cannot be overstated, especially from our experience during the time of the pandemic and even during our daily duties. Oftentimes, our frontliners come face to face with stressful situations, affecting us mentally and emotionally, causing new or aggravating already existing psychosocial disorders. We are very thankful to Mindnation for reaching out to our local government unit and greatly alleviating the stresses of our public servant employees through their advocacies in mental health.” says Atty. Diego Luis Santuago, Asst. City Government Department Head II from the Office of the City Administrator.
While understanding and awareness about mental health and its issues has increased in the recent years, we are sure there are still some topics that need clarification.
MindNation psychologists and WellBeing Coaches are available 24/7 if you need someone to talk to; just message bit.ly/mn-chat to book a session.
Riyan Portuguez RPsy RPm (also known as Your Millennial Psychologist on Facebook) answers the 10 most common questions about mental health and wellness below:
What is mental health?
Riyan: Mental health is the science of self-love. It’s about honoring your emotions and boundaries, and allowing yourself to receive proper and evidence-based care so that you attain personal growth, maximize productivity, and make significant contributions to your community.
What causes mental health problems?
Riyan: Mental health is a complicated matter. It varies from person to person and occurs from the interaction of the following factors:
Neuro-biological (i.e. chemical imbalances in the brain, genetic predispositions to certain disorders that may be triggered by stress or trauma)
Socio-cultural (i.e. a dysfunctional family life, substance abuse)
Psychological (i.e. severe psychological trauma, neglect)
How can I tell if someone I love has a mental health concern?
Riyan: If your loved one exhibits the following warning signs for two weeks or more, you are right to be concerned:
Significant changes in their behavior, such as extreme angry outbursts or bouts of sadness
Withdrawal from friends and other normal activities
No longer pays attention to grooming and/or personal hygiene
Confused thinking, inability to concentrate, lapses at work
Significant weight gain or loss, loss of appetite or overeating
Talks about doing harm to themselves or to others.
When you are in doubt about your friend’s condition, always seek the assistance of a mental health professional.
How can I tell if I have a mental health problem?
Riyan: The answer is the same as the above, although it can be harder to recognize the warning signs if you are talking about yourself. This is especially true if you are the type of person who is frequently perceived by others as “strong,” or if you are the one always providing help to others. Listen to friends and family and keep an open mind if they express concern about the state of your mental health.
I feel strong, negative emotions like anger and fear sometimes; does this mean I need to see a therapist as soon as possible?
Riyan: Not right away. Emotions, even the negative ones, are a normal part of life, so go ahead and allow yourself to feel them and to lose yourself in them. Suppressing or dismissing these emotions because they are “bad” will only lead to emotional or psychological disorders. But if you experience negative emotions recurring too often or last more than two weeks, or you feel they are getting stronger or more out of control, then seek help.
What is the difference between sadness and depression?
Riyan: Sadness is an emotion. It is a response to a specific situation — something happened that made you sad. But you are still able to function (i.e. work, do homework) and experience other emotions (i.e. you feel happy when friends comfort you). It usually goes away after a few days.
On the other hand, depression is a mental illness. It is pervasive sadness — it affects all other areas of your life, like your work and relationships with others. There is also no known or specific trigger — you don’t even know why you feel sad anymore — and it is usually accompanied by feelings of apathy and numbness.
What is the difference between fear and anxiety?
Riyan: Fear is an emotion caused by something that is in the present and it is specific — there is an imminent situation that causes you to feel afraid, but you are still able to do normal things like eat, sleep, or work. Once the source of fear passes, you don’t think about it anymore.
Anxiety is a mental disorder — it is an intense level of fear or worry about something that will occur in the future. You anticipate that something terrible will happen. People with anxiety tend to exhibit the following behaviors:
Unhelpful thinking patterns — i.e. “What if–?” scenarios, “Should” and “Must” statements
Magnification — the source of fear is insignificant but in the person’s mind, it is catastrophic
Overgeneralization — the problem attaches itself to all other parts of their lives (i.e. “I did poorly at work” becomes “I am such a loser”)
Physical symptoms such as hyperventilating and heart palpitations
People experiencing normal fear will also have negative thoughts, but after awhile they will follow these up with questions or narratives that will challenge those negative beliefs and cultivate optimism. For example, someone whose boss gives them a difficult task will worry about doing well, but after some time will figure out strategies to cope. And once the difficult task has been completed, they move on to the next assignment.
What is the difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist, and therapist? How do I know which is the right one for me?
Riyan: A psychiatrist is permitted to prescribe medicine, so their focus is on treating the neurobiological aspect of mental disorders. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication, and will focus on the patient’s sociocultural factors before diagnosing the illness. They are also therapists because they are the ones who create the interventions or treatment plans for patients.
Psychologists and psychiatrists work together. If psychologists feel that the physical symptoms of a patient are strong, they may refer the person to a psychiatrist first to lessen the symptoms, then ask him or her to come back to continue with other forms of therapy.
