Stress and Relationships: Navigating Conflict and Communication

Written by: Zafra Aswar Ali

Photo by Khamkéo Vilaysing on Unsplash

Among the many inevitable matters in our lives, stress is known to have a major influence on relationships. The reasons may vary from experiencing financial struggles, facing pressure at work, or other struggles that may lead to conflicts and misunderstandings in a relationship. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of stress management and effective communication to maintain a healthy bond with your partner. This article will explore the impact of stress on relationships, the challenges that arise, as well as some strategies to manage conflicts effectively.

Understanding Stress in Relationships

Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner requires effort, empathy, and communication with understanding from both sides. However, when one or both partners are highly stressed, it can be quite a challenge to fulfill the bare minimum in a relationship. This can lead to a relationship conflict as a result of differences of opinions and perspectives, making it difficult to express one’s feelings clearly.

Even though stress affects people differently, it can often cause a relationship to be at stake due to the profound impact of high stress levels. Moreover, one can easily get lost in emotion during a disagreement with their partner rather than looking at the point that is being made.

Hence, it is important to identify the negative impacts of stress in a relationship to make it stronger and healthier. Here are a few ways stress can affect relationships:

1. Breakdown in communication 

It is a well-known fact that effective communication and understanding are key to maintaining healthy relationships. But high levels of stress become barriers to one or both of them often leading to arguments and frustration.

2. Reduced intimacy

There can be a lack of intimacy between couples who are stressed, both physically and emotionally. This may further aggravate frustration, leaving one of them feeling neglected by their partner.

3. Absence of emotional support

Extreme stress can result in partners emotionally distancing themselves from each other. Due to this reason, one of them may feel abandoned and unsupported.

4. Rise in negative relationship patterns

High levels of stress among couples can increase criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling, which have been identified as some negative relationship patterns. As a result, this further leads to a lack of trust and intimacy.

5. Role strain

Couples may become overwhelmed by their relevant roles within their relationships while experiencing high levels of stress, causing an imbalance in the role each one should fulfill.

Some useful tips to manage stress in relationships

While stress can make couples feel like they have failed in their relationship, it can also grant them an opportunity to navigate the positive side of it and strive to work together as a team towards conflict resolution.

  • Here are some strategies that can be beneficial in managing stress and working towards building a healthy relationship:

1. Practice active listening and express empathy

Whenever you hold a conversation with your partner, ensure to actively listen and understand without interrupting them before they finish speaking, because effective communication comes with active listening. In addition, empathize with them and validate how they feel for better understanding, and be open to compromise.

2. Use “I”or “We” statements

During arguments or while discussing anything that may stir frustration, try to use statements with “I” to express your perspective rather than using “you” to blame and accuse your partner. For example, instead of saying, “you  always leave your plate on the table without putting it in the sink!” you can try saying, “I feel frustrated when I always have to put your plate in the sink by myself!” This is a better approach for problem-solving and preventing defensiveness in a relationship.

Apart from using “I” statements to express how you feel when trying to resolve an issue, you are supposed to use “we.”  For instance, saying “I/you have to find a solution to this problem”, say “we have to solve this problem”. This is empowering and creates a collaborative environment to solve problems.

3. Set boundaries

Make sure to establish clear boundaries around topics that may be sensitive or trigger stress. Talk to your partner regarding their needs and expectations and respect each other’s boundaries to alleviate stress during any conflict.

4. Practice forgiveness

Rather than thinking about a past argument and holding grudges, forgive your partner and move on. Moreover, understand that your partner is a human and may make mistakes.

5. Seek support if necessary

If trying to resolve conflicts together as a couple only worsens the situation, then consider reaching out to a professional together, such as a couple’s therapist or counselor. With their professional knowledge and hands-on experience, they can assist you in navigating the underlying causes of stress by providing the necessary tools to build a positive relationship.

Conclusion

Stress is part and parcel of life, but when it comes to relationships, a couple needs to navigate their situation with open communication, empathy, and support for each other to strengthen their bond. Look at challenging situations as opportunities to learn and grow and seek assistance whenever necessary to maintain a healthier relationship than ever.

