A Note on Reconnecting with Yourself During Motherhood

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

Photo by DisobeyArt on iStock

Being a mother is an amazing journey full of joy, laughter, and countless memorable moments. From the excitement of holding your newborn for the first time in your arms to many diaper changes, first words, and years of schooling, each of these phases shows how great the mother-child bond can be!

However, with all of the pleasures and responsibilities that come with being a mother and caring for a family, it is easy to lose connection with yourself.

Therefore, as we celebrate Mother’s Day on May 12, 2024, why not acknowledge the value of reconnecting with yourself during motherhood?

Here are some strategies on how to reconnect with yourself during motherhood:

1. Engage in self-care

All mothers should engage in self-care! Whether it’s reading your favourite book, practising yoga, mindfulness, or having a long hot shower, engaging in things that refresh you is important, even if it’s only for 15-20 minutes every day. You can also try journaling for 15 minutes every day to gain insight into your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and reconnect with your inner self.

2. Get back to your old passions

We all have passions that we forget about because of our rushed lifestyles, and this is especially true for mothers. Mothers focus on the needs of their families first and dedicate themselves to fulfilling their children’s dreams while neglecting their own. So, try to go back to your old passions – whether it’s dancing, singing, gardening, learning a new language, or anything else, find time for it at least once a week.

3. Draw some boundaries

It is acceptable to say no to additional commitments that may reduce your mental and physical energy. And, while it is okay to care for your children’s every need while they are very young, it is also important that they establish independence as early as possible so that they can carry out at least half of their given tasks. You may feel guilty at first for drawing some boundaries, but it is also good to not cater to the needs of your family members around the clock. It will then give you the necessary time to protect your overall well-being.

4. Bond with the community

Sometimes, as a mother with so many responsibilities, you will feel alone. One of the best things you can do is bond with the community, such as by joining a moms’ support group or an online community for moms that can be found on Facebook or Instagram. It will create a feeling of being related to, and remind you that you are not alone on this journey of motherhood. Not only that, you will also be able to share your lived experiences as a mother while gaining valuable insights from other mothers, particularly on how they navigated life’s challenges with effective coping techniques.

5. Ask for help from family and friends

When you need help, don’t be scared to ask for it from family and friends; it’s not a sign of weakness. We all become overloaded with various tasks in life, especially as mothers, therefore it is perfectly acceptable. So, make sure that you ask for the help of your partner, other family members, or friends so that you can relieve some of your duties and take some time for yourself.

6. Know that you won’t be perfect

Above all, let go of the idea that you have to be the perfect mother. This is because such thoughts can cause extra stress for yourself. Instead, accept yourself as you are, and work towards improving any shortcomings you may have. What is more important is to be attentive to your parenting strategies and to cherish those precious times with your children whenever possible.

Concluding thoughts…

Now you understand that motherhood is a new experience that can have an impact on one’s identity, particularly for first-time mothers. And while being selfless is great, it’s important to remember that connecting with yourself during motherhood isn’t selfish – it’s beneficial to both you and your child.

For example, taking time to care for yourself means you will be able to better manage the mental, emotional, and physical demands of motherhood while also being more attentive to your children’s needs. In this way, you can teach your children healthy coping mechanisms to manage the challenges that come their way. After all, children usually learn by observing others!

Furthermore, when children see their mothers valuing their own interests, they learn about the importance of self-worth. Therefore, they will understand that it is possible to go after what they love and connect with their inner self while also fulfilling their responsibilities.

So, let us embrace the exciting journey of motherhood by reconnecting with ourselves a little more and creating a balance between caring for our children – both on Mother’s Day and every day thereafter!

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.

Alcohol Addiction: Supporting a loved one and prioritising self-care

Written by: Pansiluni Weerawansa

Photo by the National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Alcohol addiction is a complex and pervasive issue that not only affects the individual struggling with it, but also reverberates throughout their circle of loved ones. As those close to someone with alcohol addiction witness the gradual erosion of their physical and mental well-being, as well as the strain it places on relationships, they often find themselves grappling with their own emotions and uncertainties. In navigating this challenging terrain, it becomes crucial for loved ones to not only support the individual seeking recovery, but also priorities their own well-being. This article aims to explore the multifaceted impacts of alcohol addiction on loved ones, delve into the mental aspects involved, and offer guidance on fostering healing for both the individual and their support network.

