Mental health issues do not discriminate.
They can strike any person from any background in any place. (Just read my previous story about suicide tendencies and prevention here.)
So, despite the fact that Singapore is regularly ranked among the world’s top 10 places for expats to live, it doesn’t mean that your life is all rainbows and butterflies.
In honour of World Mental Health Day – 10 October – here are 10 simple ways to appreciate where you are now, and to help you along when times might be tough. Because self-care is ultimately up to you.
Get Some Sun
There’s no shortage of it here in Singapore! Sunlight helps human brains release serotonin, a hormone that literally lights up your life. In the tropics, it’s as simple as opening the curtains or standing in the sun for a few minutes a day.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
It can be hard living in a new city and culture. Luckily, thanks to social media, you can connect with people based on common interests like knitting, walking or bridge. Plus, Singapore has a plethora of social groups, sports clubs, hobby clubs and other fun organizations to start connecting with people IRL (read about some here). Or, just grab that coffee with a new condo friend or meet some moms and dads at your kid’s school.
Have a Healthy Relationship… with Food
That means not only eating healthy foods as much as you can, but even having the cake when you feel like it. Enjoy the experience of eating and don’t torture yourself over it. Also, try out the mood-boosting effects of foods like salmon, nuts and (yeeeesssss!) chocolate.
Mental health experts extol the benefits of getting your body moving. Why? It increases endorphins, the feel-good brain chemicals. So, it’s no surprise you feel better when you’re active. Some easy ways to get in more “steps” during the day: Get off a stop earlier on the bus or train and walk, or take the stairs instead of the lift. (Or, try these 8 ways to get fit in SG without going to a gym.)
Spend Time in Nature
Sure, Singapore is hot. But, it’s also called the Garden City for good reason – there are lots of gorgeous green spaces all around the island, which are worth venturing out into Mother Nature. Play in the sand and sea around East Coast Park, or check out the exotic trees, grass and birds in the Botanic Gardens. (Been there, done that? Try these 11 unique nature hikes or these interesting bike trails.)
Get Some Rest
More and more evidence shows that getting enough sleep helps with our moods, our weight, our heart health and, clearly, our energy levels. Follow good sleep hygiene, such as having a wind-down routine, reducing screen time and exercise late at night, and don’t let TV, food or alcohol rev you up too late.
“When you feel helpless, help someone,” said Burma’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi. There are many charities around Singapore that could use your help (consider these 20 worthy volunteering causes). Even helping a parent lift up the end of a stroller over a step, or assisting someone pick up an item they’ve dropped, can make you feel good for helping them out. Sometimes, even a smile and a “hello” or “thank you” can do the trick.
See a Doctor
…especially when you’re feeling unwell or not functioning well, including not sleeping, eating or socializing, or alternatively drinking, shopping or eating too much. This lack of self-regard or self-care takes a toll on your physical health, and also affects your relationships. Get to a medical professional who can help evaluate what’s going on.
Talk to Someone
You are not alone! Reach out to compassionate and trusted friends, family or even a support group like the American Women Association’s Listen Ladies (full disclosure: I started the group). Therapists can be good an option when you don’t want to talk to someone close to you. (Here, one of The Finder‘s expert explains how counselling can help.)
Even when we have problems, we can still feel blessed. Take a look at the good things in your life. Researchers are starting to point to the “gratitude” factor, which shows that some people, who practice gratitude, are happier and more resilient and manage stress better.
Some of these tips might seem like common sense, but the trick is to make the effort to care for yourself on a regular basis – and World Mental Health Day is a good day to start! Even tapping into one or two of these ideas can improve or help you maintain good mental hygiene.
Regardless of whether or not you have mental health diagnosis, maintaining mental health is as important as any other aspect of your health. Remember, there is nothing wrong with needing and asking for help. There are solutions and there is always hope!
About Andrea McKenna Brankin
Andrea McKenna Brankin is a journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.
Like this? Read about more ways to Live Well in Singapore.
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