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How I Take Care of My Mental Health: 5 Wonder Women Weigh in

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Even the best of us can feel down, especially in times of uncertainty. The pandemic has truly rattled and distressed so many of us, so how can we take care of our mental health? We ask some women we admire about how they take care of their minds, and keep the calm and positivity flowing.

Cheryl Ann Fernando

Source: Cheryl‘s personal collection

What do you do in times of great stress or worry? 

I worry a lot in my daily job and as a result, I have lots of stressful moments. I usually talk to my husband (who’s much less of a worrier than I am), my best friend, siblings and a few of my colleagues who I know will help me to put things into perspective and to reduce a bit of the stress and anxiety I’m feeling.

Any practical tips or hacks for facing a rough day?

I disconnect from my phone, emails and just watch TV, read a book or order my favourite food. I spend more time with my children because kids are amazing at teaching us how to live in the moment. I go for a walk around my apartment and usually that helps a bit on tough days.

What is the best advice that you ever got about mental health or self-care?

Take time off to rest and relax. As a self proclaimed workaholic, I can sometimes forget to stop working and look after myself, so hearing this from my colleagues and friends is certainly meaningful and has helped me to become a bit better at managing this.

How can we also care for the mental health of our loved ones?

Checking in with them, even when they don’t ask for it or just because to see how they are doing. I try to do this with my team so they know that they can take time off when they are overwhelmed or feeling a bit off. I also try to reach out to my friends just for a chat or to send food to them, so that they know that I’m thinking of them, despite the distance.

What have you been reading or watching to relax or cheer yourself up?

I haven’t done much, but usually it’s just browsing on Netflix and watching anything random.

Do you have a tip or resource from online or elsewhere that you often refer to to inspire yourself? 

I love seeing my friends and their babies on Instagram, watching TikTok videos or sometimes even my own kids playing (or fighting). I also listen to ‘The Guilty Feminist‘ podcast and exercise a bit to feel better.

If someone were to say to you ‘I feel helpless and so worried about the future – what can/should I do to feel better about things’, what would you do?

I would usually start by empathising and asking if they want me to just listen or to provide solutions for them. If it’s just to listen, then I will be present wholly to listen and to allow them to vent. But if it is solutions, then I’ll try asking questions on why they feel this way, what are some triggers that causes them to feel this way and work out some solutions with them.

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir

Source: Zafigo

What do you do in times of great stress or worry?

I mostly try to think it out myself. But these days I meditate every morning and that really helps me to keep calm and unstressed. Also, I journal – the sort that becomes obsessed with notebooks, stickers, washi tape, rubber stamps, pens, and inks. I have three different diary journals that I write in every day, mostly to record what the day’s been like because otherwise my memory tends to fail me. I don’t write deep profound thoughts about my feelings and such, but I do write my observations on what happened on that day, usually along the lines of ‘OMG, that’s so stupid!’.

Any practical tips or hacks for facing a rough day?

I find the anticipation of a rough day is often worse than it actually is. So, the only thing I do is square my shoulders and just face it. Time goes by so quickly these days that rough days are over in a blink.

What is the best advice that you ever got about mental health or self-care?

That there’s nothing wrong nor selfish about caring about myself. Women tend to think about others all the time to their own detriment. But now we know that it’s just as important to take care of ourselves. Nobody likes a grump.

How can we also care for the mental health of our loved ones?

I think being alert to their mental wellbeing is important. It’s often easy to miss signs of problems, especially these days when we’re so isolated from one another. I make it a point to call up friends, especially those who live alone occasionally, just to check that they’re okay. Or ask them out for a walk.

What have you been reading or watching to relax or cheer yourself up?

I watch all the Netflix series that everyone else is watching. And I’ve been catching up on my reading although I take forever to finish a book. I also listen to podcasts and audiobooks a lot, especially when I’m on my morning walks alone. Or I take a nap with my cat, Ojay.

Do you have a tip or resource from online or elsewhere that you often refer to to inspire yourself? 

I’m really not the sort to look for specific inspiration from anywhere. I might come across an article or a video or a podcast that I like and find inspiring but it’s very random.

If someone were to say to you “I feel helpless and so worried about the future – what can/should I do to feel better about things?”, what would you do?