The emotional rollercoaster induced by alcohol addiction is no picnic. Picture this: you’ve got this vivacious, beloved individual in your life, and out of the blue they’re caught in the web of addiction. Suddenly, you’re riding a wild wave of emotions – sadness, anger, guilt, helplessness – you name it, you’re feeling it. It’s like trying to navigate through a maze blindfolded. You’re there, trying to understand and support your loved one, but every twist and turn of their addiction leaves you feeling like you’re on shaky ground. And let’s not forget the constant anxiety and tension that comes with the territory. It’s like living in a perpetual state of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Dealing with alcohol addiction is a real emotional rollercoaster ride, and sometimes, you just want to get off.

Diving into the wild world of alcohol addiction – it’s not just a matter of personal choice or sheer willpower, but a tangled web of biological, psychological, and social influences. While we throw around terms like alcohol use disorder (AUD) in clinical settings, let’s remember it’s more than just a fancy label. It’s a real-life experience that shakes individuals and their loved ones to the core.

As an example, picture your vibrant, beloved friend or family member suddenly caught in the claws of addiction. It’s like watching a drama unfold right before your eyes. Emotions run wild – from heart-wrenching sadness to fiery anger; from guilt trips to feeling downright helpless. You’re on a rollercoaster ride of empathy and frustration as you try to support them through it all. And let’s not forget the unsettled suspense of not knowing what’s going to happen next. The unpredictability and instability of alcohol addiction keep everyone on edge, adding layers of anxiety and tension to relationships.

Alcohol addiction throws a wrench into the gears of family dynamics and social connections. Suddenly, you’re dealing with breakdowns in communication, heated arguments, and heartbreaking betrayals. Trust flies out the window, leaving everyone feeling isolated and disconnected. It’s like trying to navigate a stormy sea without a compass, not knowing which way to turn or how to offer support without making things worse.

In the midst of the storm, however, there’s a glimmer of hope shining through the clouds. Loved ones, far from being mere bystanders in this tumultuous saga, possess the potential to emerge as silent heroes, guiding the individual through the shadowy forest of addiction. It’s a journey that begins with setting firm ground rules –  boundaries designed not only to safeguard your own well-being, but also to gently steer the individual grappling with addiction towards a path of accountability and recovery.

Honest and open conversation can go a long way. They’re not just dialogue; they’re transformative tools capable of creating a sanctuary for healing and growth. By combining empathy and understanding with clear, unwavering boundaries, you establish a safe space where both you and your loved one can navigate the complexities of addiction with courage and resilience.

Yet, supporting someone through addiction isn’t a solo expedition. Just as a tree relies on its roots for strength, loved ones must prioritise their own self-care to weather the storm. Whether it’s seeking solace in therapy sessions, finding camaraderie in support groups, or indulging in soul-soothing activities like yoga or painting, self-care becomes the anchor that keeps you grounded amidst the turbulence. After all, nurturing your own well-being isn’t selfish–  it’s essential for maintaining the strength and resilience needed to support your loved one through their journey to recovery.

Recovery isn’t a straight line. There are bound to be twists, turns, and maybe even a few detours along the way. But instead of seeing relapse as a defeat, see it as a temporary setback on the road to long-term sobriety. With unwavering love and support, both individuals and their loved ones can weather the storm and emerge stronger on the other side.

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

“I am a woman phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me”– Maya Angelou

Written by: Pansiluni Weerawansa

Photo by Berru Doğa Nas on Canva

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality. 

Women’s Day transcends mere observance; it stands as a powerful testament to the indomitable spirit, resilience, and countless contributions of women across the globe. Beyond its designation on the calendar, this day serves as a poignant reminder of the multifaceted nature of womanhood. It prompts us to dive deeper into its essence, exploring the array of unique perspectives and stories that define the female experience.

