How To Care For Your Mental Well-Being Amidst This Lockdown
Ever wondered how to care for your mental wellbeing during the lockdown in Malaysia? Mental health care in Malaysia is expensive and limited, and this lack of access has made it difficult for Malaysians to seek professional help (especially amidst the pandemic). However, there are some practical steps individuals can take to care for their mental well-being. Although this does not replace professional help, perhaps introducing small adjustments into our daily routines could help shift our outlook in life.
To address this topic of mental self-care, we spoke to the team at ThoughtFull, a Malaysian digital mental health support app for more insight. The team includes Joan (Chief Executive Officer), John (Asst Head of Counselling), and Esther (Associate):
What are the rates (RM) of mental health professionals in Malaysia?
The cost for a single session with a private therapist can range from RM150 to RM500, depending on the qualifications and years of experience of the therapist. There are many NGOs and government facilities that may offer therapy for as low as RM15 or even for free (but does have a long waitlist).
Why is mental health care so expensive in Malaysia?
There could be a variety of reasons, such as:
- Low utilization of mental healthcare services due to stigma and lack of awareness
- Low numbers of professionals in the field
However, there has been a rise in more affordable mental health services in Malaysia recently. For example, the ThoughtFullChat app is a subscription-based mobile platform that provides individuals with accessible and affordable mental healthcare services. Access to coaches (who are all licensed and qualified counsellors/psychologists), bite-sized resilience tools and wellness content can be at the tip of your fingers.
What are some habits you would promote to care for one’s mental well-being?
The key to proper mental health care is to prioritize self-care, with the knowledge that it is not selfish and indeed necessary to take care and stand up for your own needs. In practice, this looks like:
- Establishing clear (but difficult) boundaries in relationships and the different areas of life.
- Establishing a routine of wellbeing that includes fun activities, workouts or social time.
- Accepting how you feel at the moment, no matter how negative, without judgement towards yourself.
What are some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) methods that we can practice in our daily lives?
This basically involves identifying the negative thought patterns, challenging them (i.e. testing to what extent are those thought statements true), and giving yourself more useful alternatives.
Instead of “I am useless at work today”, try “I may not be at my productive best today as I am not feeling up for it. But I am still a valuable employee as I have done valuable things at work in the past.”
Journaling and recording your thoughts
Writing in itself has a cathartic effect, but it also helps you to structure and organise your thoughts better and allows you to identify your unhelpful ways of thinking. You can also try the 3 Good Things exercise where you write down three positive experiences every day.
I understand that meditating is a good habit, but it’s not necessarily easy. How does one start?
Start small (5-minutes). During the exercise, simply allow yourself to observe your thoughts and emotions non-judgmentally. The goal of meditation is to help train your mind’s attention and awareness to achieve a clear and emotionally calm state. When you feel ready, you can increase the time.
Do breathing exercises actually work? If yes, when are they most effective?
Yes, breathing exercises can help one to calm down during times of anxiety or panic. When we practice deep breathing, it’s sending a message to our brain to relax. One of the easiest breathing techniques is the Equal Breathing Technique where you inhale for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, then exhale for 4 counts.
What can individuals do more each day to take care of their mental well-being?
There are little things we can do every day to keep us mentally healthy, for example:
- Create a routine of things that you enjoy and do them daily or at least weekly.
- Make it a point to reach out to and nurture positive relationships in your life.
- Do things that serve the larger community to the best that you can (this can be small acts like sharing mental health tips/hotlines on your social media platforms).
What can individuals do less each day to take care of their mental well-being?
- Reduce your exposure to unnecessary negativity.
- Establish clear boundaries in your relationships and don’t be afraid to say no.
When is it time to seek professional help?
When you feel the strong need to talk to someone about something and find yourself struggling with pent up emotions, it is best to reach out to a professional. The earlier you identify this need and seek help, the better. Mental health professionals can help listen without judgment and guide you in structuring your thoughts, using effective techniques and exercises.
How can we reduce the stigma against seeking mental health care?
The best way to reduce stigma is to have more conversations surrounding the topic. At an individual level, this means allowing vulnerability by talking about your own experiences with mental health issues and seeing a therapist. From a collective or organizational perspective, this could mean taking greater efforts to talk about employee wellbeing and having more public awareness programs.
To further understand how students can take care of their mental well-being, we spoke to Jean Anne Heng, Founding Director of Malaysian Association of Psychology Students (MAPS):
What can students do more each day to take care of their mental well-being?
Students are already doing the best they can during such tough times. In fact, they are in the position to fully utilize more of the available resources. For example:
- Ask for extensions or deferments for assignments and exams. Lecturers are often compassionate and understanding, so don’t be afraid to ask.
- Leverage on your university’s career services – especially for fresh graduates seeking employment, your student services centre should be able to help.
- Reach out to your student council. They are usually allocated certain funding or budgets for student welfare, ask if there’s any help they can extend.
- Tap into student programmes. For example, MAPS is offering a MAPS Mentor Programme that connects Psychology students to a mentor in the field.
If you are not sure how to write into your universities to request this support or facilitation, MAPS can also help guide your drafts! So do reach out to Malaysian Association of Psychology Students.
If you would like access to a mental health professional, be sent mindfulness prompts or try out meditation, you can download the ThoughtFullChat app and start with a 2-week free trial! ThoughtFull is also offering a 15% discount on their ThoughtFullChat app to all readers of Crunch. You can use this promo code on top of their existing 14-day free trial! Getting started is easy: