From The Straits Times    |

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Most of us know how to keep our physical health in tip top shape: eat fresh healthy foods, get regular exercise and drink water throughout the day, every day. But when it comes to our mental health, it gets a little tricky. What with our busy careers, a family to look after and finances to grow for our future retirement, avoiding stress and maintaining a healthy mind can be difficult.

However, mental health is just as important, if not more important, than your physical health, to avoid fatigue, exhaustion, stress-related illnesses and even overcome anxiety and depression.

We spoke to Dr Charissa Ng from psychological consultancy Putra Star Care to guide us on how best to care for our mental health.

“By knowing when to recuperate and replenish our own resources instead of simply pushing on and draining them, we will be able to build resilience and improve productivity,” says Dr Ng. “In essence, this is very much akin to what is expected during airplane emergencies – to secure our own oxygen mask before doing so for others.”

To follow her advice, here are some ways you can implement self-care:


1. Physical sensation

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It’s no old wives tale that your mental health will be greatly improved by physical changes too — after all, its intrinsically linked. If you focus on your physical well-being, the mental health naturally improves too. This doesn’t mean rigorous exercising every day — it can also include body massages, spa days, facials, even snuggling in bed with your partner.

Look for physical activities that give you that feel-good vibe, and introduce it into your weekly or monthly schedule. As if we needed another excuse to check into the spa?


2. Quality “me” time

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Something we all often overlook and neglect is having quality ‘me’ time, which is so important to our mental health status. It’s easy to get caught up in work and home stresses but you must carve out some time and space to focus on you.

This can include your favourite hobby (Netflix is a hobby, natch), soaking in a bubble bath with a glass of wine, reading a book, going for a walk (nature is a great way to boost your mental health, btw) or even just finding 30 minutes for some quiet meditation.

Whatever you love to do, by yourself, for yourself, make sure you do it as often as you can.


3. Giving gifts to oneself

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This may sound like a surprising piece of advice, but Dr Ng says by purchasing items that make you happy, you’ll be boosting your mental health. This can be anything from a new beauty product and craft supplies to booking a vacation or buying a new outfit.

Heck, you could even go spend some quiet time at your favourite cafe and treat yourself to your favourite barista-style coffee and cake. Or indulge in some of your favourite premium chocolate truffles. A reward to yourself doesn’t have to be overly indulgent or extravagant — it can be a simple appreciation of who you are. If you don’t treat yourself, who will?

Of course, this brings about a financial aspect — if you spend too much, you might sink yourself into money woes which is not good for your mental health. So, be sure to spend wisely and only when you have the spare money to do so. Don’t get yourself into unnecessary debt.


4. Clearing up

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Ever heard of the saying ‘A happy home, a happy mind’? Or how about ‘A tidy room, a tidy mind’? It comes as no surprise that doing things to get your surroundings and your life into an orderly and coherent state will increase your mental health.

This is a broad spectrum and can range from cleaning and decluttering your entire flat to sorting out your diary, finally booking yourself some monthly therapy sessions (nothing to be ashamed of, especially if you need it), getting your finances in order and making a five-year plan in your journal. Act upon things you need to do, or need to book, and get your plans into place — you’ll soon see how your mental health shifts towards the positive.


5. Self-affirmation

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We all have that inner dialogue that is consistently negative. It’s normal, and it makes us human. Unfortunately that inner voice can be very detrimental to our mental health and it’s difficult to ignore. Rest assured you are not the sum of your emotions and you are not the product of that constant negativity.

To combat this, you should throw yourself 100 per cent into self-affirmations. You need to give yourself words of encouragement for whatever you embark on and repeat mantras to help you through your daily tasks. Constant positive self-talk should be done every day, not sporadically. Try waking up and repeating a positive self-love mantra to yourself, or write in a journal all the things you’re grateful for. Pen down some happy goals you want to achieve.

If you keep this up, daily, soon the positivity will overpower that negative internal voice and you’ll notice how your positive mental health has now become auto-pilot for you instead.