In navigating the complications of life, women encompass a multitude of identities shaped by factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. These are their journeys, imbuing them with distinct challenges, triumphs, and perspectives. This Women’s Day, it is crucial to amplify the voices of women, recognising their resilience in the face of adversity, celebrating their victories, and acknowledging the profound richness they contribute to our collective narrative. By uplifting women, not only do we acknowledge the depth of their experiences but also affirm their significant worth and dignity. Their stories serve as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and remind us of the importance of inclusivity and solidarity in our ongoing pursuit of equality and justice.

Women’s Day serves not only as a platform for breaking stereotypes and challenging societal norms but also as a crucial opportunity to address the intersection of mental health within the context of womanhood. As we celebrate the women who defy convention and reshape societal expectations, it’s imperative to recognise the profound impact that mental health can have on their journeys. For far too long, women have faced stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues, often being silenced or overlooked. Being labelled as ‘weak’ or ‘over-sensitive’ when expressing emotions is off-putting for many women, who then suppress their emotions out of apprehension. The reality is that women experience mental health challenges at alarming rates, influenced by a myriad of factors including societal pressures, gender-based violence, and systemic inequalities.

It is essential to recognize the significant progress that has been achieved globally. Women have shattered barriers, challenged norms, and paved the way for gender equality in various spheres of life. Their contributions have propelled advancements in fields ranging from science and technology to politics and the arts, reshaping societies and inspiring generations to come.

However, despite these remarkable advancements, the journey towards gender equality remains unfinished. Across the globe, women continue to face systemic barriers and entrenched discrimination that hinder their full participation and contribution to society. From disparities in education and employment opportunities to unequal access to healthcare and political representation, the challenges confronting women are multifaceted and complex. In commemorating International Women’s Day, it is vital to not only celebrate the achievements of remarkable women but also to advocate for tangible change and commit to dismantling the systemic barriers that impede progress towards gender equality. By amplifying women’s voices, advocating for inclusive policies, and fostering environments that empower women to thrive, we can collectively strive towards a more just, equitable, and inclusive world for all.

This Women’s Day let’s shine a light on the courageous women who navigate mental health struggles with resilience and grace. Whether it’s the female entrepreneur or a stay-at-home mom grappling with depression while redefining notions of strength, their stories remind us of the importance of de-stigmatising mental illness and fostering a culture of empathy and support. Let’s use this day to amplify their voices, advocate for accessible mental health resources, and work towards creating a world where all women can thrive holistically, embracing their true selves without fear or shame.

Understanding Neurodivergent Disorders: Fostering Inclusion in the Community.

Written by: Sabeeha Azmi

Neurodivergent disorders encompass a diverse spectrum of conditions that affect the way individuals process information, interact with others, and navigate the world around them. These conditions can vary in their presentation and impact on daily life from individual to individual. Although these conditions can pose certain challenges and difficulties, they also allow individuals to experience unique perspectives and strengths which can deepen our understanding of cognition and human behaviour.

One of the most widely discussed neurodivergent conditions is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), where individuals experience differences and sometimes difficulties in social interaction and communication, and could present repetitive and restricted behaviours. As the name suggests, it is essential that we keep in mind that autism is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Within the spectrum, each individual’s experience is unique and they might present various diverse symptoms. Individuals with ASD may face difficulties in verbal communication, sensory processing, and recognising and communicating emotions. But as we mentioned earlier, individuals can also have great strengths – excelling in specific areas such as music, mathematics, arts, writing, etc.

A neurodivergent disorder that is often brought up on social media and has garnered a lot of attention is Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In this condition, individuals face challenges in three broad areas: attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These traits can present individuals with difficulties in professional and academic settings, and can also result in individuals having to navigate daily tasks differently due to symptoms of forgetfulness, racing thoughts, acting without thinking, fidgeting, issues with concentration, etc. While this can make it more challenging for individuals to take on tasks, it encourages out-of-the-box thinking, spontaneity, and creativity. Many individuals speak about their successes and achievements, attributing them in part to their ADHD traits, as they harness their boundless energy and hyperfocus to pursue passions and projects.  