From Awareness to Action: Insights on World Bipolar Day

Written by: Sabeeha Azmi

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

World Bipolar Day is commemorated annually on March 30th, to raise awareness and advocate for bipolar disorder. It presents a great opportunity to educate the community and improve support and resources for individuals with bipolar disorder. This initiative aims to reduce the stigma surrounding this mental health condition, and to enhance and promote mental wellness within societies worldwide.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that is characterised by extreme mood swings that range from depressive lows to manic highs, and affects millions of individuals worldwide. It can result in shifts in mood, activity, and energy levels. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience episodes of mania, which can include impulsivity, elevated mood, a significant increase in energy levels, etc. These can also alternate with episodes of depression, which include feelings of hopelessness, low mood, fatigue, etc. (Grande et al., 2016). Bipolar disorder exists on a spectrum with different subtypes and varying degrees of severity. Symptoms can vary in intensity and frequency, impacting various aspects of an individual’s life including work, interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, and daily functioning (Vieta et al., 2018). Living with this mental health condition can be challenging, but with the right support and treatment, individuals can manage their symptoms effectively and lead fulfilling lives (Chia et al., 2019).

Despite the high prevalence of bipolar disorder, it is apparent that there is a significant lack of understanding and awareness surrounding this complex condition. Thus, World Bipolar Day serves as a pivotal platform for fostering empathy and challenging misconceptions about individuals navigating bipolar disorder.One of the main goals of World Bipolar Day is the de-stigmatisation of the disorder. When stigma is associated with mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, it can cause a barrier to seeking help and receiving the necessary support (Hawke et al., 2013). By promoting open and authentic discussions and educating communities, this day contributes to honing a more supportive and inclusive environment.

In addition, World Bipolar Day encourages individuals with this condition to have open dialogues about their experiences and challenges with their friends and family. It emphasises the importance of proper diagnosis, early detection, and receiving effective treatment. Through outreach efforts, programmes, and informative campaigns, the day allows individuals to feel empowered to recognise their symptoms, seek professional support, and access appropriate and sound resources (Chia et al., 2019).

An essential aspect of World Bipolar Day is highlighting the lived experiences of individuals with this disorder. Testimonials and personal stories from them and their families provide us with valuable and authentic insights and perspectives into the daily realities of managing and living with bipolar disorder. A sense of empathy and understanding is fostered by sharing these narratives, helping communities to become more aware and supportive (Veseth et al., 2012; Warwick et al., 2019).

This day serves as an important reminder of the significance of mental health awareness and advocacy. Through increasing understanding, challenging stigma, and promoting compassion and empathy, this global initiative strives to enhance the well-being of individuals with bipolar disorder. It also encourages communities to prioritise mental health, give support to one another, and work towards creating a more inclusive society.

As we continue to revisit the spirit of World Bipolar Day every year, let us foster a culture of consideration and care for everyone navigating the complexities of mental health challenges. Together, we can step forward and break down barriers for the emergence of holistic wellness for us all.

References

Chia, M. F., Cotton, S., Filia, K., Phelan, M., Conus, P., Jauhar, S., Marwaha, S., McGorry, P. D., Davey, C., Berk, M., & Ratheesh, A. (2019). Early intervention for bipolar disorder – do current treatment guidelines provide recommendations for the early stages of the disorder? Journal of Affective Disorders, 257, 669–677. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.07.062

Grande, I., Berk, M., Birmaher, B., & Vieta, E. (2016). Bipolar disorder. The Lancet, 387(10027), 1561-1572.

Hawke, L. D., Parikh, S. V., & Michalak, E. E. (2013). Stigma and bipolar disorder: a review of the literature. Journal of Affective Disorders, 150(2), 181-191.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Bipolar disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder

Veseth, M., Binder, P. E., Borg, M., & Davidson, L. (2012). Toward caring for oneself in a life of intense ups and downs: a reflexive-collaborative exploration of recovery in bipolar disorder. Qualitative Health Research, 22(1), 119-133.

Vieta, E., Berk, M., Schulze, T. G., Carvalho, A. F., Suppes, T., Calabrese, J. R., Gao, K., Miskowiak, K. W., & Grande, I. (2018). Bipolar disorders. Nature Reviews Disease Primers, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrdp.2018.8

Warwick, H., Tai, S., & Mansell, W. (2019). Living the life you want following a diagnosis of bipolar disorder: A grounded theory approach. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 26(3), 362-377.

What are bipolar disorders? Psychiatry.org – What Are Bipolar Disorders? (n.d.). https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/bipolar-disorders/what-are-bipolar-disorders

Understanding the Connection Between Alcohol Use and Mental Health

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

Photo by Canva Create Studio

Did you know that alcohol is one of the most extensively used addictive substances in the world? Its availability and acceptance within society are what lead to its widespread use, with many people using alcohol to relax and cope with various stressors. However, it’s important to remember that excessive alcohol use can negatively impact one’s mental health.

How Does Alcohol Use Impact Mental Health?

Alcohol use can negatively impact mental health in various ways, ranging from short-term effects to long-term consequences.