Is there a way I can prevent mental health problems?
Riyan: Practice healthy lifestyle and self-care habits like eating the proper diet, frequently exercising, and getting enough sleep. Get help whenever you feel overwhelmed by your problems, beginning with talking to friends and family. Don’t be afraid to consult a mental health professional if the need calls for it.
Is there a cure for mental health problems?
Riyan: If by “cure” you mean it will disappear forever, then the answer is “no.” However, mental health problems are treatable. There are many people who recover, but they need to continuously work with psychologists or monitor their lifestyle to reduce incidences of relapse.
And always remember that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It is similar to having eyesight problems — there is no cure for nearsightedness, but you can wear corrective lenses and carry on normally for the rest of your life.
Harrison Ford was a carpenter before being casted as Han Solo in the “Star Wars” movies. Today, he is one of the world’s best-known actors and an enduring pop culture icon.
When Michael Jordan retired from basketball in 2003, he shifted to professional baseball and then to running his own business. In 2014, he became the first billionaire player in NBA history; he is also currently the 5th-richest African-American.
Finally, Sara Blakely was selling office supplies door-to-door when she got the idea for making shapewear; the company that she founded is now a household name — Spanx.
What do these people have in common? They all got to where they are now by stepping out of their comfort zones.
What’s your comfort zone?
A comfort zone is not a physical place. It is a frame of mind, a place where you feel comfortable and your abilities are not being tested. In other words, comfort zones are comfortable, safe ways of living and working, usually in a set routine.
Staying in one’s comfort zone has its advantages — you have zero stress, you complete tasks faster, and you don’t expend as much mental energy.
However, it also has its drawbacks — you don’t learn new skills, become complacent, and even miss out on opportunities for growth.
Remember that growth only happens when you are learning, and learning only happens when you encounter something new. When you make changes and take risks, you transition and even evolve into someone better, and sometimes in the process you even transform those around you.
The story of my life
My life has been all about expanding my comfort zones. After graduating top of my class from one of the most prestigious universities in the Philippines in 2000, I embarked on a storied career in Marketing for three Fortune 500 companies for over two decades, lived in seven different countries in the process, and even started my own business. But in June 2017, while on a business trip in Singapore, I sustained a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). I spent 21 days in a coma and had to undergo three brain surgeries. When I woke up, I did not know how to eat, sit, or walk. Doctors told me that because of my injury, my brain was now only operating at 40% capacity. I was also diagnosed with aphasia, a disorder arising from a severe TBI that causes the patient to have trouble speaking, reading, writing, and understanding language. And finally, because of the swelling in my brain, I became blind in one eye.
“Changes don’t have to be big, and they do not have to happen overnight. By simply being creative, you can make small tweaks to your routine while you are on lockdown and already challenge yourself.”
I was told that with therapy, my brain capacity could improve up to 80% — at the most. But I refused to let doctors determine my fate; in my quest to return to my normal life, I challenged myself and those tasked to treat me. I demanded daily speech therapy, even if my therapists only suggested that I see them thrice a week. I also asked for homework, and spent every day answering grammar worksheets, writing in a journal, and practicing giving presentations. I even started a light boxing exercise regimen with my physical therapist. On top of all these, I resumed planning for my wedding, which would be held 11,000 kilometers away in southern France.
When she I tested by my neurologist six months after my accident, my brain was operating at 95%.
In 2019, I co-founded MindNation, an innovative mental health and well-being company that has grown globally as a trusted partner for organizations and communities alike. I am proof that if we step out of your comfort zone, take risks, and face challenges head-on, we can evolve our lives, relationships, and even careers into something better. Maybe not right away, and definitely not guaranteed; but at least there is that possibility.
From the comfort zone to the growth zone
This is not to say that you do need to experience a life-altering accident to challenge yourself, or move to another country to experience taking risks. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it virtually impossible for us to have adventures. But all these do not mean we have to resign ourselves to a life of idleness and inactivity. Changes don’t have to be big, and they do not have to happen overnight. By simply being creative, you can make small tweaks to your routine while you are on lockdown and already challenge yourself.
Here are some of the things I do to continuously challenge my comfort zone even when I am homezoned:
Working out is synonymous with challenging yourself. I am currently working with a personal trainer online, even though exercising is one of the things that I don’t like to do. Because of our one-on-one set-up, my coach is constantly focused on me, always telling me to squat lower or bend deeper. I hate it, but I end up learning that I can do things I never thought possible.
For those who love exercising, one way to stay challenged is to change up your workout program from time to time. Don’t just brush off yoga because you think you’ll never be able to touch your toes or disregard strength training because it seems intimidating. Stepping outside your fitness comfort zone can help you spice up your routine, help break a fitness plateau, and even increase your motivation.
Veer away from comfort foods.
