Anxiety Picture

Combating Anxiety

Have you ever wondered what anxiety is? Or if anxiety is good or bad?

Most of us experience anxiety that comes when we have to meet deadlines at work or prepare for a national exam. Feeling some level of anxiety during such periods prompt people to act so that they are able to meet their deadlines (Remes, 2018).
 
However, when the feelings develop in non-threatening situations constantly, the person could have an anxiety disorder. A person who has difficulties focusing on their priorities because they are always worrying about things that do not have much importance could have generalized anxiety disorder. Someone who feels sudden intense fear that comes out of nowhere and causes their heart to beat fast while they feel dizzy could have a panic disorder (Remes, 2018).
 
Why does this happen?
Over the past year, there has been an increase in youth suicides. Youths face issues that range from academic, to relationships and even concerns about their future (Min, 2019). Such pressure could arise from the surroundings of the youth such as school, home and from themselves (Sue-Ann, 2019).  While self-image is important, sometimes, that increases a person’s anxiety level. People tend to rehearse what they want to say over and over in their mind because they want it to be perfect and not embarrass themselves. In most situations, they tend to imagine the worst thing that could happen. This excessive worrying stops them from voicing out opinions or showing their talents (Remes, 2018).
 
What can you do?
Try not to avoid thinking about worrying thoughts because the more you try to avoid, the more it will plague your mind. Instead, replace your thoughts by focusing on things in your surroundings. This will increase your awareness and slowly minimize the focus on the worries. 
 
Focus on the present moment. If you find yourself worrying about something that has not happened, ask yourself questions such as “What am I doing right now?”.
This question will make you aware of your surroundings and you can, then, consciously focus on the smell of the cookies next to you or the beautiful scenery in front of you that you have been missing out (Remes, 2018).
 
If you find yourself drowning in anxiety, reach out for help. Schools have counsellors and programs such as peer mentoring to assist students in need. If you are an adult in the working environment, you could reach out to a colleague, senior in your work environment, family, friends or a professional. Do not let anxiety stop you from shining.
 
If you know someone who has anxiety, be empathetic to their situation and let them know they have someone to talk to. Avoid placing demands on them and allow them to move at their own pace.
 
Let’s build a happy and healthy environment for everyone!

 
 
References

Min, A. (2019). MOE, MSF ‘very concerned’ about spike in youth suicides; experts say more support and awareness necessary. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/moe-msf-very-concerned-about spike-in-youth-suicides-experts-say-11775260
 
Remes, O. (2018). Commentary: No marks, scars or bruises but anxiety more debilitating than some illnesses. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/anxiety-always-anxious-how  best-to-cope-10596732
 
 
Sue-Ann, C. (2019). More teens in Singapore seeking help at IMH for school stress. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/more-teens-in-singapore-seeking-help-for-school-stress-at-imh

 

Recognising Self-Sabotage

Do you often hold yourself back from doing what you really want to do? Are you plagued by constant criticism? Do you feel that you are a disappointment?

These behaviours and thoughts can be explained by self-sabotage. Self-sabotage occurs when people doubt their potential because of the constant thought that they don’t have the ability to do something (Patel, 2018). The doubts come because of a person’s thought pattern. These thought patterns can be triggered by any turning point in a person’s life where they are consumed by anxiety and panic if they are not successful. Due to these thoughts, they prevent themselves from taking the next step to gain new experiences or achieve success (Hillyer, 2019).

 

Why this happens?

Humans are programmed to act in certain ways. One such way is the ability to protect ourselves. However, there are times when we are not consciously making decisions. We may assume that the journey may be rough and success is not guaranteed. Hence, we stay within our comfort zone. This prevents us from learning about our strengths and giving ourselves the opportunities we need to achieve greater success (Hillyer, 2019).

 

Overcoming self-sabotage behaviours

  1. Be Aware

It is important to be aware of your thoughts and emotions.  Ask yourself why are you avoiding the task. Is it because of the fear of failure? Work around it by reframing your mind. You will not know how successful you can be or even know what you can learn from a situation unless you put yourself out there(Hillyer, 2019).

  1. Plan

Planning is important. But it is also important that you do not overdo it where you are sure to fail. Give yourself time to learn and make mistakes. Take one step at a time and be comfortable with the idea that you do not have to know everything. This mindset will slowly minimise self-doubts(Hillyer, 2019).

  1. Perfection

Perfection does not exist anywhere. Nature has its flaws and so do humans. It is good to have expectations because that moves you forward. But it is detrimental to have high expectations because you are not in complete control of the environment around you. There will be times you will not meet your expectations and you have to be comfortable with the idea that it is alright and that you are doing the best that you can(Patel, 2018)!