1. Depression and anxiety

Alcohol can indeed make people feel relaxed and euphoric. However, these feelings are temporary and can interfere with neurotransmitter balance in the brain over time. This means that if you already have anxiety or depression, you are more likely to trigger or intensify your symptoms with the use of alcohol. Previous research has also found that greater levels of depression symptoms are connected with earlier alcohol use, more frequent drinking, and intoxication in both Norwegian secondary school girls and boys (Johannessen et al., 2017).

2. Cognitive impairments

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means that it decreases cognitive functioning. Therefore, even moderate amounts of alcohol can cause cognitive impairments. Long-term and excessive use of alcohol can cause structural and functional brain damage, resulting in alcohol-related dementia (ARD). Cognitive impairments are most commonly found in visuospatial functioning, memory, and executive tasks, with the possibility of some recovery if abstinence is continued (Sachdeva et al. 2016).

3. Sleep problems

Alcohol may help people fall asleep faster, but it also interferes with the sleep cycle, resulting in irregular sleep patterns. Therefore, a variety of behavioural challenges, including sleep problems are reported in 35%–91% of patients presenting with long-term alcohol use. The most common sleep problems related to alcohol use are difficulty falling asleep, decreased sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness. These sleep problems also remain throughout alcohol withdrawal, but have been reported to disappear with continuous abstinence (Martindale et al., 2017).

4. Aggressive behaviours

We are all familiar with how drinking alcohol impairs judgement and reduces inhibitions. This can then result in both verbal and physical aggression. However, it is important to understand that not everyone who uses alcohol becomes aggressive, and the degree to which alcohol enhances aggression varies depending on genetics, personality factors, prior experiences, and environmental conditions. However, alcohol use can be harmful to society, since evidence suggests that higher rates of alcohol use are associated with higher rates of homicide and violent crime (Fritz et al., 2023).

5. Risk of suicidal ideation and behaviors

Alcohol use is closely connected to an increased risk of suicidal ideation and behaviour. More specifically, alcohol’s depressive effects combined with impaired judgment and impulse control can lead to self-harm or suicidal behaviours. Furthermore, long-term alcohol intoxication can increase maladaptive coping strategies and impair self-regulation in those who are predisposed to risk-taking behaviour, raising the risk of suicide (Rizk et al., 2021).

What are the Strategies for Reducing Alcohol Use?

Reducing the use of alcohol is a difficult but attainable goal when different strategies and support systems are put in place, as explained below.

1. Setting clear and realistic goals for alcohol use is important. Whether it’s reducing the number of drinks per week or completely avoiding drinking alcohol, having a particular goal can increase your determination.

2. Keeping track of alcohol use can help people become more mindful of their drinking habits. Keeping a journal or recording the number of drinks taken in a smartphone app, along with the triggers of drinking alcohol, can provide useful insights and help you detect patterns in your drinking behaviour.

3. Minimising access to alcohol, such as not having it at home, or avoiding situations where alcohol is readily available, can help reduce the desire to drink.

4. It is important to identify other strategies for coping with stress, anxiety, and other difficulties rather than turning to alcohol. At times like this, you can try things like exercise, meditation, creative hobbies, or spending time with supportive friends and family.

5. Don’t forget to celebrate achievements and progress towards reducing alcohol use, no matter how little, because it can enhance your motivation and self-esteem to keep working towards your goals.

6. If you feel like you cannot reduce your alcohol use by yourself, it is always better to seek professional help from a therapist, counsellor, or support group.

In conclusion, alcohol use can have a significant impact on mental health, affecting mood, cognition, sleep, and relationships. By adopting healthy strategies into your daily routine, you can take active steps to reduce alcohol use and promote general well-being. It’s also important to remember that making changes takes time, patience, and effort, and seeking help from professionals and loved ones can make the road to abstinence easier and more rewarding.

References

Fritz, M., Soravia, S. M., Dudeck, M., Malli, L., & Fakhoury, M. (2023). Neurobiology of Aggression-Review of Recent Findings and Relationship with Alcohol and Trauma. Biology, 12(3), 469. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology12030469

Johannessen, E. L., Andersson, H. W., Bjørngaard, J. H., & Pape, K. (2017). Anxiety and depression symptoms and alcohol use among adolescents – a cross-sectional study of Norwegian secondary school students. BMC Public Health, 17(1), 494. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4389-2

Martindale, S. L., Hurley, R. A., & Taber, K. H. (2017). Chronic Alcohol Use and Sleep Homeostasis: Risk Factors and Neuroimaging of Recovery. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 29(1), A6–A5. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.neuropsych.16110307

Rizk, M. M., Herzog, S., Dugad, S., & Stanley, B. (2021). Suicide Risk and Addiction: The Impact of Alcohol and Opioid Use Disorders. Current Addiction Reports, 8(2), 194–207. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-021-00361-z