Trying new dishes is one of the easiest ways you step out of your comfort zone. If you’ve been having your meals constantly delivered like me, order a dish that you’ve never ordered before or that you think you’ll never like, or buy from a different restaurant entirely. Even if you end up not liking the food, you are slowly training your brain to adapt to risk-taking. Next time, when you take on bigger challenges, they won’t seem so scary anymore.
Make lockdown date nights as close to real date nights as possible.
Before lockdowns happened, date nights meant dressing up, candlelit dinners at romantic restaurants, and evenings filled with meaningful conversations. But if you and your partner have been isolating at home 24/7 for more than two years now, there are ways to break this routine and rekindle the spark.
When my husband and I order food on date nights, we make sure to remove them from the takeout containers and place them on real plates. We also use real utensils and bring out the formal glassware — even if we’re just drinking water. Finally, we make sure to dress up, sit facing each other at the dining table — not in front of the tv — and put our phones away for 2 hours so that we can have an honest-to-goodness conversation. These take a lot of effort, but in doing so we make the experience more meaningful.
Dare to have uncomfortable conversations.
The pandemic has made talking to friends boring because there is no longer anything new to share. “‘What’s new with you?’ ‘Nothing, I’m still stuck at home like you.’ So instead of asking people about their day during virtual catch-ups, I suggest introducing topics you never used to talk about, like world affairs or philosophical questions. These may be boring topics, but talking about them can help everyone learn something new and even take your relationship to a whole new level.
Expand your professional skill set.
I may be the chairman of a company, but I still block time in my calendar every day for strategic thinking and planning. This includes updating myself on what competitors are doing, reading up on industry trends, and holding discussions with the team to stay on top of issues and concerns. By doing these, I grow not only myself but also the business.
Not a C-suite executive? You can still challenge your professional comfort zone even if you are a junior team member. Take on an extra project on top of what you are already doing — being mindful of your own capacities and limitations, of course. Another way is to enroll in that digital marketing course, for example, even if you don’t know the difference between ‘reach’ and ‘engagement.’ Or reach out to your manager and ask if you can schedule a short meeting, to get feedback and advice on your current path.
Investing in skills like these not only represent a new challenge, they can build resilience, foster creativity, refresh your confidence, and open up more opportunities than ever.
To do or not to do, that is the question
At first glance, there is nothing wrong with choosing to stay in your comfort zone. Here, you stay safe, predictable, and it’s not as if you will kill anyone for doing so. But what it will kill is any purpose, meaning, or surprise in your life. When you don’t try new things, you won’t have any excitement, originality, or new motivation about anything.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing us to change our perspectives on how to live, act, and interact with others. Use the time spent in lockdown to look for opportunities that will challenge your comfort zone; the result is either you say ‘This really isn’t for me,’ or you become so comfortable with the experience that you grow from it and it becomes your new comfort zone.
If your team is struggling with productivity, MindNation has a repertoire of virtual webinars to help employees with time management, manage stress, and avoid burnout. Book these talks for your team by emailing [email protected]
When you are better at planning your day, prioritizing work tasks, and eliminating distractions, you can achieve your goals and be less impacted by stress or burnout. Whether you’re a student, stay-at-home-parent, or working in a company, time management is an essential skill to have.
Here are some things you can do to manage your time better:
“By learning the art of saying a tactful “no” to others, you’ll protect your time budget and improve your focus on your most valuable activities.”
Salma Sakr, MindNation Chief Growth Officer
Avoid multitasking. Many people believe that multitasking makes them productive, but all that shifting back and forth between tasks isn’t actually that efficient because each time you do it, it takes your brain more time to refocus. So try to complete one project or task at a time before moving to the next one; your brain will thank you for it.
Merge different email accounts into one inbox. According toa 2019 report by management consulting company McKinsey & Co., the average professional spends 28% of the work day reading and email. Get this time back by making a few changes to your email settings and having all incoming email delivered to just one inbox.
Treat your calendar as your time budget. Time isn’t money, but it does behave like money; it must be budgeted because when it’s gone, it’s gone. So when you schedule things into your calendar, think of it the same way you would think about withdrawing money from a bank account. Everyone has a weekly limit of 168 hours; try your best to live within this time budget and never overdraw.
Avoid having back-to-back-to-back appointments. Leave space between your appointments for unexpected interruptions, to take a moment to relax, or to prepare for the next meeting.
Say “No” more often than you say “Yes.” By learning the art of saying a tactful “no” to others, you’ll protect your time budget and improve your focus on your most valuable activities.
Procrastinate properly. When a new idea comes into your head, ask yourself, “Do I need to do this now, or can I do it later?” Appropriate procrastination can help you, because you’re still going to complete those ideas, just at a later date. Don’t limit your calendar to what can be done today or within a week; instead, think in terms of months or even years.
Identify your Most Valuable Activities (MVAs). These are the top two activities that you excel at, the ones that would cost you the most per hour to pay someone else to do. All the other activities that you do during work time other than those two MVAs are your less valuable activities, or LVAs.