Another common neurodivergent condition is Dyslexia, which affects an individual’s reading and language processing. Individuals with dyslexia often face difficulties with spelling, decoding words, grammar, and punctuation, making it hard for them to organise, structure, and express information coherently. Along with these traits, individuals with dyslexia often demonstrate great spatial awareness, exceptional problem-solving skills, and creativity in various fields. Individuals provided with the right support and accommodation for their symptoms can thrive in professional and academic settings.

The above conditions give us a glimpse into the world of neurodivergence, the diversity in the disorders and symptoms, and how they can affect individuals’ lives. Individuals with neurodivergent conditions often face misconceptions and stigma, which can lead to discrimination and exclusion. However, when we take time to understand neurodivergence, we can embrace the inherent value of different cognitive styles and perspectives, recognise neurodiversity, and the innovation, creativity, and resourcefulness these individuals bring to various settings and situations. Instead of looking at neurodivergence as a deficit that needs to be fixed or corrected, our societies can benefit greatly from accommodating and supporting diverse ways of thinking, learning, and interacting. By fostering understanding and inclusivity, we can build environments that facilitate all individuals regardless of neurotype, where each individual is given the necessary tools to reach their full potential.

As we learn more about neurodiversity, raising awareness and promoting acceptance is essential. As we can see, media representation plays a significant part in shaping society’s perceptions of neurodivergent disorders. One way media can challenge stereotypical depictions and promote empathy and understanding of neurodiversity is to portray authentic and diverse experiences of neurodiversity in movies, books, and television shows. Social media campaigns and community awareness workshops are also a great way to increase the visibility of neurodiversity within the community and encourage individuals to adopt a more open-minded approach. Neurodivergence and neurodivergent disorders contribute to the rich tapestry of human cognition and experience, and as we nurture acceptance and support the unique and diverse strengths of neurodivergent individuals, we take steps towards building a more inclusive and compassionate society that celebrates diversity.

How Making and Maintaining Meaningful Connections Enhances Mental Well-being

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Today’s society is frequently dominated by digital interactions and short-lived relationships. But it is very important for us to have at least one meaningful connection in our lives.

Whether it’s a long talk with a friend, receiving a hug from a loved one, or simply enjoying quality time with family, such a connection has a significant impact on our mental well-being.

Here are a few ways that making and maintaining meaningful connections can enhance mental well-being:

1. Reducing loneliness.

Loneliness is related to a range of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. However, meaningful connections can reduce loneliness. Having individuals with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings helps to build a support system that minimizes the adverse effects of loneliness. Previous research has also found a negative association between social support and loneliness, indicating that when social support increases, loneliness reduces in individuals (Zhang & Dong, 2022).

2. Improves emotional regulation.

Maintaining meaningful connections ensures that you have a safe environment to express your feelings without the fear of being judged. This will also make you feel understood and supported by others, and it further validates your emotional experiences, making it easier for you to regulate them. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to learn from the personal experiences of others, like how they managed their life challenges. Such guidance will give you helpful tools to manage your emotions in a better way.

3. Increased self-esteem.

Making and maintaining meaningful connections increases your chances of receiving positive feedback and support from others. Whether it is in the form of praise for accomplishments, or for your personality traits, such things help increase your self-esteem. Furthermore, meaningful connections prevent you from making negative social comparisons. This is because you will always have people around you who will encourage and support you rather than look down on you, thus allowing greater room for personal development.

4. Developing a sense of belonging.

Being part of a group doesn’t merely mean being physically there; it also involves feeling welcomed and being accepted on an emotional level. It is only natural for people to develop a sense of belonging when they are given the chance to express their views and feelings. Therefore, making and maintaining meaningful connections will improve your overall life happiness and mental well-being. A study by Skipper and Fay (2023) found that a sense of belonging predicted greater levels of mental wellness and lower levels of stress in 95 psychology and law students at an English institution. This demonstrates how important it is to feel accepted and respected by others to improve mental well-being.

5.     Lowering stress.

As mentioned earlier, meaningful connections provide a safe environment for expressing feelings and getting support during challenging times. This helps in lowering the impact of stress on mental health. Furthermore, associating with individuals who truly understand and see you on an emotional level causes the production of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which increases happiness and counteracts the harmful effects of stress on mental health.