References

  1. Hillyer, R. (2019). Overcome Your Patterns Of Self-Sabotage In Life And    Business. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/05/21/overcome-your-patterns-of-self-sabotage-in-life-and-business/#3c6137066645  
     
  2. Patel, D. (2018). 8 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Success. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/324900

Emotional Acceptance in Families and Boys

Boys are taught to “man up” by parents and men acknowledge that they have learned to not express their pain. Phrases like “boys don’t cry” were modelled by caregivers such as fathers (Brownhill, Wilhelm, Barclay, & Parker, 2002). Boys are humiliated when they play with dolls and they are expected to do well in sports (Reichert, 2019). However, parents need to understand that every child has different strengths and a child who is not good at sports, may be talented in music. It is important to view your child as a person with a different personality from others and to encourage the child to hone their skills. By not allowing boys to express emotions freely, they grow up to be men who lack emotional intelligence.

 

China

In an Asian country such as China, a real man is required to be slim, tough and independent. A child who lacks these qualities and is emotionally fragile or weak-minded is not considered a man. A seven-day boot camp exists to strengthen boys between six and twelve years old. In the camp, boys learn how to sumo wrestle, play American football, tidy their room and be independent by washing clothes by hand. They are also taught what it means to be a man and ideas such as shouldering burden and being the pillar of support for their family are instilled in them through conversations, “man’s cheer” and men’s pledge where they have to assert their strength (Paulo, 2018).

How does a society define “emotionally fragile”? Where do emotions get transferred to if boys are taught to no longer be emotionally fragile and that they should be perfectly fine to shoulder heavy burden?

Although giving boys the opportunity to learn how to wash clothes and tidy their room is good, it should not be restricted to boys alone. Such life skills should be taught to all children.

 

What should parents do?

All children go through a whirlpool of emotions and gender should not be the main focus when dealing with it. Below are some steps for parents to raise emotionally intelligent boys:

1. Listen

When parents start to listen to what their sons are saying, it creates room for boys to express their emotions. Over time, parents become the people they transfer their tensions to and the boys will be able to trust their parents, restore their own mind and have a clearer mind when making decisions. Parents need to ensure that they do not remind their sons of any stereotypical roles they think the child should conform to. Instead, this should be an opportunity for them to build a bond with their sons and to ensure he is able to acknowledge his emotions and verbalise it (Reichert, 2019).

2.  Advocate

Listening is the first step. Advocating is the second. Some boys may still be unsure about what they should do during their difficult phase. Parents should acknowledge the struggle and display empathy. Together, the parent and son can brainstorm ideas to decide what can be done. Although the first instinct for most parents is to provide advice, it is important to ask yourself what your son needs when he is opening up to you. Does he need scolding or a warm hug? Is he able to figure things out on his own? What kind of pressure is he facing right now?

3. Identity

As boys start going to school, they may face pressure from friends who are brought up with male stereotype. It is important for your son to develop his identity from young by instilling good values and the kind of person he desires to be in the world. A child who is accepted by his parents and has a strong sense of self in terms of values and behaviour will be able to resist conforming to stereotypes. However, the child may still be curious about why other students behave a certain way and they may show signs of adopting some behaviour. During these moments, it is important that the parent does not react negatively. Instead, they need to have a healthy conversation on the behaviour and remind the child of the values taught (Reichert, 2019).

 

These steps apply to both, male and female children. However, these steps are commonly seen when parents are bringing up a female child compared to a male child. It should be understood that by giving your child a listening ear, your child knows their emotions matter and you are giving them an opportunity to be able to regulate their emotions. Let’s raise emotionally intelligent boys and girls!

 

References

Brownhill, S., Wilhelm, K., Barclay, L., & Parker, G. (2002). Detecting Depression in Men: A Matter of Guesswork. 259-280. doi:10.3149/jmh.0103.259

Paulo, D. (2018). ‘Masculinity crisis’ in China leads parents to enrol kids in boot camp.      Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/masculinity crisis-china-leads-parents-enrol-boys-boot-camp-10869716

Reichert, M. (2019). 5 Ways To Help You Raise Emotionally Intelligent Boys. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/five-ways-to-help-you-raise emotionally-intelligent-boys

Reichert, M. (2019). Parenting after #MeToo: Changing the skewed ideals of masculinity  should start at home. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/metoo       sexual-harassment-boys-parenting-toxic-masculinity-a8882236.html’

Masculinity and Invalidating Emotions

In the last few editions, we focused on brain structure and how it affects a person. In this edition, we will be focusing on a social issue and why it should not be ignored. The recent statistics in Singapore for male suicides is two times higher than female (Cheow, 2019). Males resort to lethal methods of suicide because of the inability to cope with the pressure placed by society on masculinity.

Media
Although in recent years it has become more acceptable for male characters to cry on tv shows, it is not tolerable to continuously portray them as “emotional” characters throughout a show. Media emphasises how the male has to sooner or later “man-up” after their meltdown (Kemp, 2019).