Sachdeva, A., Chandra, M., Choudhary, M., Dayal, P., & Anand, K. S. (2016). Alcohol-Related Dementia and Neurocognitive Impairment: A Review Study. International Journal of High-Risk Behaviours & Addiction, 5(3), e27976. https://doi.org/10.5812/ijhrba.27976

7 Reasons Why Going to Therapy is Beneficial

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

In today’s hectic world, going to therapy has become a popular option for those seeking to enhance their mental health. However, you should know that therapy isn’t just necessary for those with mental health challenges; it also provides several benefits for people looking to improve their overall well-being. There are different reasons why going to therapy might be beneficial, whether you’re facing specific issues such as exam stress or simply trying to improve your relationship satisfaction. 

So, let us look at 7 reasons why going to therapy is beneficial, and how it may help you feel more fulfilled in life. 

1. Treating mental health challenges 

One of the most important benefits of going to therapy is treating mental health challenges. Therapy can help treat a lot of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and more. It provides people with coping strategies and tools to help them enhance their emotional well-being. Major life transitions might also have an impact on our mental health. Whether it is a job loss, the end of a romantic relationship, or the death of a loved one, it is always a good idea to have someone to talk to as you begin your journey towards healing. 

2. A good start for self-exploration 

Therapy promotes self-reflection and awareness. It allows you to dig further into your ideas, feelings, and behaviours, and helps to gain more understanding of yourself. For example, with the help of a therapist, you can find out what causes your stress or anger, or what makes you joyful and at ease. This can lead towards a happy life! Not only that but going to therapy can help you set clear goals because the therapist will guide and motivate you throughout your life path. 

3. Developing good coping strategies 

Coping strategies help people in dealing with stress and unpleasant emotions in their life. However, not all coping techniques are beneficial; there are adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies. Exercising, journaling, talking with a friend, watching your favourite TV show, going for a 10-minute walk are examples of adaptive coping strategies. Anger outbursts, self-harm, drug use, and isolation are all examples of maladaptive coping strategies. So, with the guidance of a therapist, you can learn how to develop good coping strategies in a healthy and safe environment. 

4. Improving communication skills 

Therapy can help you learn how to communicate in a healthy, effective, and positive manner. Being able to properly communicate means that you can successfully manage almost all aspects of your life. Therefore, with the help of a therapist you can learn how to establish healthy relationship boundaries, communicate your wants clearly, and assertively demand the things you want from people. This is especially important for couples because it allows them to build up their communication and conflict resolution skills, allowing them to grow together and overcome hurdles. 

5. Allows for behaviour modification 

Our behaviours, like the thoughts we have, can be extremely damaging, not only to ourselves but also to people around us. They might make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships, think positively, and live a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps you struggle with substance abuse, binge eating, unsafe sexual practices, suspecting your partner for no apparent reason, or self-sabotage. Whatever it is, therapy can help you change the way you behave and make better decisions. 

6. Enhanced productivity 

We sometimes struggle to focus on one thing, whether at school, work, or in any other aspect of our lives. For example, maybe you are not happy with your job and do not want to go to work anymore. Or you can’t stay focused on work for more than 10 minutes! Whatever it is, therapy can help you understand and prioritise what you need to do in order to be productive. Your therapist can help you regain control of your life by making a daily task schedule, breaking down the job into smaller parts, or using more advanced approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). 

7. Improves your physical health 

Most of us don’t know this, but there is a close link between mental and physical health. This means that therapy can also improve your physical health. For example, therapy can teach you how to handle stress, which can lead to better sleep, lower blood pressure, and a more powerful immune system. This, in turn, lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, inflammatory diseases and much more! And adopting healthy behaviours, such as exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet, and so on, will also greatly improve your physical health. 

You now understand that going to therapy has a lot of benefits. It can help with all aspects of life, not just mental health. Going to therapy, whether for a specific life challenge or simply to grow as a person, may be a transformative experience. Which is why you should give it a try at least once in your life to experience the benefits for yourself. 

Parenting with a Focus on Children’s Mental Health

Written by: Zafra Aswar Ali 

Parenting is a responsibility like no other, combining both joyous and overwhelming experiences. Parents always wish the best for their children intending to raise healthy and happy children. However, certain actions can knowingly or unknowingly be perceived by children incorrectly and detrimentally affect their mental well-being. Therefore, children’s mental health should be given priority like their physical health because both are vital for their overall development process. 

First and foremost, let us look at four widely accepted parenting styles that can impact the mental health of children in various ways. 