In order to achieve maximum results during the limited amount of work time you have each week, prioritize your MVAs in your calendar and delegate LVAs to your team or your colleagues when possible. By leaving less room for options, you minimize the temptation to multitask and improve your overall focus. The result: more disposable time, and you reach your goals faster.
Time will always fill the space you give it, so use it wisely.
Cost and time are two of the common barriers to therapy. You probably consider it an added (maybe even unnecessary) cost, and you wonder if you even have the time to squeeze in a session every two weeks on top of all the things you need to do. But just like you have no qualms visiting and paying for a doctor to treat a physical ailment, neither should you hesitate seeing a mental health professional for your mental health concerns. Below are the five reasons therapy is a worthy investment:
“Therapists are trained to listen to you and help you out of your situation; and because they are essentially strangers, they can provide a safe and unbiased environment where you can be honest. “
Kevin Quibranza, MindNation
Therapy can help you organize your feelings, thoughts, and experiences so you can get a better understanding of yourself.
When you spend enough time with a therapist, you will be able to know yourself better and ultimately control some aspects of your life which you thought were not possible. A good example of this are people who have anger management issues. By talking to a therapist, they are able to understand the past traumas that shaped their present condition, allowing them to finally manage that condition.
Therapy can help you have more fulfilling relationships. This includes with family, partners, and colleagues.
Your mental health defines how you view life. If you are in a state of depression for example, and leave it untreated, you may start believing that life is bleak and relationships are useless so you start pushing people away. But if you have a healthy state of mind, good relationships will always follow.
Therapy can help you achieve your goals, stay focused, and hold yourself accountable.
The ultimate goal of therapy is to remove roadblocks — whether innate or situational — so you can achieve your life goals. This is why we advise people to see a psychologist or Wellbeing Coach even if they do not have problems yet, so they can take preventative measures and arm themselves with certain life skills (i.e. communication skills) to make them cope with unexpected situations better.
Therapy can help improve your mood and quality of life.
Therapy can give you opportunities which you never thought possible due to limiting beliefs such as self-esteem issues and faulty thinking. These are normal and are experienced by everyone, so it always helps to have a third party expert who can help us get rid of our own perceived limits and provide us with a different perspective.
You are more likely to have better healthand wellbeing.
We all have days when we are burnt out or struggling, and on those days, our bodies do not feel as well as they should — we have problems sleeping, feel extra tired, or even experience headaches or back pains. There is a direct correlation with how your mind is at the moment and how your body feels. This is why at MindNation, we always advocate holistic health — take care of BOTH your mind and body, as well as the other dimensions of well-being (i.e. emotional, cultural, and spiritual).
Therapy provides emotional relief that you might otherwise not be able to find.
There’s nothing wrong with talking to friends or family — if you just need quick advice or a listening ear, that’s okay. But sometimes, we need more than a shoulder to cry on. There are situations that our family members or friends may not be equipped to handle, or they aren’t willing to handle it since they also have their own problems.
Therapists are trained to listen to you and help you out of your situation; and because they are essentially strangers, they can provide a safe and unbiased environment where you can be honest with your thoughts and feelings and not worry about being judged or shamed.
Therapy is the “mental and emotional health education” that you never got at school.
Mental health education in our country still has a long way to go, as evidenced by the stigma towards those mental health concerns. By going to therapy and asking questions, you learn about your condition, ease your anxieties, and receive treatment that is rooted in facts and science instead of myths or conjecture.
I have personally seen what happens to people who do not take care of their mental health because they do not want to spend additional time or money to address their concerns — their conditions worsen and they end up spending even more time and money to treat them. Therapy is a valuable tool that can help you to solve problems, set and achieve goals, improve your communication skills, teach you new ways to track your emotions, and keep your stress levels in check. It can help you to build the life, career, and relationship that you want. By looking at therapy as an investment, you ensure a better future for yourself and those around you.
MindNation psychologists and WellBeing Coaches are available 24/7 for teletherapy sessions. Book a session now through bit.ly/mn-chat.
You’ve finally booked an appointment with a mental health professional — congratulations! You’re on your way towards a better mind, better you.
Maybe you’re feeling nervous about it; that’s totally normal. Or maybe you just want to be prepared; that’s also commendable. Whatever your reason, we’ve put together some general ideas of what you might expect if you’re headed into therapy for the first time so you’ll feel more at ease.
“When attending a therapy session, go into it with open eyes. Be curious, be honest, ask questions, and do not be afraid. Think of it as talking to a friend.”
Kevin Quibranza, MindNation People & Operations Head
BEFORE THE SESSION:
Eat a healthy meal, but not too much. If you’re hungry, you won’t be able to focus on the therapy. If you’re full, you might end up feeling sleepy in the middle of the session.
Dress comfortably but appropriately.