I would say that nobody is truly helpless. We must look at what we can control and do something about them and not worry about things we can’t control. Even then, say climate change might seem too large for us to handle but we can do our little bit to mitigate it by consuming less for example. I think it’s important to find our own purpose, whether it’s advocating for change, or growing our own food, or volunteering at a charity, or just doing something creative like painting. Everything counts, and everybody counts. Nobody is insignificant. I think when we put things in perspective like that, there’s no need to feel helpless. I’m an eternal optimist, even when I get distressed at everything that’s happening. I just have faith that things will pass.

Siu Lim

Source: Siu Lim’s Instagram account

What do you do in times of great stress or worry?

I exercise to destress, it clears my mind and makes me feel good for the day. I have to remember that we can’t control bad days but we can control our good moods.

Any practical tips or hacks for facing a rough day? 

I’ll take time out and do what I love doing most, such as read a book and cook.

What is the best advice that you ever got about mental health or self-care?

Self-care is not a selfish thing to do. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself.

How can we also care for the mental health of our loved ones?

The more you understand and learn about your loved one’s mental health, the more you can help them. Read up on the causes, treatments, myths and misconceptions, and make sure you communicate with your loved one about their feelings and your feelings about the situation.

What have you been reading or watching to relax or cheer yourself up?

I like to read or watch light; anything that is light hearted  – or when I’m feeling demotivated, I’ll listen to a podcast.

Do you have a tip or resource from online or elsewhere that you often refer to to inspire yourself? 

I’ll watch Oprah talk shows on YouTube.

If someone were to say to you ‘I feel helpless and so worried about the future – what can/should I do to feel better about things?”, what would you do?

When my friends go through helplessness and anxiety, I listen to them. Let them talk and let them express themselves. Most of the time we need to vent and it could help. It’s not about me but them. I want them to speak their thoughts.

YB Hannah Yeoh

Source: YB Hannah‘s personal collection

What do you do in times of great stress or worry?

I take time to pray. My faith is very important to me in helping me carry my stress and also to maintain my well-being. I also do a lot of consultation with my friend, my peers, to ensure that I don’t go through this journey alone. Whether it’s with my church friends, or with my political friends, I always ensure that I take those steps to handle stress with a group of friends.

Any practical tips or hacks for facing a rough day?

Don’t tweet anything on social media, or post anything on social media when you’re angry! When you are extremely angry, take time to withdraw on your own, have a short nap, a cup of tea or a nice drink that will make you more relaxed and calmed down, and I always make sure that I only respond when my anger has subsided.

What is the best advice that you ever got about mental health or self-care?

It is okay not to always feel all right. It is okay to take time to care for yourself. Self-care is so extremely important because my faith is so important to me. In the Bible, it says “love your neighbour as you love yourself’. So, for people who struggle to even look after themselves, to love themselves, they are going to struggle to devote the same amount of love for others. If you are not looking after yourself, you are going to struggle to look after your neighbour.

How can we also care for the mental health of our loved ones?

I think the most practical step is not to make judgment or quickly dismiss how people feel, and to ensure that we look out for signs that they are not okay. These are some of the practical steps so you can actually show care for our loved ones who are struggling with mental health.

What have you been reading or watching to relax or cheer yourself up?

It’s very simple for me. I spend time looking for romantic comedies on Netflix just to chill – I enjoy them a lot! As for reading? No physical books! I have a lot of e-mails and interviews and WhatsApp messages that consume a lot of my time to read and to respond.

Do you have a tip or resource from online or elsewhere that you often refer to to inspire yourself? 

Definitely my time with God. It doesn’t have to be long – reflecting and talking to God when I’m driving on my own, just that sacred time when I pour my heart out to tell Him how I feel; whether I’m angry, or disappointed, or nervous. That pouring my heart out to somebody who is in control really helps me to keep things in perspective.

If someone were to say to you ‘I feel helpless and so worried about the future – what can/should I do to feel better about things?”, what would you do?

I think it’s very important not to try to figure everything out before you launch out or before you take the first step. For me, it is always the simple obedience – obeying the thing that you’re supposed to do now, and if you do that step now, then other steps will slowly open up to you.

