The Psychology of Gift-Giving – How Thoughtful Gifts Impact Mental Health
Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga
Gift giving becomes a major topic in many cultures as the Christmas season approaches. But did you know that giving gifts is much more than just a chance to enjoy the holiday aesthetics and gatherings? This is because giving gifts plays a significant role in strengthening social bonds and contributing to the overall well-being of individuals.
In this article, we will look into the psychology of gift-giving, exploring how it impacts mental health, especially when thoughtful gifts are exchanged.
What goes on in the brain when we give gifts?
According to positive psychology, acts of kindness, such as gift-giving, add to a person’s sense of well-being because it causes the brain to release dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, three neurotransmitters commonly referred to as “feel-good” hormones. Simply speaking, these neurotransmitters are linked to feelings of pleasure, social connection, and greater happiness. As a result, prosocial behaviours such as giving gifts can produce a positive feedback loop that benefits both the giver and the recipient.
The American Psychological Association (APA) points out a study conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, in which 50 participants were given $100. Half of the participants were asked to spend it on themselves, whereas the other half were asked to spend it on someone else over the following four weeks. Results from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) revealed that individuals who spent money on others had more compassionate and fair relationships with others and reported higher levels of enjoyment following their experiment!
How can gift-giving impact people’s mental health?
You know now what happens in the brain when you give gifts, but what impact can it have on people’s mental health? Gifts may have positive and negative impacts on mental health, as shown below, depending on a variety of circumstances such as the type of present, the giver-recipient relationship, and the recipient’s specific preferences.
Positive Impact on Mental Health
· Thoughtful and meaningful gifts can bring delight and happiness to the recipient as it triggers positive emotions, leading to an improved state of mind and overall sense of well-being.
· Receiving a gift can help people feel valued, respected, and connected to others. It fosters social relationships and maintains a sense of belonging.
· Knowing that someone took the time to select a gift customised to the recipient’s likes and interests can improve self-esteem.
· Giving thoughtful presents can also reduce stress and anxiety by giving an enjoyable surprise or distraction, as well as by releasing the feel-good hormones dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
Negative Impact on Mental Health
· In certain situations, the anticipation of getting a gift, particularly around important events such as birthdays or holidays, can cause tension and anxiety.
· When people compare the worth or thoughtfulness of gifts they receive with those given by them to others, social comparison can take place. This can lead to feelings of unworthiness, jealousy, or envy, all of which can damage one’s self-esteem.
· Expensive gifts can also cause financial stress for both the giver and the recipient, especially if the giver feels burdened by societal expectations.
Are there any tips to ensure thoughtful and positive gift-giving experiences?
Fortunately, there is!
- Take the time to learn about the recipient’s likes, hobbies, and needs, as a thoughtful gift reflects your understanding of their distinct personality. If your friend enjoys reading fiction, for example, you could go with a book in that genre rather than something like a self-help book.
- A personal touch, such as a handwritten note, increases the sentimental value of a gift. For example, if you’re gifting a plant to your partner, a note could say something like, “Let this plant be a light to your workspace, just like how you are in my life.”
- Experiences in the form of gifts often have an even greater impact than material possessions because the memories last a lifetime. For example, if you know someone who enjoys music, you should think about getting them a ticket to an outdoor concert.
- Keep an open mind while selecting the kind and value of gifts, and never forget that it’s the thought that matters most. Therefore, select gifts that match your budget, for example, you can simply bake some homemade cookies to avoid financial stress!
Giving and receiving gifts is about more than just material possessions. Therefore, it is important to understand the impact of gifts on mental health, especially because people’s reactions can be different based on multiple factors as discussed earlier in this article. The key to thoughtful gift-giving thus rests in openly communicating expectations, preferences, and reasons for gifts, as it can lead to more positive outcomes, particularly during the holiday season.
Self-Care Tips for Stay-at-Home Moms
Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga
Being a stay-at-home mom is a journey full of love, happiness, and many rewarding moments. It’s no secret, however, that such a job comes with its own set of problems, leaving little time for yourself. Juggling the responsibilities of children, household chores, and sometimes even working from home can be exhausting, making self-care appear to be a faraway luxury. While caring for your family is certainly important, it is also important to remember that you matter too!
Therefore, this blog post will look at self-care tips for stay-at-home moms so that if you are one, it will help you find balance in the middle of motherhood’s everyday challenges.
Establish a good routine.
Set up a good routine and start your day with it to feel better about yourself. For example, before other family members wake up, you can schedule some alone time. It will make a significant impact in your life whether you are enjoying a hot cup of coffee, doing yoga, or simply listening to your favourite music. It will lower your stress levels and you are less likely to feel overwhelmed by the ongoing demands of parenting and household chores if you have a good routine.