List down concerns you want addressed or any questions you may have. This allows you to maximize the time you have with the therapist.
Inform household members that you should not be disturbed for the whole hour (unless it’s an emergency).
Be in front of your computer at least 10 minutes before your session starts.This will give you enough time to settle down and check for anything (or anyone) who may disturb your privacy, i.e. if family members are around, gently remind them to move elsewhere.
Bring waterbecause talking will make you thirsty, and you want to avoid leaving your computer –and wasting precious minutes — just to get a glass of water.
Make sure you’re sitting comfortably; if you want to walk around while talking, that’s also okay as long as you don’t disrupt other people. I wouldn’t recommend lying down during sessions because it can cause drowsiness.
If you are using your cellphone for the session, make sure to mute all notifications. If you are on your computer, put your phone on silent mode.
DURING THE SESSION
Because it’s your first time, the therapist will need to conduct an assessment. Some therapists will ask background questions about your childhood or your family to get to know you better. Others will ask you to share what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, or your reason for seeing them.
Some therapists take down notes while you speak; others will just listen and write their notes at the end of the session.
Rest assured that your conversation will be kept in the strictest confidentiality. The therapist-patient relationship is special because it is one where you can be totally honest and not worry about being criticized, interrupted, or judged.
You won’t be expected to tell your entire life story. If you booked a session for a specific reason, i.e. work stress, then the conversations will only revolve around that topic.
You won’t be forced to feel anything. It’s okay if you cry, it’s also perfectly okay if you don’t. A healthy therapy is one where there is a connection between the client and the therapist and any emotions that spill out are brought about by that connection and not because it is “expected” of you.
You are free to take down notes especially if the therapist likes to give instructions or homework. Writing may also help you remember some of the key points raised in the session.
You don’t have to answer questions if you are not comfortable or ready. It is a therapist’s job to ask intrusive questions, but if they are really making you uncomfortable, just say so.
If for whatever reason you feel that the therapist’s approach is not effective, it’s okay to let them know and try to find someone else. Choosing a therapist is like choosing a partner — it might take you a few tries but if you find one that you click with, it can really bring about something great.
Don’t expect all your problems or issues to be solved after just one session. This is a misconception; talk therapy is not a quick fix. We encourage our therapists and clients to foster a connection and have multiple sessions since most of the time, problems are due to bad habits that were formed over the course of our lives and cannot be resolved in just 60 minutes.
AFTER THE SESSION
Expect to feel tired. Talking through major emotional topics for an hour is draining. Don’t go right into a big client presentation after your session; instead, drink water, calm down, and take some time to process the things that you need to do moving forward.
Expect homework. Most therapists do this to empower clients to tackle the issues they are facing themselves and not be dependent on the psychologist for their mental healing. The type of homework would depend on your situation and the therapist’s approach, but most use Cognitive Behavioral Theory approaches such as practicing relaxation or stress management techniques.
Book a follow-up session after two weeks. This will allow the therapist to check on your progress.
When attending a therapy session, go into it with open eyes. Be curious, be honest, ask questions, and do not be afraid. Think of it as talking to a friend. If you are asked questions regarding your situation, try to answer them as honestly as you can because you might end up realizing something new about yourself. It’s all part of the process; go through it, and enjoy the ride.
For those in the Philippines, MindNation psychologists and WellBeing Coaches are available 24/7 for teletherapy sessions. An initial session with a psychologist starts at P1,500, and succeeding consults will cost only P2,500 per hour.
Clients may opt to avail of a 5-session package for only P12,125. On the other hand, the first session with a WellBeing Coach will cost only P500, with additional sessions amounting to P1,000 per hour. Clients may also choose to buy a 3-session package for P2,850 or a 6-session package for P5,550.
Transcom Worldwide Philippines, Inc. is a global customer experience specialist providing customer care, sales, technical support, and credit management services.
MindNation sat down with Aldrin Carlos, Transcom Asia Director of Employee Engagement and Communication, to talk about how a personalized, holistic mental health program has benefited Transcom’s 9,000+ employees and how they plan to do more in the future.
Q: Why is mental health important to Transcom?
ALDRIN: Even before the pandemic, our CEO, Mark Lyndsell, recognized the need to set up a program that would cater to our people’s mental health. Mental health is an essential part of a person’s overall well-being and we simply cannot expect people to compartmentalize themselves when they are at work and bring with them their joys, tears, hopes, and fears for themselves and the people dearest to them.
We also recognize that mental health is a taboo subject, especially in the Philippines, and people didn’t want to talk about. The company felt that we should provide an environment where people’s concerns can be addressed.
Q: What were the factors that influenced your decision to make it a priority, or was there something specific that triggered it?
ALDRIN: We stepped up our mental health program when a lot of our folks started showing signs of anxiety due to the [COVID-19] pandemic. At the onset of the lockdown, there were people whose jobs were affected due to the reduced working capacity onsite. There were also concerns about job security, coping with transitions, worries for their families, etc. True to our core value of Malasakit (“concern”), the company started looking for a reliable partner to help develop a robust mental health program.
Q: How did upper management react to this plan?
ALDRIN: Our senior leadership team actively led the implementation of this initiative. Mental health was a subject in every sitrep meeting, and the members never ceased to ask if HR had already chosen a partner or what alternatives were available to ensure that people’s mental health are supported.
“A mental health program, more than just a good people investment, is a concrete manifestation of genuine care to employees and their overall well-being.”
Aldrin Carlos, Transcom’s Director of Employee Engagement and Communication
Q: What were the primary objectives and the initial steps to building a mental health program within the company?
ALDRIN: The primary objective was to provide help to anyone in the company. Similar to how we offer financial assistance through our Transcom Cares program or 24/7 medical assistance through our HMO partner, we also sought to make mental health assistance readily available for our employees. We started with simple, free hotline numbers that employees may contact, but we thought that a better way to do this meaningfully was through a partner who can offer an array of services.
Q: How did you find out about MindNation? How were they able to help?
ALDRIN: We were receiving different offers from various mental health program providers and chanced upon a meeting with Daph Bajas [of MindNation]. We expressed our needs in terms of the assistance we wanted to give to our employees and Daph came back to us with proposals on how these can be addressed. He crafted a package that gave us a free webinar for every 30 psychologists booked each month, although I believe he owes me 2 webinars per month now because we are currently booking 60 or more sessions per month. Right, Daph?
These monthly webinars, the ‘unlimited’ social conversations, and the psychologist bookings were all that we needed initially. Eventually, we reached out for more services like small group sessions, psychological first aid sessions for leaders, Monday Energy Boosters, and wind-down sessions.
Q: How did your employees react? ALDRIN: The response from our employees was generally positive, and this can be attested by the number of attendees of the mental health webinars we initially conducted, the questions that they asked during these webinars, and the volume of people as well who reached out for 24/7 social conversations and psychological consultation bookings.
Inevitably, there were those who are still not receptive or comfortable with the idea of opening up to accompaniment. The partnership with MindNation, however, allows for different avenues to reach out to people – if not through the one-on-one interventions, at least through the virtual group activities or webinars. We’ve also explored ways to orient leaders about psychological first aid so they can extend basic accompaniment to their team members.
Q: What challenges have you encountered and how are you working to resolve them?
ALDRIN: The issue now is really more on how the webinars can reach our agents, most of whom just rely on free data to be able to connect to the internet. That is why we cannot simply broadcast through Zoom and have to use Facebook Live. But the challenge with FB Live is we cannot really determine how many of our employees tune in since it is open to the public.
It is also difficult to gather so many people in a common time slot, thus, the broadcast has to be recorded and replayed either through our official FB page itself or through our onsite plasma screens.
Q: In terms of the employees’ well-being: what differences have you seen since you brought in MindNation? Anything significant that you would like to share?
ALDRIN: Among the leaders, there is now that sensitivity and greater awareness that they cannot just simply ignore the mental health concerns of their team members. Additionally, there is a clamor from them on how they can be of assistance as far as mental well-being is concerned.
We were expecting the number of bookings for psychologist consultations to go down but recent months are actually showing spikes. This could either be a sign of a real concern, especially since the pandemic is far from over, or it could be because there is now more awareness among the employees that help is available and they might as well avail of it. It was also observed that there are new hires who are availing of the services.
Q: On a personal note, what have YOU been doing to take care of your mental well-being?
ALDRIN: I am able to draw mental fortitude and resilience so far from my faith, from being grateful for the blessings and gifts I have received despite the ongoing situation, from my family, friends, and my team. There’ve been a lot of stressors but so far I have managed to not allow myself to succumb to them. I am very conscious not to allow myself to be affected by negative thoughts.
I do have projects at home that are stress-relievers and give me some sense of fulfillment – minor repairs that require some creativity, construction of an additional nook in the house, etc. I am also lucky that my work allows me to be creative and use my talents.
There are good movies via online subscription – old and new – that I watch and enjoy with my wife and kid and there are, once in a while, books published by my own friends which bring a sense of pride, joy, and inspiration.
Gratitude also allows me to help others and helping others is so rewarding and beneficial to mental health.
Q: What is the one mental health advice or practice that you take to heart, and why?
ALDRIN: To never let myself be overpowered by a concern or a problem because I am bigger than my problem, and if the problem proves to be much bigger, I have a loving family and supportive friends who will back me up. And if the problem is so huge, there is a Bigger Being that takes care of me and loves me unconditionally. Help is always available in ways human and divine.
Q: What is your advice to colleagues in the industry who are also considering mental health programs in the workforce?
ALDRIN: A mental health program, more than just a good people investment, is a concrete manifestation of genuine care to employees and their overall well-being. Go for it.