6. Improved life expectancy.

Meaningful connections also promote greater general health and life expectancy. This results in a more rewarding and satisfying life, thus improving mental well-being. It also helps people prevent cognitive impairment and minimise their chances of developing disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Past research has also reported that having connections with others improves mood, lowers blood pressure, and reduces mortality (Martino et al., 2017).

Concluding thoughts…

Making and maintaining meaningful connections is essential for enhancing your mental well-being since it has many advantages, including reducing loneliness, developing a sense of belonging, improving emotional regulation capacities, and lowering levels of stress, among many others. No matter how difficult the circumstances may be, don’t forget to seek out meaningful connections – it is not only good for your mental health, but also for your general well-being to live a satisfying life.

Nourishing the Mind, Body and Soul: A Journey through RESET 2024, a Holistic Wellness Fair Organised by Kalyana Sri Lanka

Written by: Sabeeha Azmi

The beginning of the year marked a refreshing start for health enthusiasts and wellness seekers as they gathered at the annual holistic Wellness Fair hosted by Kalyana Sri Lanka, held on 20th January. RESET 2024 was designed to promote a holistic approach to well-being, featuring a diverse array of engaging sessions, sharing circles, workshops, activities, speakers, and exhibitors catering to the mind, body, and spirit. 

RESET 2024 centered on 5 main themes for inner well-being: Replenish, Reinforce, Relate, Reclaim & Reinvent based on the concept of ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ which explores the foundational elements of human well-being: ‘physiological,’ ‘safety & security,’ ‘love & belonging,’ ‘self-esteem,’ and ‘self-actualization respectively. Kalyana curated unique, engaging and transformative sessions addressing each of these 5 themes. 

Attendees could select from a diverse range of wellness practices and therapies to replenish, de-stress, reflect, heal, and deepen their connection with themselves. From practices rooted in tradition like yoga to sleep hygiene, lifestyle medicine, parenting and relationship workshops, art and dance therapy, trauma recovery, conscious connection, sharing circles, free counselling, and dance fitness; there was something for everyone. 

The day unfolded with excitement and anticipation, drawing individuals from diverse backgrounds, all united by a shared interest in holistic well-being. Upon entering the venue, one was greeted by a sense of tranquillity, a calm and soothing ambiance enveloping the atmosphere. The air was filled with soft notes of gentle music and the subtle aroma of essential oils and sweet-scented candles lingered in every corner, to promote relaxation and set the stage for a day dedicated to holistic well-being.  

RESET 2024 featured 22 wellness practitioners and was attended by over 200 individuals, with over 300 session tickets sold, highlighting a growing interest in our inner well-being and holistic wellness. Families, friends, and individuals took part in sessions together, browsed local wellness and food vendor stalls, joined in the drum circle and dance fitness session. The inclusive nature of the event created a space where people of all ages and walks of life came together.

Kalyana RESET 2024 was much more than a wellness fair; it offered a platform for individuals seeking healing and transformation for their mind, body, and soul, and served as a reminder that investing in one’s holistic well-being is an ongoing journey and one worth taking. Attendees left the event with knowledge, practical tools, and a renewed sense of inspiration to embark on their wellness journeys. As the interest in holistic health continues to grow, events like these play a crucial role in fostering a comprehensive approach to wellness in our communities. 

Kalyana would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to those who played a crucial role in making RESET 2024 happen. A shout out to our sponsors: Platinum Sponsors: Union Assurance, Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT), Mahesh and Shaila Amalean and Silver Sponsors: Sanjay Kulatunga and Sathya Yoga & Wellness. Thank you for being the driving force behind our successful Holistic Wellness Fair. Your support has made a difference in the lives of many, and we are truly grateful.

Kalyana would also like to thank the event partners for their invaluable support and commitment to holistic well-being which has left a lasting impact on all those who attended. Media Partner: Pulse, Event Partner: The Inner Reset, Mobility Partner: PickMe, Digital Partner: Echt Social and Radio Partner: Lite 87.8 FM.