Masculinity
Men tend to live up to the male stereotype that stresses on toughness, self-reliance and valour due to the emphasis of “being a man” placed by society. Reaching out for help by opening up about personal feelings is often seen as a lack of control and loss of identity and independence. As a result, males are inclined to suppress their emotional turmoil most of the time which results in them making dangerous decisions (Chia, 2018).

According to a study done in UK, men face a wide range of issues that include financial distress, relationship failure, work-related stress, and even feelings of loneliness (Barnett, 2019). However, they are more unwilling to express vulnerabilities compared to women because of the pressures they face due to gender identity (Cheow, 2019).

The amount of attention devoted to ensuring that a man fits the male stereotype is seen across cultures all over the world. A study conducted in Mexico, U.S. and U.K. found that many young males were raised by parents who stressed the importance of acting strong even if they felt scared (Reichert, 2019). Another study found that male leaders who requested for help were perceived as less competent (Mayer, 2018).

What can be done?
While males and females are physiologically different in terms of muscle mass, they should not be treated differently because of gender when it comes to emotional issues. The treatment given to female and male friends who show us their tears tend to differ because of gender. As members of society, we need to look out for our male friends, brothers and partners and encourage them to share their worries. While most of us look out for our loved ones, we also tend to shove masculinity in their face and invalidate their emotions when they open up. Perhaps the time has come for us to be more sensitive to emotions and not let gender affect our view!

References

Barnett, D. (2019). Andy’s Man Club: A talking group fighting male suicide. Retrieved from  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/talk-group-fight-male-suicideprevention-a8863701.html

Cheow, S. (2019). Men twice as likely to commit suicide. Retrieved from https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/men-twice-likely-commit-suicide

Chia, R. (2018). Suicide is the main cause of death for millennials in Singapore – and most of them are men. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.sg/suicide-is-the-main-cause-of-death-for-millennials-in-Singapore-and-most-of-them-are-men/

Kemp, R. (2019). Why don’t men talk about the stuff they really worry about? Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/living-with-erectile-dysfunction/why-dont-men-talk/

Mayer, D. (2018). How Men Get Penalized for Straying from Masculine Norms. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/10/how-men-get-penalized-for-straying-from-masculine-norms

Reichert, M. (2019). It Doesn’t Take a Man to Raise a Boy. Retrieved from http://time.com/5567733/mothers-raising-boys/

The Psychotherapist's Corner - The Magic of Rewiring!

The Magic of Rewiring!

Did you know your brain has the ability to repair itself?

PLASTICITY! That’s what it’s called!
It means your brain reroutes its network to compensate for the loss of abilities!

Do you remember that classmate in school that wore a patch for their lazy-eye condition? Well, forcing their lazy eye to be the only source of visual information did not change anything about the eye, but, it did cause their visual pathways in the brain to develop further (Marquez, 2019)! HOW?! Because of rewiring!

People who have stroke have difficulties controlling their body movement due to paralysis. This is because the brain cells responsible for the movement for that particular part of the body is “dead”. But, a neuroscientist found a way to get that paralysed arm to work! He adopted a constraint-induced therapy where patients avoided using their working arm and could only use the arm that’s affected by stroke. After 2 weeks, they discovered that the arm became stronger! This happened because the area of the brain next to the damaged neurones started to rewire to enable the patient to use that arm (Marquez, 2019)!

Blindness
Many of us would have heard about the amazing sense of hearing that blind people have (Sandoiu, 2018)! Blind people gain information about their surroundings from sound. Hence, the area responsible for sound in the brain, the auditory cortex, has intensified capacities (Times, 2019) while the area responsible for vision in the brain become smaller (Newman, 2017).

Exercise
Research has found that as people age, the risk of getting dementia increases. But, there is a way to minimise that risk and it starts from young! People who take part in aerobic exercises have increased cortical thickness of their brains. This development of thickness is associated with lower risk of dementia in old age. Aerobic exercise benefits people in their twenties. Even though people in their twenties do not face the threat of cognitive decline, exercising early helps to build up these defences (Betuel, 2019)!

Our brain is more powerful than we think it is! And it is within us to develop it and harness its strengths! Start living right by exercising, learning new things and sleeping well! The brain you look after now, will look after you later on!

 

References

Marquez, J. (2019). Rewiring the brains of stroke patients. Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-04-rewiring-brains-patients.html

Sandoiu, A. (2018). The curious case of a blind woman who sees motion. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322136.php

Times, A. (2019). Studies Prove Blind People Really Have Better Hearing. Retrieved from https://www.techtimes.com/articles/242061/20190423/studies-prove-blind-people-really-have-better-hearing.htm

Newman, T. (2017). How blind people’s brains rewire to improve other senses. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316493.php

Betuel, E. (2019). The Effect of Exercise on Aging Brains Begins Even Earlier Than We Thought. Retrieved from https://www.inverse.com/article/52914-exercise-effects-on-brain-health-and-aging-start-young

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