1. Authoritarian Style 

This type of parenting is considered unhealthy because children are expected to follow the rules made by their parents without any questioning. For example, if a child is disobedient, he or she is severely punished without any prior communication or explanation. Moreover, they are pressured to do well in their academics and other extracurricular activities and get blamed for the simplest of mistakes without any appropriate guidance. 

Hence, this parenting style is viewed as toxic because, despite getting the child to be obedient, the consequences are often unpleasant. Children who experience that kind of parenting grow up with problems with their self-esteem and the sense of being undervalued which can lead to anxiety and depression. 

2. Authoritative Style 

Even in this parenting style, parents create a set of rules and have high expectations from their children. However, such parents are quite democratic in this regard because children are granted the freedom to voice out their opinions, ask questions, and share how they feel by maintaining a healthy and strong bond with their parents unlike in the authoritative style. Apart from that, these parents guide children with constructive criticism and are much more forgiving when their children make any mistake. 

This parenting style is the most recommended as children from this kind of parenting grow up to be happy and successful with enhanced self-esteem.  

3. Permissive Style 

Parents following this parenting style display a lack of guidance for immoral behaviours and dislike establishing a clear set of rules, while not expecting much from their children. As a result, children may face issues with authority and perform poorly in school. Furthermore, such children are reported to be less happy and encounter difficulties in self-regulation with a risk of developing anxiety and depression. 

On the flip side, parents with this parenting style are comparatively communicative and behave with their children as a friend more than a parent. 

4. Uninvolved Style 

Parents with this parenting style spend little to no time with their children and are less interested in their children’s activities although their basic needs are fulfilled. Thus, such children may display immoral and antisocial behaviours – lacking self-control and self-esteem when they grow up because of the absence of guidance from their parents. Ultimately, their future relationships are at risk due to the fear of being abandoned. 

Now let us explore some parenting approaches that parents can follow during the upbringing of their children with a better focus on their children’s mental well-being. 

Active listening 

Paying undivided attention to your children when they communicate with you can undoubtedly help create a healthy relationship with them. Once you start listening to them actively, they will feel valued and have no hesitation to share any information. Remember to maintain eye contact and of course, avoid interrupting them while they talk. 

Allow them to express their emotions 

Creating a safe space for your children to express their emotions without being judged is a crucial aspect of their upbringing. So, always validate how they feel, whether they are angry, happy, or sad, and handle them empathetically. 

Create a supportive environment 

Beyond validating their emotions, it is also vital to ensure that they feel safe and nurtured in the home environment. This would enable them to augment their mental well-being because of the unconditional love and support they gain. 

Set realistic expectations 

Pressurising your children to attain a particular level of success in their academic and extracurricular activities is an unhealthy method of parenting. Instead, as parents you must teach your children the importance of progress over perfection and motivate them to do better every day as human beings. 

Teach coping strategies 

This is another effective strategy to boost the mental health of your children. Encouraging them to cope with their negative emotions by journaling, meditation, or simple breathing techniques would be beneficial in the long run. 

Reduce screen time 

Spending too much time on smart devices can have negative consequences on both the physical and mental health of your children. Therefore, limit their screen time and push them to engage in various physical activities including any sports activity, or simply take them for a walk. In addition, encourage them to build social relationships as it plays a major role in emotional development. 

With that being said, useful online activities must also be given preference. Tools such as parental controls can be made use of while granting them access to content suitable only for their age category without it being a disruption to other offline activities. 

Reach out to a professional when necessary 

Regardless of applying suitable parenting techniques, certain behavioural or emotional issues pertaining to mental health such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and learning disabilities cannot be addressed by yourself. In that case, seek assistance from a mental health professional without any delay and do the needful. 

Conclusion 

There is no right or wrong way of parenting because of the unique situations in each household and a parenting style alone cannot determine a child’s growth. Nevertheless, parenting is a journey full of ups and downs that require high levels of commitment, empathy, and most importantly patience. Therefore, as parents, be mindful of practising healthy parenting approaches that would enhance your children’s mental well-being – specifically by paying attention to their needs, as each child is unique in their own way. 

How to Navigate the Psychological Challenges of Moving Abroad?

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

Are you planning to move abroad soon for higher education, a new job, or for another personal reason? If you said yes, this post is for you!

Moving abroad can be a life-changing experience because it opens up many possibilities. However, it may cause many psychological challenges that can be very stressful if not handled appropriately.

Many people are unaware of the emotional impact of leaving familiar surroundings and adjusting to a new culture. It can make you wonder if you made the right decision and whether the change was worth it.

That’s why we wrote this article just for you, to help you get ready for whatever comes next. So, let us take a look at the psychological challenges of moving abroad and a few tips for navigating them.

