According to a Singapore Mental Health Study, 1 in 5 youths between 18 and 34 years would have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime. This makes it more common among your peers than you think, which means we should be talking about mental health a lot more than we currently do.
Your mental health affects how you think, feel and cope with your life. Like physical health, mental health should be seen as a continuum. Though you might be at the peak of your mental health now, you might experience stress, anxiety or family-related issues at various points in your life. These factors might lead to mental health issues, even if they’re mild.
Due to the strong mental health stigma, the conversation surrounding mental health is often difficult and uncomfortable to have. But it doesn’t have to be this way. After all, the first step to caring for your mental health is to talk about it. So how can you better understand your emotions and build better mental health? Let’s dive into the conversation!
What are you feeling right now as you’re reading this? This might sound like a simple question, but emotions aren’t always easily described or understood as we’d like to think.
When it comes to mental health, understanding your emotions well gives insight into your own behavioural patterns. By learning to use your emotions as a GPS, you’ll be able to communicate how you feel more clearly to others, recognise symptoms of stress, and make decisions that will help you manage your feelings and their effects on your body and on your actions.
Start with these 3 simple steps:
- Tune in to how you feel in different situations throughout the day. Make it a habit by recording your emotions in a journal or practising mindfulness at the end of the day. Apps or sites like MindDoc and sg can be useful for assessing your emotions and being more aware of your mood and wellbeing.
- Understand how your emotions affect you. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, how does this emotion manifest in other areas of your life? Perhaps you’re feeling more fatigued and find it hard to enjoy the things you usually enjoy doing.
- Share your feelings with someone close to you. Whether it’s a friend, a partner, or a family member, practise sharing your feelings with other people, regardless of whether they feel like mundane everyday sentiments or big difficult emotions.
If your emotions are weighing you down and you find it difficult to process or cope, do consider seeking support. Even if you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing a mental health issue or not, connect with a mental health professional or call psychological helplines. Remember, it’s always okay to reach out!
If you’ve decided to seek help for a mental health issue, know that you’re making an important step towards getting well. For a good overview of key mental health services in Singapore, this resource directory by the National Council of Social Service is easy to refer to, though the list is not exhaustive.
Understandably though, figuring out where to start or who to turn to can feel overwhelming. It’s common to choose to take your time and experiment with the wide range of options out there. Different approaches can work for you at different times, and the best approach is the one that feels right for you at a given point in your life.
If you’re worried about the costs related to mental health treatment or recovery, here are some resources you can turn to:
- The Medisave Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP) covers mental health conditions like major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and anxiety, and allows you to tap on your Medisave for your or your family members’ outpatient treatments.
- Some health insurance can offer various options with comprehensive coverage that suit your budget and healthcare needs, including your mental health.
- If you’re a working adult, consider speaking to your employer about the mental health support and policies available to employees.
When you choose to seek help, you’re on the right path to making empowered decisions about your mental health.
Building better mental health
When we talk about mental health in Singapore, the conversation tends to be focused on mental illness. But what about mental ‘wellness’? Let’s talk about that.
Much like how you build up your physical health through regular exercise and a nutritious diet, taking care of your mental wellness involves learning how to better cope with your emotions and building up emotional resilience.
Here are a few tips on how to build better mental health:
- Stay connected – especially face-to-face and even if it’s over a Zoom call. No matter how much time and effort you devote to improving your mental health, ensure that your emotional needs for companionship are still being met. Opening up to someone about your feelings can help improve your emotional wellbeing.
- Pick up a new hobby or skill, like yoga, meditation, or even painting. Trying out new activities can take your mind away from the problems you’re currently facing, while boosting your self-esteem and making you feel good about yourself. The novelty of the activity can also help you be more mindful of being in the present moment and focus on what you are doing instead of your negative emotions.
- Staying active is as good for the mind as it is for the body. The mind and the body influence each other. When you do a physical activity, endorphins are released in your body which can lift your mood and boost your energy. If you find the thought of heavy exercise mentally draining, try adding activity to your routine in small ways, like taking the stairs or going for a short walk in a nearby park.
- Find a way to be grateful for the little things in life. Research has shown that expressing gratitude is consistently associated with positive emotions and greater happiness. Cultivate the feeling of gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal, for example, and writing down the little things you feel grateful for – even if it’s just one thing.
Prioritise your mental wellbeing
It’s never too early or too late to make mental health a priority. Facing how you feel deep down may be an initial hurdle you would need to cross, but it is a step in the right direction. And remember, it is alright to talk about your feelings. Don’t be afraid to extend a hand and reach out to someone who may be able to help.
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