The past two years have taken a toll on most of us and without realising it, many of us are in dire need of mental help. To those of us who are well-informed about the situation, we know and understand the importance of keeping our mental health in check once in a while, if not all the time. But sad to say, there’s also a large percentage of the Malaysian population who aren’t exposed to the ongoing tragedies that have been taking place in the country during this pandemic. In an article posted on Astro Awani in July, it was reported that between 12th and 19th June 2021, there was an average of 72 deaths per day, which shot up to 77 daily deaths the following week. If these figures aren’t alarming enough, then we’re not sure what else would trigger that ‘emergency’ button in you.
The one thing which remains a mystery to many of us is the fact that up until recently, our local authorities have made it a point to punish those who attempted suicide, which involves either imprisonment or a hefty fine. At a time when a majority of people are struggling to adapt to the new norms, striving hard to put food on tables, juggling multiple roles simultaneously and trying to understand and accept the changes that the pandemic has brought to our lives, it angered us to see how those in positions of power were unable to show a little compassion towards the public and current situation. Thankfully, a week ago, they’ve decided to do away with the law (a big #win in our books), and to further show our support to those in need of help, we need to ensure that we make time to support them and make a difference, even in the smallest possible way.
Among the simple gestures that we can do include lending a helping hand and ear, and directing them to the correct channels such as Aloe Mind, Befrienders, Malaysian Mental Health Association and MentCouch Psychology Centre for help. At the same time, let’s not forget to take care of our own mental health and well-being. In line with World Mental Health Day, we asked 11 people to share what they’ve recently done to ensure that their mental health is well taken care of. It may not all be big steps or changes, but the most important thing is that they’ve taken the initiative and effort to take that first step to do something for themselves which will ultimately lead them to a better path and life. Better yet, whether or not you’re feeling okay, switch off and take a real break one of these days to spend some time by yourself, doing the things that spark joy in your life. Trust us, you’ll discover a lot of things about yourself that you might never have even known existed within you!
“The moment the government announced that the parks were opened, I went for a long run! During the pandemic, my business went downhill and I felt extremely trapped. The feeling was too overwhelming to the point that I thought there’d be no way out of this mess. Running has always given me a sense of freedom – not from my problems but from trapped thoughts and so, I ran. The words that rang in my head were “Run, Calvin, run!” (like “Run, Forrest, run!”). I ran for two hours and it felt SO good! It helped to keep me sane when I was in dire need of help.” – Calvin Lim, 30, Engineer
“I decided to join my friends on the Headspace app and condition myself to use it as a go-to when I feel stressed or anxious. Guided breathing exercises and the Sleepcasts have helped me to manage my fluctuating emotions. It’s not a lot, but it’s a start. Journalling and talking to myself help as well. I talk to myself when I’m lying on my bed with the lights off and don’t want to get up to air my thoughts on paper. Yes, like verbally say it out loud. Eventually I’ll talk myself to sleep!” – Charmaine Sze, 25, Writer
“Recently, the one thing that I did for my mental health was letting go. Having to juggle three kids and a newborn baby, I learned that you can’t control things like current living conditions, behaviours and expectations. And so, I’ve loosened up the control on my kids’ studies and let them just be kids; I let them have more playtime and spend more time with them at home as they can’t go out yet. I’ve come to understand that when I’m stressed over what’s happening out there, it’s actually even worse for them; not being able to comprehend what’s happening or voice out their frustrations. So far, I believe that my husband and I have done well since the Covid-19 pandemic started. As much as the kids yearn for the outdoors and physical interaction, they’re happy and content being at home too.” – Diana Roslam, 37, Marketing & Communications Manager
“Committing myself to therapy. The yo-yo between getting help and not getting help is real, but once I committed myself to going for therapy, the learning and growth have been immense! People around me have been noticing the difference and I’ve also started to be darn open when talking about my mental health. I still perceive discomfort during conversations when I talk about it matter-of-factly, but what the heck – I think it needs to be normalised! And lastly, I’m proud to have signed up for a basic acting course. It has allowed me to engage with all the joyous, creative and imaginative part of life that my mental health struggles haven’t allowed me to.” – Fatema Anuar, 30, Engineer