Have a daily me-time!
Everyone needs a me-time to recharge a bit. Perhaps you’ve entirely forgotten about your interests while caring for and satisfying others, such as your husband and children. So, try to set aside at least 30 minutes every day for yourself. No distractions – you can try to do whatever you like, for example, after your children go to bed you can maybe read a chapter of a book or watch some TV series.
Talk to other moms.
You might find that everything is easier when you talk to other moms who have gone through similar experiences. You can maybe talk with them, meet them twice every month or so. Alternatively, you could join an online community/group designed exclusively for stay-at-home moms. This will decrease your feelings of isolation and loneliness while also improving your interpersonal skills. You can even ask for advice from other moms anytime you face a life challenge. Or simply talk about the joys of being a stay-at-home parent! Remember that being a stay-at-home mom does not have to limit your ability to enjoy life and interact with others.
Share household responsibilities.
You don’t have to do everything by yourself. Openly discuss household responsibilities with your husband and children. You can, for example, divide responsibilities like grocery shopping and bringing up children from school with your husband effectively. You can also allocate specific jobs to your children, such as watering the plants, making the table, and cleaning some dishes, to ease some of the pressure on your shoulders.
Make healthy practices a priority.
As a stay-at-home mom, you will often forget to take care of yourself first. For example, you may not have a regular sleeping schedule or the time to eat a balanced and nutritious meal. However, such healthy practices are important to maintain good general well-being. To get a good night’s sleep, try to keep to the same schedule for sleeping every day, or take a short power nap during the day after completing household chores. It is always important to have a balanced diet, remain hydrated, and occasionally enjoy anything you want (for example, chocolates or sweets). You can also exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, whether through yoga or a basic workout, and the best part is you can try it all out at home by watching YouTube videos!
Recognize that you are doing your best!
Doing a household chore, such as washing clothes may not feel like the best activity to enjoy. However, these are your accomplishments, and you are doing your best. So remember to enjoy the simple things since they will increase your self-esteem and general value in life. You can always treat yourself with a girl’s night out, movie time, or a little shopping for all that you do for others as a stay-at-home mom.
Remember that taking care of yourself should not be a luxury while you explore the challenges of being a stay-at-home mom. It should not be something that you do occasionally. You also don’t have to feel bad about taking some time off for yourself. Therefore, make sure to follow these self-care tips. It will guarantee that you have a good general well-being and will help you be prouder of your motherly responsibilities. So don’t worry too much – you deserve to take some time for yourself every day!
Beyond the Blackboard: The Silent Struggle of Educators and Mental Health
Written by: Sabeeha Azmi
In the active and lively world of education, where the focus is often shined on shaping the minds of the next generation, the mental health and well-being of educators are easily overlooked and unnoticed. Teachers, lecturers, and other professionals within education play an essential role in moulding the future of our nations, but the demands and the pressure of their profession could take a toll on their mental well-being.
The field of teaching is a noble profession that requires dedication, passion, and resilience as educators are not only responsible for conveying knowledge but also for creating a supportive and positive learning environment. However, underneath the smiles and enthusiasm for educating young minds, professionals face constant pressure to meet academic standards, navigate administrative tasks, and engage diverse listeners which could all lead to developing and experiencing stress, anxiety, and burnout. These mental health concerns faced by educators are often a silent struggle as their needs often take a backseat when compared with their students and administrative duties and needs.
One of the main stressors educators face is the ever-increasing workload. Professionals endure long working hours, planning lessons, grading assignments, and tests, and planning and executing extracurricular tasks and activities which can leave them feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. There is also the pressure of having to adjust and adapt to new methods of teaching and technologies which further exacerbates their stress. Staying relevant and up to date in a continuously evolving educational field is quite a challenge.
Another contribution to educators’ mental health is the investment in the well-being of their students. Professionals aim to make a difference in the lives of their students and this can lead them to develop a heightened sense of responsibility. Hence, when students experience setbacks or challenges with learning, there is a chance that educators could internalise the impact of this which could then affect their own mental health and well-being. There is emotional labour involved in teaching and this can be draining and without appropriate support, professionals could find it difficult to cope with emotionally.
In general, society does not seem to give the appreciation and applause that teachers deserve. Educators, therefore, due to a lack of recognition for the time and effort they put into teaching could feel deeply undervalued and underappreciated. Education is a field that requires and demands continuous adaptation and learning. Thus not providing adequate support systems and sufficient resources to educators could seriously affect professionals’ mental well-being.
An educator’s emotional and mental well-being is essential to the quality of education they can provide. When educators’ mental health needs are met, they can better engage in an enriching learning environment that fosters creativity in their students. However, when educators are stressed and burned out, they could struggle to build connections and deliver effective lessons which could hinder the overall educational experience. Therefore, educational institutions must prioritise proactive measures to acknowledge and address the mental health and well-being needs of educators. Institutions should aim to create a supportive work culture, provide professional development opportunities, implement wellness programs, and recognize and appreciate the effort put in by educators. These could all foster a mentally healthy environment for educators, encourage open communication about mental health and reduce the stigma attached to seeking support for mental well-being.
Here are some tips for educators to take better care of their mental health and well-being:
- Set realistic goals – it is important to note that you cannot do everything all at once. Focus on setting achievable goals and organise tasks according to priority to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Establish boundaries – set out clear boundaries for your work hours and personal time. With this, you can aim to avoid taking work home regularly, and allocate and clear some time for relaxation and self-care.
- Have a self-care routine – take some time to build a self-care routine with activities that you enjoy such as reading, watching TV shows, or any hobbies. Engaging in these activities could help you recharge.
- Professional community and seeking support – within your educational community foster a supportive network where professionals can share experiences which can create a sense of camaraderie and reduce feeling alone in your struggles.
- Educators play a crucial role in shaping and nurturing the minds of the future, therefore, it is important to ensure that their mental health is not neglected. As the world strives to build a brighter future through education, it is essential to shine a light on the professionals who have poured their hearts and dedicated their lives into building a positive, well-rounded, and educated society of individuals.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Boosting Confidence and Mental Health
Written by: Zafra Aswar Ali
When you think of your achievements, do you feel proud of yourself, or do you feel like you just got lucky? If you feel the latter, then you are not alone. This is known as imposter syndrome which makes you feel like a “fraud” for what you have achieved so far and is often present among those with numerous accomplishments. Let us explore in detail what is imposter syndrome, the types of imposters, characteristics, causes, and some ways to overcome this phenomenon.
Defining Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome, also identified by various other terms such as imposter phenomenon, imposterism, and fraud syndrome, is a psychological condition that is experienced by many individuals and has a major impact on mental health and progression in life. This phenomenon makes people self-doubt their achievements as though they are “faking” their achievements as well as develop the feeling that others around them are more knowledgeable.
To find out who is more impacted by imposter syndrome, a famous study on “The Imposter Phenomenon” (that later became the foundation for future research concerning self-worth) was conducted by psychologists named Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. It was revealed that imposter syndrome was common among high-achieving women specifically in environments where men were dominant as well as among ethnic minority groups. However, recent research findings suggest that irrespective of gender and other demographics, imposter syndrome affects everyone similarly although their levels of achievements and recognitions vary from each other. In addition, it has been found that 82% of people can be affected by imposter syndrome.
It is noteworthy that imposter syndrome is not a mental health condition that is clinically diagnosed, but it can lead to high levels of anxiety and depression causing an individual to perform poorly. Apart from this, a common misconception of imposter syndrome is people refuse to accept their success. On the flip side, it is a situation where people find it difficult to acknowledge that their achievements are solely due to their hard work. Another false belief is imposter syndrome is merely a state of mind. But the environment also plays a major role in the development of this syndrome, especially in competitive work settings.
The 5 Types of Imposters
1. The Perfectionist
There is a close connection between perfectionism and imposter syndrome. Perfectionists tend to have a sense of dissatisfaction although they have achieved many of their goals because of the high standards they hold about themselves. Moreover, they may face troubles in accepting their mistakes and may avoid new challenges due to the fear of not being perfect from the beginning
2. The Expert
Expert imposters tend to acquire information by doing the maximum research before beginning to apply for an educational course or employment to prove their level of knowledge. Despite this being an advantage, the longing to have the necessary expertise can keep such imposters from seeking new opportunities until all the requirements are fulfilled thus leading to imposter syndrome.
3. The Soloist
Soloists can be hesitant to seek assistance from others due to the sense of independence they hold as well as the thought that asking for help invalidates their skills or efforts. Such imposters must learn that seeking help is not a sign of weakness and that doing that in the appropriate situations is indeed a benefit. If they fail to understand this, they may have a hard time working in teams.
4. The Natural Genius
Natural geniuses are those who have always achieved success easily since their childhood. Therefore, when these individuals mature, they may find it difficult to acknowledge that success cannot be always achieved effortlessly. This in turn becomes a cause for them to experience imposter syndrome as they develop the notion that their discomfort while progressing towards their goals is because they lack something, specifically when it is challenging.
5. The Superhero
Superheroes or superhumans have the constant urge to prove themselves and overburden themselves with a lot of work. They are always under pressure to be successful in their personal and professional lives and may develop imposter syndrome if there is no balance between both. Such people are identified as workaholics and find it difficult to say no. Thus, they are susceptible to burnout.
Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome
Feelings of self-doubt
Despite the accomplishments of those with imposter syndrome, they may question their worth quite frequently and lack confidence at some point in their lives.
As perfectionism and imposter syndrome go hand in hand, most imposters are perfectionists who set high standards for themselves and get disappointed when they fail to achieve them due to their strong desire to be perfect in all aspects.
Fear of Failure
Imposters have a fear that they would be exposed as frauds which can cause them to procrastinate, be over-prepared, or avoid taking up new challenges. This can result in anxiety and stress.
Downplaying the Achievements
Those with imposter syndrome tend to undervalue their success and think that anyone can achieve them effortlessly. This can also lead to comparison with others who are more successful.
Causes of Imposter Syndrome
Based on the features concerning imposter syndrome, it is crucial to be enlightened about what factors can potentially initiate or aggravate imposter syndrome.
Family – children growing up in a family that is overprotective, or controlling, are likely to develop imposter syndrome.
Cultural and societal expectations – the norms set by society and various cultures about academics, employment, or overall success can cause imposter syndrome in an individual.
Environmental factors – a highly competitive or new environment concerning work or studies can lead to imposter syndrome.
Current mental health status – a person who is already suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression is prone to developing imposter syndrome.
How to Tackle and Overcome Imposter Syndrome?
Dealing with and overcoming imposter syndrome is quite challenging, but the below-mentioned tips can be beneficial in this regard.
Acknowledge what you feel
This is the first step to overcoming imposter syndrome because failing to do so can make the process difficult. This can be achieved by self-reflecting or journaling
Get it off your chest
Opening up to someone trustworthy about your feelings is another effective way of coping with imposter syndrome. Sometimes, even the person with whom you share your feelings may feel the same and make you realise that you are not the only one experiencing this.
Set realistic goals
Establishing goals that are not achievable is not useful in the long run. So, make sure to set goals that align with your capabilities and celebrate your success one at a time.
Change your perspectives on failure
Do not be demotivated by your mistakes and failures. Consider them as an opportunity for learning and growth because mistakes are your best teacher and failure is the stepping stone to success.
In the process of working on your goals, it is important to be kind to yourself. Do not pressure yourself into a specific timeline and allow negative thoughts that question your abilities to conquer your mind.
Seek professional assistance
If talking to a loved one or any other strategy is not very effective for you in overcoming imposter syndrome, then do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional.
Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon that can vastly affect your mental health due to feeling of self-doubt that potentially obstructs your path toward success. Hence, it is important to be aware of the causes and features of imposter syndrome as well as various effective strategies that you can follow to overcome it. Keep in mind that you are not the only one who feels this way and embrace this feeling as an opportunity for self-growth and learning.
How Acts of Kindness Influence Mental Health
Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga
Every year, on November 13th, we celebrate World Kindness Day. The purpose of this unique day is to remind ourselves to treat people with more kindness and consideration. So, have you ever thought about how acts of kindness can influence your mental health? It turns out that being kind not only benefits those who receive it, but it also influences those who give it!
In this blog post, we will investigate how acts of kindness influence mental health to make everything a little better.
Increases the Love Hormone
Kindness brings about the release of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone.” Individual acts of kindness have also been shown to generate new neural connections and release oxytocin and endorphins. According to data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, just thinking about compassion and kindness activates the brain’s emotional regulation system (Mathers, 2016). That is why oxytocin has been linked to emotional closeness, trust, and affectionate feelings. For example, simply hugging a friend or family member can cause the release of oxytocin, making you feel more emotionally connected to them. They will also feel a lot better if you do this; even if they aren’t particularly sad or worried, a hug can go a long way to make someone feel cared for.
Improves Self Esteem
Kindness can help you feel better about yourself. More importantly, seeing how good an impact your acts of kindness have on people will strengthen your belief in your own abilities and worth as a person. Consider the following scenario: You offer to help a friend who is having trouble with schoolwork. You become a source of comfort as well as motivation for them during these difficult moments. Not only will you boost your self-esteem, but your friend will glow with happiness at having you as a friend. This will in turn improve their self-esteem and mental health too!
Kindness has a powerful, scientifically tested ability to support emotional and physical healing. Kindness can be used as a form of natural painkiller. In one study of homeless adults who frequently visited the emergency department, researchers wanted to see if providing compassionate care through trained volunteers made a difference in how frequently these individuals returned for additional emergency visits. According to Redelmeier et al. (1995), patients who received compassionate care had a significantly lower average number of visits per month following intervention. This suggests that when homeless individuals see that they are receiving kind and compassionate treatment, they may be more satisfied with their initial treatment and not need to return as frequently.
Individuals can develop resilience by being kind to others and receiving kindness in return. This is especially important during difficult times, such as when dealing with loss, illness, or other challenges. Knowing that you can be kind to yourself and others can give you the strength you need to overcome tough times. Beaton et al. (2021), for example, discovered that lower levels of self-compassion in adults with ADHD help to explain the higher levels of ill being (depression, anxiety, and stress) and lower levels of wellbeing (psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing) associated with ADHD. Furthermore, they have proposed that increasing one’s kindness to oneself could be used to support resilience and coping for those with ADHD who face difficulties because of executive function deficits.
Creates Positive Social Connections
According to research, kindness creates positive supportive and meaningful social connections, which in turn reduces stress response and fulfils fundamental, innate needs that are important for longevity and well-being (Fryburg, 2022). Simple gestures such as complimenting a coworker on their work can help to establish these kinds of connections. Furthermore, it has been discovered that even a few minutes of practising techniques such as loving-kindness meditation enhanced feelings of social connection and a positive attitude toward strangers (Hutcherson et al., 2008).
You now understand that kindness has the power to make life happier and emotionally fulfilling as well as to make yourself more resilient by increasing oxytocin levels, lowering stress levels, creating positive social connections, and much more! So, as we celebrate World Kindness Day, keep in mind that including kindness in your daily life can bring you and others happiness.
- Beaton, D. M., Sirois, F., & Milne, E. (2022). The role of self-compassion in the mental health of adults with ADHD. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 78(12), 2497–2512. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.23354
- Fryburg, D. A. (2022). Kindness as a stress reduction–health promotion intervention: a review of the psychobiology of caring. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 16(1), 89-100. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1559827620988268
- Hutcherson, C. A., Seppala, E. M., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 8(5), 720–724. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0013237
- Mathers, N. (2016). Compassion and the science of kindness: Harvard Davis Lecture 2015. The British Journal of General Practice, 66(648), 525–527. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp16X686041
- Redelmeier, D. A., Molin, J. P., & Tibshirani, R. J. (1995). A randomised trial of compassionate care for the homeless in an emergency department. Lancet, 345(8958), 1131–1134. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(95)90975-3
The Intersection of Mental Health and Activism: Empowering Minds for Change
Written by: Sabeeha Azmi
As we progress through the years, society’s understanding of mental health continues to experience a transformative shift. Topics surrounding mental health and well-being are no longer hushed and whispered within shadows but have risen to be prominent topics of discussion and concern. Therefore, as we wade through world events, the intersection of mental health and activism is crucial to explore and understand. Let’s take a dive into the symbiotic relationship mental health and activism exude, with a focus on the power that individuals and communities have to effect real change whilst also caring for their own well-being.
The very nature of activism can be demanding, often requiring individuals to push against societal norms and ongoing injustices, all while trying and striving for positive change. This relentless pursuit can take a serious toll on the mental health and well-being of activists. Experiencing constant exposure to challenging situations and being faced with the various injustices they are fighting against, along with the emotional commitment needed when advocating for change, could lead individuals to undergo stress, burnout, and anxiety.
The traditional idea of activists being unwavering and strong individuals has made it difficult for individuals to address their own mental health and seek the help they too need. It is essential for individuals, whether they’re activists or not, to acknowledge and know that taking care of one’s well-being including their mental health is not a sign of weakness in any sense, it is in fact a form of self-care that is a crucial element in sustaining the activism journey.
If we look at another side of mental health and activism, we can explore how mental health experiences can also be a catalyst for activism. Many individuals who have personally grappled with mental health challenges are often seen to be driven, determined, and motivated to advocate for change within mental health systems and society at large. These individuals are able to channel their struggles into influential and powerful forces for positive change, working towards promoting mental health and taking social justice causes.
Activists who address their mental health journey often create safe spaces for open dialogue as they encourage others to share their experiences without fear of judgement. By sharing experiences and stories, it is possible to reduce the isolation that is often experienced with facing and advocating for justice and positive change within society.
One of the most significant effects of the intersection between mental health and activism is the sense of community it fosters and the healing power of community. Activism is a collective effort, encouraging individuals to come and band together, share experiences, raise awareness, educate one another, and support each other through challenging times. This sense of unity can be profoundly healing for those struggling with the mental load during challenges and provides a support network and safety net of understanding and empathy.
Activism and mental health also aim to break down the societal barriers surrounding seeking help and promote the idea that seeking support is a sign of strength and that no one should suffer in silence.
To maintain effective activism, self-care and mental health support should be at the forefront of an activist’s priorities. Support can encompass engaging in a wide range of self-care practices such as meditation, exercise, mindfulness, healthy eating and sleep, and seeking help from a professional when needed. By taking care of their mental health, activists can ensure the resilience and strength that is required to continue with their important and needed work.
The intersection of mental health and activism isn’t limited to one country or culture, it is a global movement transcending borders and uniting people in the fight for a better, more inclusive, and educated world. Activists all around the world are working tirelessly to raise awareness for social justice, educate individuals about the reality of world events, and advocate for an improved world for all.
The relationship between mental health and activism is ever-evolving and powerful. Activism could be both a source of stress and a catalyst for real change, as individuals take on challenges and advocate for a more aware and compassionate society. It is essential to know that personal well-being and the pursuit of a better world are interconnected. To create long-lasting change in today’s world, individuals must care for themselves and their communities, nurturing a supportive environment that empowers minds and hearts in the continuing journey of activism.
Understanding Empty Nest Syndrome: What Is It and Why Does It Happen?
Written by: Zafra Aswar Ali
To become a parent, one must be prepared to face a series of challenges specifically that relate to their children because of many significant life events associated with them. Out of such life events, one of the major events that occur within a family and has an impact on parents is when their adult children decide to leave the family home for various reasons. In this article, we will explore what is empty nest syndrome, the reasons for its occurrence, and how parents can cope with it.
What is Empty Nest Syndrome?
Empty nest syndrome can be defined as an emotional and psychological condition that parents or caregivers undergo when their children move out of home to pursue higher education, work, or start a new life. This can lead to feelings of sadness and loss of purpose which is often overlooked due to this event being viewed as normal. Even though empty nest syndrome is not a clinical condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), according to research, this syndrome can result in mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
It is also noteworthy that some parents are more susceptible to empty nest syndrome than others, especially single parents and parents who struggle in their marital life. So, not all parents undergo this experience. In addition, mothers tend to be more affected by empty nest syndrome comparatively because of the role they play as primary caregivers in most families.
Most of the time, empty nest syndrome takes place concurrently with other significant or difficult life events such as retirement, menopause, death of a spouse, or other challenges. During such situations, empty nest syndrome can last for years, but typically most parents adjust to being empty nesters within 2 to 3 months.
The Three Stages of Empty Nest Syndrome
1. Grief – As soon as the child leaves home, parents initially experience a sense of sadness and loss making them easily emotionally triggered and staying away from the usual activities.
2. Relief/Emptiness – After a few months have passed by parents would either feel relieved as they now have some time to spend by themselves, or they may feel empty.
3. Joy/Fear and Worry – The final stage also varies from parent to parent. Some of them would feel joyful for having fulfilled their responsibilities as parents and feel settled with a new way of life, whereas others would not only feel hopeless about their future lives but also continuously worry about their children’s lives as well.
Common Symptoms/Emotional Experiences
Based on the stages of empty nest syndrome, the symptoms are not necessarily negative as some empty nesters may be excited about a new life ahead. Let us look at some commonly noticeable symptoms connected to empty nest syndrome.
Empty nesters often feel lonely and isolated. They may tend to reduce their social interactions and often get caught up in nostalgia.
This is another common symptom of empty nest syndrome. Parents may be unable to focus on their work like before and would frequently worry and be anxious about what their children are doing.
Empty nesters can feel low sometimes. They may lack the motivation and energy to do their work and would be preoccupied with thoughts about their children.
4. Emotional Distress
Parents experiencing empty nest syndrome would find themselves going through a roller coaster of emotions. They are either sad about the absence of their children at home or happy about a newfound freedom.
5. Identity Shift
When children move out of home, parents no longer identify themselves as individuals who play the role of parents and struggle to adapt to a new stage in their lives. This may lead to a loss of purpose, particularly among stay-at-home parents.
6. Reevaluating Roles and Relationships
With a shift in identity, parents get an opportunity to reevaluate their roles and relationships as they do not have to engage in parenting daily. Additionally, they also get to rediscover their interests and make this new phase a positive experience.