For all those touched and inspired by their experience at RESET 2024, you are encouraged to sign up for future sessions with the wonderful practitioners by following Kalyana on Instagram @kalyanaslorg

Visit Kalyana’s official website at www.kalyanasl.org and take a look at our Event Calendar that highlights details about all the upcoming wellness events and workshops both in Sri Lanka and globally, and how you can sign up for them. 

Complementary and Alternative Therapy Methods to Improve Mental Health

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Do you know that complementary and alternative therapeutic methods have recently gained popularity all over the world? This is because they help in lowering stress levels, improving general quality of life, and promoting psychological well-being.

While standard treatments such as psychotherapy and medication remain essential for mental health care, including complementary and alternative therapy can bring extra advantages and facilitate holistic recovery.

In this article, we will look at several such methods, ranging from mindfulness meditation to weighted blankets, and talk about how they might help improve your mental health.

1. Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is based on Buddhist teachings, and the primary idea is to practise being in the present moment while growing awareness of oneself and the environment. You should also be mindful of your breathing habits, particularly how you inhale and exhale. As a result, the goal is to breathe deeply and slowly and to let go of distracting thoughts by focusing on your breathing. Mindfulness meditation can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while also improving emotional regulation and tolerance. You simply need to choose a quiet spot and the most suitable position for yourself (sitting, sleeping, etc.) to practise!

2. Yoga

Yoga is another effective way to boost mental health. The goal is to integrate the mind, body, and breathing patterns by using bodily postures, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques. Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to yoke” or “to unite,” and has profound roots in Indian philosophy and spiritual practices. Yoga reduces symptoms of anxiety, sadness, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while also promoting a sense of harmony and well-being. Furthermore, it improves flexibility, enhances sleep, and can even be used for recovering from addiction.

3. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the use of plant-derived essential oils to improve physical and mental health. These oils can have a variety of therapeutic effects when inhaled or used topically, including relaxation, decreasing stress, and enhancing one’s mood and sleep quality. It works best when inhaled because the aroma molecules in essential oils flow directly from the nerves that are responsible for smell into the brain, thus influencing the amygdala which controls the emotions in people. Some of the oils used in aromatherapy include lavender, peppermint, clove, chamomile, jasmine, lemon and rosemary.

4. Music Therapy

Music therapy uses music as a tool to address emotional, cognitive, and behavioural problems in a therapeutic setting. This could be listening to various styles of music or playing a musical instrument that you enjoy. Singing and dancing can also help you release feelings. For example, if you are distressed, you will sing loudly or play loud cheerful music under the guidance of your therapist. Music therapy helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and insomnia, while also increasing emotional regulation and social connection.

5. Art Therapy

Art therapy uses creativity and expressive arts to encourage healing and psychological development. Individuals can explore and share their thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a nonverbal manner using a variety of forms of art such as drawing, painting, and sculpture. With its ability to promote self-discovery, resilience, and self-esteem, art therapy has demonstrated success in addressing symptoms of trauma, grief, depression, substance misuse, eating disorders, and other mental health issues.

6. Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy, often known as nature therapy or green therapy, focuses on the natural world’s ability to improve mental health. Spending time outdoors in natural settings, such as parks, forests, or gardens, can help reduce stress, anxiety, and worry while improving your state of mind. Alternatively, activities such as community gardening might help you overcome feelings of isolation, meet new people, and feel closer to others. Another option is animal-assisted therapy, which involves interacting with trained animals such as dogs, cats, horses, or dolphins to boost mental health. You may read more about ecotherapy in an article written for our blog by Zafra Ali Aswar here.

7. Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets are therapeutic blankets with equally distributed weights, usually constructed of glass beads or plastic pellets. The blanket’s gentle pressures help ease tension, anxiety, and improve sleep quality by raising serotonin, melatonin levels and while decreasing cortisol. Weighted blankets have become popular as a non-pharmacological treatment for anxiety disorders, ADHD, and sensory processing difficulties.

Conclusion

Complementary and alternative therapy methods are effective tools for improving mental health and well-being. From mindfulness meditation and yoga to aromatherapy and ecotherapy, these different techniques provide people with a variety of skills for dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. However, to efficiently incorporate them into your mental health care practices, you must approach these therapies with an open mind, and ensure collaboration with trained professionals.