1. Prepare yourself mentally for moving abroad

Not preparing yourself mentally for moving abroad can be one of the reasons which inhibits your ability to accept change. Mental preparation may include reading a bit about the country you are planning to go to, including its customs, traditions, way of life, and even the weather and if there are any seasonal weather changes. This helps to reduce the culture shock because now you already know what to expect when you are there.

Also, it won’t be easy to accept everything all at once. Know that you are only human and it takes time to process things.

Especially when going abroad from Sri Lanka, the Western culture and way of life can come as quite a surprise to us. So, don’t expect the new country to feel like home in a few weeks, sometimes it may take months and that’s okay!

You can also prepare mentally by learning the language of the country you are planning to go to. While most of the countries speak English, not everyone does. So be ready with at least a few phrases in the local language to facilitate basic conversation.

Example:

Sneha is a 25-year-old girl from Sri Lanka who secured a job in Japan. Before moving to Japan, she thought of learning about some basic Japanese language skills, and also about the customs and traditions in Japan. So, during her research, she found that rules related to greeting, bowing, and gift-giving were very different to Sri Lanka which might be overwhelming for her.

2. Know that it is normal to experience culture shock

Culture shock is a common psychological challenge that occurs in many people moving abroad as a result of having to adapt to a culture that is significantly different from their own or from a culture that they have adapted to over time. This challenge is completely normal and is an essential part of the adaptation process for the new country.

Being a little open-minded and accepting that things are going to be different from what you see back home will take you a long way in the adaptation process. Think of it like this – sometimes foreigners get culture shock when they find out people eat with their hands or that public display of affection is restricted after visiting Sri Lanka, but they adjust and adapt according to the local culture. So, it goes both ways!

The good part about being open-minded is that you get to immerse yourself in the local culture, as well as new and unique experiences that you will cherish later, when you learn about other countries’ customs and traditions. If you still find it difficult, try to connect with other people from your country who are also new to the country you moved to. Then share your experiences and feelings with them. You will find that you are not alone and that they may be experiencing similar feelings as you.

Example:

Thejan is a 30-year-old boy from Sri Lanka who moved to London to do his Master’s Degree in Software Engineering. Although he was fluent in English, he experienced difficulties understanding what his fellow batchmates and professors were saying at the university. This happened because Thejan could not understand some accents, dialects and slangs in the UK as a non-native speaker. However, Thejan asked his friends to help him with the nuances of the local way that English was spoken and even took spoken language lessons from YouTube without being worried about it. And after about six months, he was completely fine with understanding everyone!

3. Find healthy ways to cope with loneliness

Moving abroad means that loneliness will hit you because you are leaving behind your family and friends. Just know that while loneliness is a common feeling encountered when moving abroad, the key thing to do is find healthy ways to cope with it.

Socialising with your friends abroad at least once a week is a great way to get out of loneliness. You can also join university clubs or societies if you move abroad for higher studies. Joining a gym can also inject some. Or else, you can do some jogging, swimming, or even yoga! It can even be simple things like reading a book, re-watching your favourite TV show, and listening to music.

You can also personalise your space (bedroom, study area, etc.) to feel like home. Maybe photographs of your family and friends would be a great addition!

Example:

Dinara is a 28-year-old girl who moved to Canada with her husband. However, after moving abroad she deeply missed family and friends. Sometimes she would get so sad, skip meals, and lay in bed all day. She didn’t even want to go to work. She would always ask her husband whether they could move back to Sri Lanka. To understand and work on her feelings of loneliness, she decided to go to a therapist. After a while, she understood that moving to Canada was a great opportunity for both herself and her husband. She also joined a dance class (it was her passion) and found some great friends through that to hang out with on the weekends! She also scheduled video calls daily with her family and close friends back home so that she could keep up with what was going on in their lives.

Now that you know how to navigate the psychological challenges of moving abroad, remember that adjusting to a new country takes time and it’s okay to struggle at first. You have to be patient with yourself. If you feel like it is taking a toll on you, talk to your family or friends, and seek professional assistance from a therapist. And the challenges are not going to be there forever. Storms surely pass! So, cheers to exciting possibilities and thrilling adventures in a new country!

A Canvas for Healing: The Impact of Art on Mental Health

Written by: Sabeeha Azmi

Communicating emotions and experiences through art has always been a powerful platform for human expression. Art transcends the boundaries of language and culture and propels creativity and freedom. Along with the appeal and aesthetics of art, it has also been acknowledged for its profound and insightful impact on mental health. Let’s look at how we can engage with art to inculcate a positive influence on our mental well-being. 