How to Deal with Empty Nest Syndrome?
1. Acknowledge Your Emotions
It is completely normal to feel sad and lonely. It is important that these feelings are accepted without hesitation.
2. Embrace The Change
Take this as an opportunity to rediscover your interests and find more time for self-care. Invest more time in enhancing your personal growth which you could not engage in during the parenting phase.
3. Reconnect with Your Partner
When your children are no longer present at home, you can spend more time with your spouse and increase the bonding in your relationship. Research also suggests that 63% of empty nesters became closer to their partners after the leaving of their children.
4. Build Social Connections
Parenthood undoubtedly minimises social connections in most cases due to the minimum time parents have even for themselves. As an empty nester, you can utilise your free time to connect with your friends again. This will potentially reduce the feeling of loneliness.
5. Keep in Touch with Your Children
Due to the existing technology, it is easy to connect with anyone in any part of the world. So, although you become an empty nester, make use of the technology and maintain communication with your children wherever they are through chats and audio or video calls or even visit them if possible. This way, you can feel less lonely and still express your love and affection despite the distance.
6. Get Professional Assistance
Sometimes engaging in coping techniques to alleviate the negative symptoms associated with empty nest syndrome may not be sufficient. In that case, do not hesitate to seek support from a professional counsellor to manage your emotions via suitable therapies.
Children leaving the home to build their lives can be certainly overwhelming for parents and can lead to empty nest syndrome as it is a new life transition that parents may go through. It is however imperative to understand the symptoms linked with this empty nest syndrome as well as take it as an opportunity to overcome the challenges and work on self-growth with professional assistance if required.
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.
Geriatric Well-being: Addressing the Needs of the Ageing Population
Written by: Sabeeha Azmi
With an ageing population worldwide, geriatric mental well-being is an interesting and important area on the rise. The well-being of older adults deserves awareness, attention, and care as it affects their quality of life significantly. The World Health Organization reports that by 2050, the number of individuals 60 and over is expected to double, reaching a whopping 2.1 billion individuals. Such a demographic shift suggests that the prevalence of issues related to mental health and well-being amongst the older population will also rise. Older individuals are impacted by unique challenges such as cognitive decline, dementia, social isolation, physical health factors, and common issues such as anxiety and depression, rendering them a vulnerable population that requires support and care.
Giving priority to the mental health and well-being of older individuals is important for several crucial reasons:
Overall Quality of Life: As older individuals often face loneliness, indecisiveness, and doubt after retirement, addressing these issues can greatly improve their well-being and overall quality of life. Providing appropriate care can help older adults better navigate challenging times and improve their relationships and daily functioning.
Improving Physical Health: It is widely known that individuals’ mental health is interconnected with their physical health. If mental health issues are left untreated, it can exacerbate chronic and physical conditions which then could lead to poorer health outcomes.
Social Engagement: Staying engaged with communities and taking part in activities is important for older adults. By addressing and receiving care, older adults can stay active within society, reducing the chances of experiencing social isolation and disengagement.
When it comes to geriatric mental health, it can often be met with stigma, and problems faced are often simply explained as a natural part of ageing, which could discourage individuals from seeking help. Therefore, strategies must be employed to promote the mental well-being of older adults:
Raising Awareness: Older adults, their families, healthcare providers, and the general public must be educated about how necessary it is to pay attention to mental health in ageing. Workshops, public campaigns, open discussions, and other means can be used to educate and inform about common geriatric issues, how and where older individuals can reach out for support, and how families, caregivers, and the public can help and care for older adults.
Better Access to Resources: It is essential to ensure that there are easily accessible and affordable mental health services for older adults to make use of. These services should be inclusive to older adults regardless of their socioeconomic status or their location.
Supportive Communities: Older adults are also a part of communities even if their interactions and contributions may be reduced, hence, creating communities that are age-friendly and that facilitate social engagement and inclusion for older adults can be a great way to improve and support their mental well-being.
Geriatric mental health and well-being are often overlooked but their care is equally important and deserves attention. As we navigate an ageing population, we must address the challenges and issues experienced by this demographic, promote and provide better access to mental health care for them, and break the stigma around geriatric mental health to create and enhance the quality of life and ensure that they receive the care and support that is needed.
Success or Failure? Academic Pressure
Written by: Pansiluni Hasanjana Weerawansa
In a world that’s relentlessly on the move, where productivity is praised above all else, the pressure to excel in academics has never been higher. Students find themselves navigating a maze of assignments, exams, and extracurricular activities, all while trying to maintain a facade of unwavering strength. In the relentless pursuit of academic success, the importance of mental health is often overlooked or, worse yet, stigmatised. Instead of acknowledging mental health as valid medical issues that require professional help, they are frequently perceived as personal deficiencies or indications of vulnerability. As a result, individuals dealing with psychological distress face isolation, bias, and diminished educational and career opportunities.
Consider a bustling college campus, with students hurrying to classes and engaging in countless discussions – a place that symbolises the quest for knowledge and academic achievement. However, beneath this exterior, an unseen struggle is taking place, hidden behind the masks of smiles and achievements. Students, regardless of their accomplishments, often grapple with inner struggles that jeopardise their educational path.
In recent years, the prevalence of mental health concerns among students has surged to concerning levels. The relentless pressure to excel academically, combined with the inherent challenges of personal growth and development, has created an environment ripe for the emergence of anxiety, depression, and various other mental health disorders. However, what’s even more distressing is the prevailing culture of silence that envelops many students, driven by the deeply ingrained fear of societal judgement that surrounds seeking help for mental health issues.
Instead of being regarded as a fundamental component of overall well-being, mental health is often dismissed or, worse still, stigmatised within the confines of academic circles. This stigma manifests in a multitude of ways, ranging from disparaging remarks and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes to the establishment of systemic obstacles that impede individuals from accessing the crucial care they require.
A particularly pervasive misconception is the notion that seeking assistance for mental health concerns equates to admitting vulnerability or weakness. This erroneous belief frequently serves as a formidable barrier, deterring students from reaching out to qualified counsellors or therapists when their need for support is most acute. Consequently, these students attempt to navigate their mental health struggles in solitude, a choice that often exacerbates their conditions, subsequently leading to a decline in academic performance.
Furthermore, students may fear the judgement and discrimination they could face if their mental health issues become public knowledge. This fear of discrimination can hinder their willingness to disclose their struggles to professors, peers, or academic advisors, resulting in a lack of understanding and accommodation.
The intricate interplay between mental well-being and academic achievement cannot be denied. A student’s mental health profoundly impacts their capacity to concentrate, learn, and excel in their studies. When mental health takes a hit, the pursuit of academic success often transforms into an arduous uphill battle.
Consider a scenario where a student grapples with severe anxiety. Mundane tasks like attending classes, taking exams, or engaging in group discussions can morph into insurmountable challenges. This heightened anxiety often results in increased absenteeism, diminished focus, and dwindling motivation, ultimately casting a shadow over their academic performance.
Depression, another prevalent mental health concern among students, drains their vitality and enthusiasm. A perpetual sense of sadness, coupled with a disinterest in academic pursuits, often leads to subpar academic performance.
To mitigate academic stress and the resulting mental health concerns, a comprehensive approach involving various stakeholders is essential. Here are four effective methods to tackle this issue:
1. It is imperative for educational institutions to re-examine their curriculum and evaluation methods to mitigate the excessive academic pressures. Promoting a more reasonable approach to education, one that values not only academic accomplishments but also personal well-being, can assist students in more effectively handling stress.
2. The incorporation of mental health education into the curriculum is crucial. Mental health is rarely brought up in classrooms and the vast majority of students are oblivious and unable to cope with their mental issues. Teaching students about stress management, coping techniques, and the significance of seeking assistance when necessary can empower them to actively manage their mental health.
3. Offering flexible deadlines and being supportive to students can also be useful. For example, extended deadlines, tutoring services, and access to academic counselling allow students to seek aid when they encounter academic challenges without feeling overwhelmed.
4. Establishing peer mentorship programs, where senior/trained students provide guidance and assistance to their peers facing academic obstacles or mental health issues, can cultivate a nurturing environment conducive to seeking help and sharing experiences.
Implementing these strategies enables educational institutions to prioritise both academic achievement and mental well-being. This shift can alleviate the stressors contributing to students’ mental health challenges. Instead of perpetuating a culture that places academic accomplishments above well-being, it’s time for a reevaluation of our values. Academic institutions should aim to create an environment where students can excel academically and thrive emotionally, acknowledging that mental health struggles can impact anyone, irrespective of their accomplishments.
Rather than stigmatising those seeking assistance, we should commend their courage. In doing so, we can cultivate a society where academic success and mental well-being go hand in hand, empowering individuals to realise their full potential.
In summary, students grappling with mental health issues while pursuing academic success should not bear their burdens in silence. We must acknowledge the significance of mental health in both personal and academic well-being, eradicating the stigma associated with it. By embracing this perspective, we can wholeheartedly support students in their educational journey and aid them in achieving the success they rightly deserve.