Strong in Mind and Body: Mental Coping Strategies

Your mental wellbeing has a huge impact on the way you feel about yourself, how you relate to others and your sense of purpose and belonging in the world.

If you are feeling overwhelmed right now and are experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression or any other kind of negative thoughts, just know that change is absolutely possible for you. The negative feelings you currently have won’t always be there and there is so much you can do to turn things around.

How to Navigate Change
Awareness is the first step to change, and acknowledging that change is necessary is a big and courageous step in itself. This will also help you pinpoint where you need to take action. This could mean reaching out for some guidance, discovering some new resources to help support you or simply getting curious about what you need at this time.

Remember that changing the way you think, feel and behave isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a process that takes time, commitment and a lot of self-compassion. But just like anything that’s difficult at first, it will become easier over time.

Tips on Managing Your Emotions Effectively
• Focus on the present moment. If you’re struggling to think about the future, try and just get through one day at a time. If that is difficult for you, try and just focus on getting through the next hour. It can be a lot easier to manage your emotions when you take things one step at a time instead of thinking of everything at once.

• Remember that you are not your emotions. You experience emotions, but your emotions don’t define who you are. Think of your mind like the sky, and the emotions like the weather. Different types of emotions come and go. Sometimes you will experience storms and heavy rain, but even the biggest storms never last forever. It is only after the rain that we can truly appreciate the sunshine. Let that give you hope whenever things feel a bit dark and grey.

• Don’t run away or try to numb your emotions. When we try to avoid what we are feeling, our emotions can stick around longer than we’d like. If you’re experiencing negative feelings like anger or sadness, give yourself a few moments to feel the emotion fully. You will likely find that it is easier to let go of the emotion far more quickly once you’ve embraced it, rather than pushing it down and avoiding it.

• Try deep breathing. When we feel distressed or anxious, our breathing gets shallow and fast. This is a common response to our bodies being in “fight or flight” mode. Deep breathing is an amazing technique to help calm you down in moments of crisis. Simply inhale for 7 seconds while breathing in, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 7 seconds. This helps to get your breathing back to normal and can help to calm down any strong emotional or physical reactions.

• Notice your thoughts. You are not your thoughts, and your thoughts don’t have to become a reality, no matter how negative they may feel in your mind. The next time you have a thought, pause and ask yourself: is this thought helpful or unhelpful? You could take this a step further and use this in a journaling exercise, by writing down the negative thought first, and then turning it into a positive one. Doing this regularly will help you recognise the pattern of your thoughts, and over time you will get better at turning them into helpful statements.

What to Avoid
• Spending a lot of time in solitude. It’s good to avoid being alone when we feel vulnerable or are in a negative headspace. If you feel your thoughts getting worse, reach out to a family member or call a crisis helpline.

• Alcohol or drug consumption. When you’re experiencing mental health challenges, drinking or other substances can escalate things and lead to undesired situations.

• Stress. Try and avoid situations where you feel highly stressed, this can cause any negative thoughts and feelings to intensify.

• Dwelling for too long on your thoughts. Try and not spend long periods of time replaying the same unhelpful thoughts over and over. Instead, call a friend, go for a walk or try to do something to shift your headspace into a more positive one.

What can Help
• Exercise has been proven to relieve stress, tension and promote mental wellbeing. Even just moving for 30 minutes a day can have a huge impact on the way you feel.

• Meditating for 5-10 minutes every day can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and is an easy way to access more inner peace.

• Getting in the sun. Exposure to sunlight releases the serotonin hormone, which can help to boost your mood and help you feel calmer during the day.

• Eating a whole-food diet. When you are nourished properly and your body has energy, this is going to have a huge impact on the way you feel mentally too.

• Talking. Sharing what you are feeling with someone you love or trust can make you feel less alone in what you are experiencing.

• Journaling is also a great way to process difficult emotions. It can be incredibly therapeutic to lighten the load and write down what you are struggling with.

• Make time to do things that bring you joy. Make a list of all the things that make you happy (whether that’s drinking coffee, listening to a certain playlist or doing a hobby) and try and do at least 1 thing on that list every day.

Help is Available
Remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. We all need support and encouragement at different moments of our lives, and asking for help is actually a sign of strength, not weakness.

Whether it’s reaching out to your partner, your family or talking to a professional, having a strong support system around you when things get tough will make the process so much easier.

There is so much life, joy and happiness that you will experience in the near future, so don’t lose hope. With some time and patience, you will get there!

Source: MHC Asia Group ©