The act of creating art can be exceptionally empowering and a cathartic process, whether you are painting, drawing, sculpting, or simply scribbling around on paper. Any form of artistic expression can offer an individual a sense of control and achievement which can boost self-confidence and self-esteem. Art provides a safe haven to open yourself to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from your mistakes and through it all foster resilience and flexibility to face life’s challenges thrown your way. 

Engaging in art can be used to reduce stress and anxiety and create a space of mindfulness. As you immerse yourself in your art and its process, you are fully absorbed and focused on the present moment, which allows you to temporarily disengage with worries and anxieties. As you create a flow through your art, it can be deeply calming, promoting emotional balance and relaxation. Try this out with simple colouring, grab yourself a pattern, and lose yourself in the colours and peacefulness this simple act of colouring brings you. 

Art is a bridge for self-reflection and communication as it is sometimes easier for us to relay complex emotions and experiences through symbolic and visual representations rather than through words. One’s art becomes their self-expression and allows a platform to share what might be hard to articulate verbally and this facilitates conversations about mental health with other individuals as well. Being able to see one’s own art can also provide insights into your emotional state that you might not be conscious of, and this empowers self-awareness and growth. 

Further, art can foster a sense of community and bring people together. Partaking in art workshops, exhibitions, classes or even just gathering to create art together can provide opportunities to connect and interact with like-minded individuals with a passion for creativity and inspiration. This sense of community and togetherness can combat feelings of loneliness or isolation which can be common trials for individuals struggling with their mental well-being. Sharing your art can be an avenue for building understanding and empathy among diverse communities. 

Art is also used as a therapeutic tool to support individuals in managing their mental well-being. Art therapy is used widely by mental health professionals to promote emotional healing, insight, and self-awareness by channelling their thoughts, experiences, and emotions into art. 

Creating art is an empowering experience that allows individuals to affirm their identity, reclaim their narratives, and stand up to social stigmas associated with mental health. Expressing and sharing art is a way of advocating for mental health and expressing the need for change in an impactful and unique way. 

Art offers a canvas for healing and self-expression and the therapeutic benefits of engaging with art are open to everyone, whether you are a professional artist or you simply like to doodle on paper. So, pick up that brush or that pencil and see the magic of art transform your mental health journey. Let’s get drawing!

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Mental Health

Written by: Zafra Aswar Ali 

Out of the many functions carried out by the human brain, the generation of emotions is one of the most remarkable functions that plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, when feeling stressed or encountering any emotion that may be threatening to oneself and those around, some individuals are able to better deal with the situation than others. This is due to the ability to display emotional intelligence. 

The term emotional intelligence (EI/EQ) was initially introduced in 1990 by two psychologists named Mayer and Salovey. It can be defined as one’s capability to accurately comprehend, process, and control information related to emotions. This can be either within oneself and utilising that information to express the appropriate thoughts and actions as well as guide others on how to think and act accordingly during a specific situation that eventually results in sustaining a better mental state. 

Moreover, when compared to the intelligence quotient (IQ), emotional intelligence is a dynamic intellectual feature that is comprised of five major skills that can be acquired and enhanced when one already possesses such skills. These skills are self-regulation (ability to manage negative emotions and adapt to changes), motivation (ability to self-motivate to attain self-satisfaction), empathy (ability in understanding others’ feelings), social skills (ability to manage others’ emotions to build rapport), and self-awareness (ability to identify and understand one’s own emotions). While some people have a natural tendency of displaying higher emotional intelligence, others should be mindful of initially cultivating these basic skills to improve their levels of emotional intelligence. 

Based on these details it can be comprehended that emotional intelligence and the importance of practicing it has become a vital aspect in one’s personal as well as professional life. In addition, it also has a major influence on improving the mental well-being of individuals by enabling them to cope with mentally challenging situations. Let us look at some key benefits of practicing emotional intelligence on one’s mental health. 

1. Ability to manage stress 

Experiencing stress during a challenging situation is common and a certain level of stress are undoubtedly essential for progression. On the contrary, specific stressful situations like work stress have the potential to result in harmful behaviours and require one’s ability to analyse the situation with emotional intelligence. 

Subsequently, learning the art of emotional intelligence and implementing it while encountering stress, and controlling one’s own negative reactions to others’ negative emotions, becomes rather convenient, especially within workforces. 

2. Ability to accept constructive criticism 

Criticism is negative feedback to someone, whereas constructive criticism is also negative feedback, but one that allows an individual to improve themselves for their betterment. While nobody would be willing to accept criticism, many people may find it difficult to accept constructive criticism as well due to a lack of emotional intelligence. 

Hence, when one practices emotional intelligence, they learn to accept constructive criticisms during studies or employment with self-regulation rather than reacting with enragement. 