So, for example, there’s no point talking about changing Malaysia or becoming Prime Minister if you are not even a registered voter. The practical step is to take the most immediate step that is required of you to do now and do that. It’s as simple as changing Malaysia beginning with registering yourself as a voter. And on voting day, turn up to vote and then if you can go further, join a political party, write an open letter, or engage other volunteers for them to join you on your causes.

I think the simple steps really, really matter and for you to be able to figure out the simple steps, always ensure that you seek others’ opinion. Consultation is extremely important; to make sure that you are always found in the safety of wise counsel and are not just doing things out of your instinct, or responding because you are impulsive. It is very important to always assess the risk that you are entering into. Make sure you go in with information so you are making an informed decision. A lot of times, I think once you have the information, seek counsel and when you actually make those decision, you go in without regret. Even though you don’t end up with the outcome that you want, you at least do not live with regrets.

Sheahnee Iman Lee

Source: Sheahnee’s Instagram account

What do you do in times of great stress or worry?

I breathe. Breathing techniques are totally underrated and for someone who suffers panic attacks and anxiety, this has been the most helpful first line of defence. Then, I talk to someone. It’s incredibly important to have your “safe space”, someone in your corner that you can turn to for advice, perspective or simply to vent.

I also turn to music as an outlet. I’m not musically-inclined, but I find that singing my heart out in the car or shower really does help with the tough moments!

Any practical tips or hacks for facing a rough day?

After I’ve done all the above, I usually try to take some time out to compartmentalise the stuff in my head. Sometimes things seem rough and without solution because they’re all jumbled up in our heads. I find that if I take the time to write down and divide things up by what needs to be dealt with now and what can wait, this really helps.

And I make sure part of those priorities include time for my family. And by this I mean, quality time – not chores or running after them. Once my heart is back in the right place, I’m usually in a better mental state to handle the rest of the mess.

Pray – I find it helps to set things in perspective when you take a moment away from the world to connect with your Creator.

Garden – When I’m stressed, I love going out to my little vegetable garden to tend to my plants. There is something deeply gratifying about watching and helping something grow, and then reaping the harvest of your efforts.

What is the best advice that you ever got about mental health or self-care?

Seek help! It’s hard sometimes, I know, but no human is built to handle hardship alone. We are designed to be social beings, and even the most introverted of us need to have their one “hooman” to turn to. Never allow yourself to get to a point where you are truly alone. A mind that has no outlet or perspective from another can be a dangerous thing.

How can we also care for the mental health of our loved ones?

Be there for them. Learn to recognise the signs. Pay attention to them enough that you will surely notice when something isn’t quite right. Sometimes depression can’t be seen, and that’s what makes it dangerous.

Be kind, be sensitive, be open and reserve judgment so that our loved ones feel safe enough to reach out to us when they need to.

What have you been reading or watching to relax or cheer yourself up?

I haven’t had time to read a good book for ages. But I do have my ‘me time‘ every night, an hour to myself to vegetate and watch whatever I want on TV. Usually that will be a well-written series that makes me think or gives me the ‘feels’ like Money Heist, Sweet Tooth or The Good Doctor, or a movie that brings back nostalgia of my childhood. I love rewatching movies from the 80s and 90s!

Do you have a tip or resource from online or elsewhere that you often refer to to inspire yourself? 

@lainey.molnar
@positivelypresent
@saggysara
@thatlittlepuff

These are all Instagram accounts I love to follow to set me straight again when I’m feeling low about myself or something around me.

If someone were to say to you ‘I feel helpless and so worried about the future – what can/should I do to feel better about things?”, what would you do?

Remember that hindsight is a powerful tool. If we take the time to look back at our lives and recall that we somehow overcame something in our past that we once felt was insurmountable, that we survived a trauma or a loss and learnt valuable lessons from it, then we will also develop the perspective that what may seem so, so hard right now has a yet-to-be realised purpose for our future self.

We are who we are today because of the difficulties of our past. We are stronger, better, today for it, and that we will be stronger, better in the future because of our hardship today. For me that is a powerful motivator to always try to find purpose and absorb lessons from whatever I’m going through right now.


If you need someone to lend an ear, here is makchic’s list of resources for those who need to seek therapy, guidance and support. Your mental health impacts every area of your life, so take care of you! 

 

From our team of purposeful, multi-faceted mummies. For editorial or general enquiries, email to us at hello@makchic.com.