While Filipinos are known for resilience and cheerfulness, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care of our mental health. Navigating life in the 21st century, balancing career, family, friends, and relationships, we often forget to take care of ourselves.
The concept of mental health has gained ground in Philippine society, going as far as the legislature and even television. However, there’s still much to be done before people fully embrace mental health to be as important as physical health.
There’s a Latin phrase that goes “Mens sana in corpore sano” which translates to “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” As early as the 2nd century when the phrase was written, people knew of the important connection between physical health and mental health. Mental health is complex and multifaceted and cannot be reduced to behavior or biology alone. One affects the other. As such, self-care is also multifaceted.
With this in mind, here are are some ways one can engage in self-care.
Cultivate healthy habits
Many of us are familiar with the feeling of elation that comes after a good workout. This is why some people would exercise after a stressful day of work. Besides whatever fitness goal one has, exercising generally makes one feel good. Some psychologists even prescribe exercise for people who suffer from depression.
The mind is a physical object. The body serves as a foundation and when that foundation weakens, things fall apart. Sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, and unhealthy eating easily lead to sickness.When one is sick, one is unable to perform well at work if at all, causing tasks to pile up. Furthermore, getting sick also means having to take medicine which can impact finances. Both of these are stressors that can affect one’s mental health without one realizing it.
That’s why when it comes to self-care one should take care of one’s body. Exercise regularly by jogging, biking, or going to the gym. You can even build your own gym at home. Eat healthy and as much as possible, on time. Take vitamins. Get enough sleep.
Being physically healthy won’t make one immune from mental health problems but it can at least provide stability. Doing so won’t make one’s problems go away. However, dealing with problems is easier when one isn’t starving, sick, or sleep-deprived.
Indulge on occasion
When it comes to dealing with stress, most people might turn a quick source of pleasure. Some people eat chocolate while others grab a drink. Some engage in retail therapy such as buying a lot of things. In general, there’s nothing wrong with indulging as long as it’s done in moderation.
However, do note that some modes of indulgence can do harm in the long run. Some even lead to dependence or even addiction. Smoking, drinking, eating sweets, eating junk food can do a lot of harm to one’s physical health when left unchecked. Likewise, dependence on retail therapy can end up spending on unnecessary things, impacting financial stability and becoming a stressor.
Fortunately, vicious cycles can be broken. Smokers can quit, alcoholics can go sober, shopaholics can learn to be more frugal (and sell on OLX).
Some indulgences do more good than others. For example, getting a massage might be seen as a luxury but there are health benefits to it. Working takes its toll on the body, even when one works at a desk. We get stressed out and our muscles tense up. Massages can help relieve that tension, causing one to feel better.
Spend leisure time wisely
Leisure time should be spent wisely with regards to mental health because it’s the best time to cultivate oneself. If physical health requires regular physical activity, mental health requires regular mental activity.
With the limited time we have ourselves, we have to make use of that time wisely. Social media, for all the good it can do, make a lot of us waste our precious time. After all, there are countless ways one can spend time more productively or meaningfully.
When stressed out, it’s important to be able to step away from the things causing one’s stress. Whether its work, family, relationships, or finances, setting these things aside for a moment can help.
Some people turn to sports. After all, sports help with keeping a healthy body given the physical exertion they generally require. Sports such as basketball, biking, or ultimate frisbee provide exercise while helping build relationships with people. Other people turn to yoga or martial arts to develop not just their bodies but also their minds through meditative movements.
Moving on, the arts serve as a means of de-stressing for some people. Almost anyone can attest to how listening to good music or watching a good movie can help one feel better. The arts can help us step away from the drudgery of daily living and see more of the world than we get to. Perhaps instead of going to the bar when stressed, one can visit a museum, a library, or the theater.
On that point, besides engaging with art, perhaps one can create art. Writing, drawing, painting, and playing music can be therapeutic.
Maintain a support system
There’s a common saying that goes “No man is an island” which comes from Meditations No. 17 by 17th century English poet John Donne. People use the saying to talk about the deep, interdependence people have with each other. We all affect each other in some way and as such, we can help each other in some way.
When stressed, people often go to the company of family or friends. Often, people take the opportunity to unwind through activities. However, one shouldn’t discredit the importance of confiding one’s problems to friends. Most of the time, people would rather keep their problems to themselves for fear of becoming a killjoy. Considering how Filipinos tend to be quite festive and jolly, it becomes difficult to be open about negative emotions.
It’s important to have different groups of friends one can turn to when one feels particularly burdened. When burdened with problems, it pays to have a group of friends who can provide support.
The notion of becoming the strong, stoic lone wolf who doesn’t burden others with their suffering appeals to many. However, bottling up one’s emotions wreaks havoc on one’s mental health. No matter how stoic one tries to stay, eventually the center cannot hold and things fall apart.
Don’t be afraid to seek out help. If you can, find a friend who can serve as your confidante. At the same time, help others when you can. Often, people don’t look for people who can solve their problems for them. Sometimes, people just seek good company and validation.
Seek professional help
All that has been said so far should be taken with a grain of salt. As mentioned in the beginning, mental health is deeply linked to one’s body. The methods given can help with things such as stress, nervousness, or insecurity. However, sadness is not depression, nervousness is not anxiety, and inconsistency is not bipolar disorder.
None of the suggestions here should be treated as a cure for any form of mental illness. Actual mental illnesses may require more specific forms of therapy or medication that professionals can recommend.
Mental illnesses arise from a broad variety of factors, both external and internal. These range from traumatic experiences to chemical imbalances in the brain. It’s not a simple matter of choosing to be happy as many people think.
While those with mental illnesses were once condemned, now they are better able to integrate with society. The discussion of mental health continues to gain ground and enter mainstream consciousness. In time, mental health will be discussed as openly as physical health and mental illnesses will no longer be stigmatized.
Everyone should take care of their mental health. If you or someone you know is in need of professional help, you can contact the following institutions:
- National Center for Mental Health
- Philippine Mental Health Association Inc.
- Natasha Goulbourn Foundation
- Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychological Services
- UST Psychotrauma Clinic
There is no shame in seeking professional help. We have years of both practical and medical wisdom to help us. As we navigate our complex lives in the 21st century, it’s important to take care of ourselves, and as much as we can, each other.