When the going gets tough, it helps to know how you can manage your distress. We asked a counselor and a psychologist for tips on how to handle three common stressful scenarios: losing a loved one, anxiety and insecurity. Scroll through the gallery to read their tips.
1. When you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one
Nothing can really prepare you for this, so it’s important that you give yourself time to grieve and fully process your emotions.
The grieving process differs from person to person. Your grief may kick in immediately or it may only happen after the funeral, when you have some quiet time to yourself. You may also have feelings of guilt mixed with relief, especially if your loved one suffered through a painful illness.
All these scenarios are normal, and it’s good to acknowledge the intense emotions, knowing that they’ll fade with time, no matter how painful it feels at that point.
According to the Institute of Mental Health, although the sense of loss may still remain, most of us recover from a major bereavement within one or two years. However, Cassandra Chiu, a counsellor at The Safe Harbour Counselling Centre, points out that it’s important not to slip into isolation and be stuck on the “what ifs”.
“You could start a new exercise routine or learn a new skill so the focus is not on the loss. You could also create a project to commemorate the loved one that has passed on, like planting a tree in their memory. This helps to give a sense that their legacy continues,” she says.
2. When you’re anxious
It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time, especially if you’re going through big life changes such as moving house, getting married or switching jobs.
To avoid negative emotions from permeating your life, Cassandra suggests prioritising self-care and celebrating your successes, no matter how small.
“Even little wins like finishing every item on your to-do list for the day can be significant. The key is to create more positive mental examples to build confidence about your abilities and strengthen your resilience,” she says.
Positive self-care is all about knowing your emotional and psychological limits and respecting them, so make it a point to develop healthy boundaries between your work and personal lives.
“Stressful people and events can wear us down, but if we’re in a good place emotionally and mentally, there is little these stressors can do to us,” says Cassandra.
3. When you’re insecure
There are days when your self-esteem is so low that you need to muster every ounce of willpower just to “show up”, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Joy Hou, principal psychologist at EmpathyWorks Psychological Wellness, recommends developing some coping skills to help squash insecurities and enhance your “grit factor”.
Consciously relax: During a hectic day, take short five-minute breaks and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, with a hand on your abdomen. Inhale slowly through your nose, as you feel your hand rising when the air moves into your abdomen, then exhale through your mouth.
Establish a support group: Socialising after work can help lighten your mental load. Joy says, “Building a support group outside of the office is important, especially when you may not want to vent your frustrations or discuss work-related issues with your colleagues. Meet up with a few trusted friends after work for a nice dinner, when you can feel emotionally safe to unload and share your innermost thoughts and feelings.”
Practise gratitude: Not only does gratitude improve our psychological health, enhance self-esteem and increase our mental strength, but according to a Yale study, it also helps us to enjoy better well-being and recover more quickly from highly stressful situations. Don’t know where to begin? Keep a gratitude journal and pen down three things you’re grateful for every night before you go to bed.
Find perspective: If you find yourself dreading going to work, surround yourself with positive visual cues by putting pictures of your boyfriend, friends or your favourite holiday to remind yourself of why you work. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed and stressed out, take five minutes and enjoy the display. You can also put up cards or letters of appreciation given to you to remind yourself of good things that have happened.
Text: Chia Sihan