“I became a plant mama in October 2020 and have become quite good at it! For me, looking after my plants provides me with a therapeutic effect as working from home and being in a continuous lockdown can get quite straining – looking at screens all day, every day. I think tending to them makes me calm and when they flourish, I get an endorphin rush! I make new plants from my own cuttings and gift them, and it’s helped others in looking after their mental health too. A few of my family members struggle with studying from home and being unmotivated in general, so the plants that I’ve gifted them have also given them inspiration and acted as a mood booster!” – Najah Onn, 38, Environmental engineer/Founder of Sustainable fashion advocacy, fashinfidelity.com
“I’ve been saying ‘no’ and not feeling bad about it as well as listening to my body and resting instead of the usual hustle mindset. I’ve also been reparenting myself from the trauma that I went through during my childhood (like being aware of my triggers and my subconscious reactions or preconceived notions of behaviours by a non-safe parent during my childhood and adolescent years). This required a lot of hard work but it’s extremely important for my little family so that I don't repeat the cycle of generational trauma.” – Nurun Nissak, 35, Housewife
"I make space to just grieve – not for the death of a loved one per se, but for any deep loss, hurt or heartache. It’s a visceral grieving; really checking in with the pain and allowing it to be witnessed. We spend a lot of time avoiding the pain because let’s be honest, it hurts. But as long as it’s there, it holds us back from the richness of life. Instead, we spend time and resources running away from it; avoiding it and fighting it, but what if we could make space to be friends with it, notice it, feel it and grieve through the pain or rage or whatever it may be for you? What if we could move through it and make space for more? More hope, more love, more compassion, more light and the full spectrum of life? Pain, anger, jealousy and hurt; they’re not bad words. They hurt but they aren’t bad. They’re here to teach us something, they’re here to be felt and lead us back to our true self." – Racheal Kwacz, 37, Child & Family Development Specialist
“Removing people [from my life] who no longer serve me anymore. Coming out of a 6-year relationship and accepting it wasn’t easy, but I guess it’s natural for things to come in and out of our lives, and the lesson I got from this is to trust your gut when it’s time to let some things go. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me but I’m finally healing and opening myself up to new possibilities. Being more attentive to my needs before making decisions has helped me focus on making myself better, and letting go of the blocks that have kept me from experiencing joy has made me happier.” – Rubini Sambanthan, 30, Brand consultant, model, actress & content creator
“Although having a job is a privilege in this day and age, I quit mine a couple of months ago when I realised that my mental health was more important than the money I was making. My former boss was a toxic person; she wasn’t a leader but merely a boss, and I felt like I couldn’t grow under her leadership and working environment. After leaving the job, I gave myself time to heal and decided to travel for a month to gain a new perspective on life.” – Sharon Tan, 35, Marketing Communications Manager
“I’m not someone who treats herself at all. There’s a huge difference when you’re given the freedom to go out and use it wisely as opposed to not being able to go out at all because of fear. Despite staying indoors all the time, the pandemic has made me feel suffocated at home. It got to a point where I used to sit in my walk-in wardrobe so that I could escape the virus! So, for a change, I decided to cook my favourite mushroom soup, which made all the difference in the world. I took a day off from doing house chores and told my husband that I needed a break. I cooked my favourite soup for myself and read a book. Surprisingly, it made me feel at ease and I could function almost normally the next day without having to go through any anxiety at all! Now, I do this once in every fortnight and I’ve learned how to calm myself down a lot more.” – Shirley Yen, 35, Housewife
“Little did I know, an activity as simple as walking can bring so much goodness and richness to one’s mind! Last year, I gave myself the gift of mindful walking. Instead of slipping into a state of autopilot walking where my legs are moving but my mind is elsewhere, I started walking mindfully and being aware of my surroundings with every step that I take. I started to notice little things like the bird that’s chirping, the dad who’s teaching his little kid how to cycle, the neighbour who puts up a sign that says ‘Have a great day!’ and the stranger who’s smiling back at me. Mindful walking hasn’t only helped me to live in the moment and be present. It has helped me to feel grateful too. Grateful for the little things and moments in life.” – Tan Wen Dee, 31, Market Development Manager
Compiled by: Yang Mei Ling
Featured image: Estúdio Bloom/Unsplash
Design: Lester Liang