Q: What is the company looking forward to with regards to mental health and well-being this 2021?
As we continue to support our employees in any way we can, we are also looking for ways to extend our program to their loved ones. We are grateful to our employees’ families and whenever possible, we want to integrate them in the benefits we offer.
If you want to create a mental health program for your organization, you can partner with MindNation and email [email protected].
Do you find yourself turning to food for comfort — whether consciously or unconsciously — when you are facing a difficult problem, feeling stressed, or even feeling bored? If yes, then welcome to the world of stress eating.
“The purpose of eating is to have energy,” says nutritionist-coach Timothy Jeffe Ting, RND (www.timnutrition.com). “Stress eating occurs when you consume food for another purpose, which is to regulate your emotional state.”
Occasionally using food as a pick-me-up, a reward, or to celebrate isn’t a bad thing. But when eating becomes your primary emotional coping mechanism, it can impact your health in many ways. Obviously, physical health would be the first one affected. “You stress eat because you have problems — would you really want to add becoming overweight and increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease to those problems?” asks Timothy. “Then there is also your mental health. When you reach for food as a reaction to stressful stimuli, you are exhibiting impulsiveness; you use food to fill your emotional needs instead of finding healthier outlets.” In addition, while eating may feel good in the moment, the feelings that triggered the eating are still there. And you often feel worse than you did before — even ashamed and guilty — because of the unnecessary calories you’ve just consumed.
While it is possible to stop stress eating, Timothy suggests that a better alternative would be to curb it. Here are some strategies.
Don’t label food as “good” or “bad.” “Food is food,” he points out. “When we start to label a particular food, we shift focus from overall healthy eating patterns, which is what really defines a person’s well-being.”
After all, while vegetables do have a better nutritional profile, eating them all day, every day will not be good for you. On the other hand, depriving yourself of ‘bad’ or ‘forbidden’ food like ice cream or pizza will only make you crave them more intensely.
Tame your stress. While Timothy is not a mental health expert, he shares the following stress management tips:
Practice time management. “Most of the time, we feel stressed because we are not available to fulfill our tasks at work or in school efficiently,” he says. “So find ways to plan and control how much time you spend on specific activities.” Some ways you can that include:
Not spreading yourself too thin. When someone tries to draft you in to take on an additional task, say “no” more often than you say “yes.”
Prioritizing your “Most Valuable Activities” (the tasks you excel at) over “Less Valuable Activities” (other responsibilities that can be delegated to others).
Avoiding back-to-back appointments so that you have time to relax and breathe.
Do cognitive reappraisal. “If you were told that you were not accepted for the job that you applied for, would eating an entire pizza help you get another job?” Timothy asks. “No, right? So instead of feeling like a failure and reaching for food for comfort, treat the rejection as a learning opportunity or as redirection.” When you reframe your mindset this way, you will no longer be triggered by the stress.
Take away temptation. Don’t keep hard-to-resist and unhealthy comfort foods within easy reach. “We are all designed to be lazy,” Timothy points out. “If you surround yourself with cakes, cookies, and ice cream, then you will definitely eat them often. And don’t just think about yourself — even if YOU are able to exercise willpower and avoid eating them, what about the rest of your family members?”
Make healthier food alternatives more convenient. We all have fruits and vegetables at home, but no one eats them because they still have to be washed, peeled, chopped, and, sometimes, cooked before we can eat them. “Compare them to a bag of chips that you can just rip open in one second — of course you will eat the chips,” says Timothy.
So rearrange the items in your pantry or refrigerator. Place the junk foods on the highest shelf of the cabinet and the ice cream at the very back of the freezer; then put the fruits and vegetables within line of sight and easier reach.
Add, don’t subtract. Don’t deprive yourself of treats. “If you want to eat a chocolate bar, go ahead, but eat a piece of fruit afterwards,” advises Timothy. “Then next time, try eating the fruit FIRST before the chocolate.”
Eat in moderation. How to define what is moderate? Timothy suggests the 70-30 rule. “If you eat four meals a day, make the three meals healthy, filled with veggies, fruits, and lean proteins,” he shares.
Snack healthy. If you must eat for comfort, choose wisely. Timothy shares his list:
Best foods to eat when stressed:
Anything that’s warm, like hot teas. “Green and black teas contain L-theanine, which has been proven to improve mental focus and increase relaxation,” he says. “Hot drinks also force you to slow down and take deep breaths before drinking them, which can lower your stress.”
Dark chocolates. Not only are they a lower-calorie alternative, they also contain theobromine (which combats the oxidation in the body caused by stress) and magnesium (which helps people to relax and fall asleep).
Quality carbohydrates like root crops, potatoes, or corn. “Air-popped popcorn — the ones you cook on the stovetop, not the buttered ones they sell in cinemas — is extremely low in calories and high in fiber. Eat it plain or put in some salt and herbs for flavor,” shares Timothy.