3. Increased resilience 

After going through negative experiences, not all individuals have the capability to analyse and cope with negative emotions. However, with emotional intelligence, a person would be more resilient and adapt themselves to a positive change. This in turn leads to better mental health. 

4. Higher levels of confidence 

Being confident is useful for mental well-being as confidence can help people think positively and take better decisions in life. This quality can be developed with emotional intelligence as well because he/she develops the sense of identifying and regulating emotions and becomes confident in facing whatever life strikes them with. 

Emotional intelligence is a vital skill that helps in the management of stress, increase resilience, regulate emotions as well as maintain strong interpersonal relationships in the long run. It can be developed mainly by self-reflecting and is undoubtedly beneficial in upholding stable mental health. 

A Guide to Understanding and Managing Your Moods

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

We all go through different moods every day, don’t we? 

Like riding a rollercoaster, in the morning, we might wake up feeling happy and energised, ready to take on the world. But as the day progresses, we might find ourselves getting frustrated or even angry about something that didn’t go as planned. 

Therefore, understanding and managing our moods can greatly enhance our physical & mental health, as well as emotional resilience and quality of life.

What are Moods?

Moods are personal emotional states that can be different for each person. They can last for hours, days, or sometimes even weeks. Some of the most common moods are happiness, sadness, anger, anxiety, cheerfulness, fear, disgust, and surprise.

What Are the Factors Influencing Moods?

1) Biological Factors

  • Genetics
  • Hormonal changes (estrogen, testosterone, endorphins, oxytocin)
  • Neurotransmitter imbalances (mainly dopamine and serotonin)
  • Certain medical conditions

2) Environmental Factors

  • Low social interactions
  • Stressful workplace conditions
  • Poor living conditions
  • Weather changes        

3) Cognitive Factors

  • Negative self-talk
  • Rumination
  • Self-compassion
  • Positive thinking

4) Lifestyle Factors

  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Use of drugs/alcohol

What are the Strategies for Managing Moods?

It is true that we don’t have full control over our moods. They can be influenced by all sorts of things like our genetics, hormones, the environment we’re in, how we think about things, and even the way we live our lives or the food we eat.

But don’t worry! Here are 5 strategies we can use to manage those moods and make our lives more fulfilling.

1.      Cultivate mindfulness.

Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re in a certain mood until someone points it out. But by being mindful of our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgement, we can understand what’s causing those moods.

Imagine you receive an email from your supervisor criticising your performance at work. Instead of immediately getting angry, try being mindful of your thoughts and how your body feels. Maybe you notice some trembling or shaking and are about to cry. Then you realise that it’s not just the anger you are feeling but also doubt about your abilities. So, by recognizing these moods, their specific triggers, and the sensations you have during your moods, you can respond to your supervisor more thoughtfully.

2.      Develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Healthy coping mechanisms are a great way to manage difficult moods such as anger, fear, frustration, and disgust.

Imagine you had a hectic day at work, with tight deadlines. As soon as you get home, you feel overwhelmed and anxious about completing all your tasks for the next day. Then you find yourself craving for a cigarette to cope with the stress. Instead of giving in to that thought, you step outside for a refreshing walk.

3.      Challenge your negative thoughts.

If you find yourself always focusing on the negative aspects of situations or engaging in self-criticism, it’s time to challenge those thoughts. This is known as cognitive restructuring, and it can help shift your mood towards a more positive one, like happiness.

Imagine having a job interview coming up in two days. But you tell yourself, “I won’t get the job because I’m not qualified enough.” Challenge those negative thoughts by reminding yourself of your qualifications, past successes, and strengths in the work environment. This will allow you to face the interview more confidently.

4.      Practise healthy habits.

Sometimes practising healthy habits related to sleep, diet, exercise, and drug use is all you need to manage your moods and have a positive outlook on life.

Imagine that you feel sad, unmotivated, and do not feel like getting out of bed. This might make you feel angry as well. Instead of giving into those moods, you can decide to do exercises regularly (no matter how hard it feels), at least for 15 minutes a day. You can also consider joining a gym or a yoga class to make it more social and enjoyable.

5.      Seek support when needed.

Sometimes, managing our moods by ourselves can be tough, and if you find that your mood swings are affecting your relationships and daily life, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. That is completely okay! 

They’re there to help you through therapy, where you can identify the causes of your mood swings and learn effective coping strategies to find stability and balance in your life.

Always remember that understanding and managing your moods involves skills like mindfulness, patience, and self-compassion. 

It’s a long process that doesn’t happen overnight, but by keeping these strategies in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate your moods and work towards leading a better emotionally-balanced life.