Bananas, because it also contains magnesium.
Other fruits. “Anything high in Vitamin C will be helpful in reducing stress levels, because the stress hormone cortisol is mitigated by Vitamin C,” says Timothy.
Whole nuts like pistachios and almonds. According to Timothy, these contain B-vitamins that help unlock energy, since tiredness may also cause stress.
On the other hand, think twice before reaching for these foods for comfort:
Anything caffeinated. “Caffeine is a double-edged sword,” points out Timothy. “It gives you an energy boost when you want to get out of a tight spot, but the problem is you will develop a tolerance for it; eventually, you will need increasing amounts of caffeine to give you energy, and when you don’t get you fill, you might experience an energy crash.”
The solution: drink in moderation. “If you drink one cup of coffee a day in a week, try not to drink on Sundays. If you are on vacation and not feeling stressed, don’t drink at all. Also, try to get your energy from whole foods and good sleep,” Timothy advises.
Alcohol. “Alcohol gives you a buzz so you don’t think about your problems, but the problems are still there,” says Timothy. It also lowers your inhibitions, so you end up eating mindlessly, which leads to a lot of health problems in the long run.”
Anything with a huge amount of carbohydrates and fats together, without protein, such as pastries, refined goods, cookies, cakes, pastries, pizza, etc. “These are very high in calories, very easy to overeat, and will lead to a lot of problems down the line if you are overweight,” Timothy cautions.
Emotional eating tends to be automatic and virtually mindless. Before you even realize what you’re doing, you’ve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it. But if you can take a moment to pause and reflect when you’re hit with a craving, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.
If you need help building better eating habits, schedule a consultation with our WellBeing Coaches now. They are available 24/7 and rest assured that all conversations are secure and confidential. Book now through FB Messenger bit.ly/mn-chat or email [email protected]
When a friend comes to us with a problem, it’s easy for us to give advice that falls into the trap of toxic positivity — defined by clinical psychologist Dr. Jaime Zuckerman as “the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset or—my pet peeve term—‘positive vibes.’”
Toxic positivity statements may sound like any of the following:
“You’ll get over it.”
“Don’t be so negative.”
“Always look on the bright side.”
“Think happy thoughts.”
“It could be worse.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Focusing on the positive and rejecting anything that may trigger negative emotions may sound like a good thing, but according to Joyce Pring-Triviño, TV presenter, and host of the podcast “Adulting With Joyce Pring,” toxic positivity denies, minimizes, and invalidates genuine human emotional experiences. “When we exhibit toxic positivity, we deny all the negative experiences that make us human,” Joyce points out.
“Furthermore, suppressing or avoiding negative feelings can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and overall worsening of mental health,” Dr. Zuckerman says.
Psychotherapist Carolyn Karoll adds: “The pressure to appear ‘OK’ gives the impression that the person is defective when they feel distress, which can be internalized in a core belief that they are inadequate or weak. Judging oneself for feeling pain, sadness, jealousy—which are part of the human experience and are transient emotions—leads to secondary emotions, such as shame, that are much more intense and maladaptive. They…don’t give space for self-compassion, which is so vital to mental health.”
Lastly, by not acknowledging the wrong in the situation, we don’t leave room for the other person to take steps to resolve their situation. “After all, how can things get better if we’re already saying that they should be okay with what is happening?” says Joyce.
If you find yourself constantly turning to toxic positive statements to help a friend or loved one cope with their fears and anxieties, the first thing to do is not to blame yourself. “It’s also human nature to not want to dwell on the bad things,” assures Joyce. “We want to be distracted by the good because otherwise, we will get anxious ourselves.”
The next time the opportunity presents itself, work on doing the following instead:
Listen and validate other people, even if their sadness makes you uncomfortable. Everyone’s entitled to their own feelings. Don’t shame another person for their emotions.
Use healthy positivity statements:
“I know it’s hard but I believe in you.”
“It’s okay to feel bad sometimes.”
“Always look at the bright side.”
“It can be difficult to see the good in this situation, but we’ll make sense of it when we can.”
“Things can get really tough, but I am here for you.”
“I know this isn’t the outcome you were hoping for and that can be painful. But trust that this feeling won’t last forever.”
Do not offer unsolicited advice. Instead, ask “How can I support you?” or just say “I’m here if you need me for anything.”
While it may seem beneficial to tell others to look on the bright side of things and find the silver lining in all life experiences, it’s also important to acknowledge and listen to emotions even when they aren’t pleasant. By helping your loved one pay attention and process their feelings as they come and go, you can help them understand themselves and their situation better.
Listen to Adulting with Joyce Pring’s “Toxic Positivity” episode here!
If someone you know is feeling especially stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, MindNation’s 24/7 Care Hotline is available all day, every day, on FB Messenger. The service is FREE, completely confidential, and the staff is trained to ease your anxieties. Drop us a line bit.ly/mn-chat.