Mental health is one of the causes I strongly advocate for. If your mental well-being is neglected, it will have a ‘domino effect’ on your physical well-being. As someone who grew up in Asia, mental health was not a topic that was often talked about. Mental well-being was never really prioritised as highly in comparison to politics and economics.
But our environment and culture should not be the only factors: we have to scrutinise our own behaviour as well. How we feel, how we act and the way we think has the ability to affect our progress and our drive. Hence, these are 6 ‘red flag’ behaviours that are keeping us from being our best:
1. Putting work before everything else
We are a generation of ‘the hustle’. No, I am not referring to jostling through a crowd. Urban Dictionary defines ‘hustle’ as having “the courage, confidence, self belief, and self-determination to go out there and work it out until you find the opportunities you want in life.” With greater competition and higher standards, there is an increasing pressure on our young people today to perform and succeed. With the increase of working hours, it is no surprise that we throw ourselves (even going overtime) into our work.
However, always putting work before everything else is not the answer. Burnout is a very common issue in the workplace. Constant stress not only makes us unhappy, but it has the ability to impair our mental health and also slow down our physical performance.
Find something you enjoy that allows you to take a break from work. It may be exercising, going out with friends, painting, listening to music, playing an instrument, blogging, vlogging. Be expressive. Allow yourself to step back and get out of your own head.
2. Believing that you are broken and you can never change
In recent times, there has been debate surrounding the portrayal of mental health in the media. Are the movies portraying mental health illnesses realistically? Is the media glorifying or romanticising mental illnesses?
I came across this quote that woke me up in the midst of feeling down: “If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.” We are unafraid to talk about success stories: how we were bullied back then but now we are able to befriend our bullies, how we went from struggling with self-hatred to advocating about self-love, how we went from being insecure about our body to being brave enough to embrace who we are.
Beauty does not lie in being broken. Rather, beauty lies in what we decide to do with our broken pieces. You may have gone through many experiences and emotions. You may have met people, some good and some toxic. But you are not chained by your past. If you keep believing that your past influences the way you act in the present, you will never be able to get out of that cycle. Know that you are more than the things that have hurt you.
3. Being independent, but not asking for help when you need it
A supportive community plays a big part in our mental well-being journey. Some of us may be thinking, “I don’t want to burden them with my problems. I’ll just try and solve it on my own first.” But how long are we able to do that? We are not meant to live this life alone. Talking about how we feel helps us to articulate our thoughts better. We may also be gaining a new perspective, a new way to tackle the problem that we face. Asking for help makes us feel less alone and less hopeless about our situation.
Be unafraid to ask for help. Whether it’s concerning work you are unsure of, seeking each other’s advice, or just being a shoulder to cry on – it is okay to ask for help. There is greater strength in vulnerability rather than weakness.
4. Living your life based on expectations
“Who says a dream must be something grand?
Just become anybody
We deserve a life
Whatever, big or small, you are you after all.“
– BTS, “Paradise” (English Translation)
Let’s first talk about expectations and others.
From a young age, we are surrounded by expectations. We may have started with aiming for straight A’s in school. We then start to think about rankings – and how being ranked top of the class sounds pretty cool. We then come across the High Achievers’ List, Dean’s Honor Roll, and merit scholarships.
We then compare our progress to the progress of our peers. Some may have already secured a job, waiting for them by the end of their studies. Some may have secured countless of academic achievements. Some may have succeeded with their start-ups or initiatives, garnering much recognition as a result.
Let’s talk about the expectations we have of ourselves.
It is no surprise that we are our own worst enemy at times. We tend to have higher standards for ourselves to meet, in comparison to others. As a result of living life purely by expectations, we are not truly able to enjoy life. By running after expectations, we may also get confused if we are chasing our dream – or the dream someone else has for us.
Let us instead be inspired by our peers. Let us learn from each other. Let us learn how to run this race of life at our own pace.
5. Focusing on the negative
I believe in the strength that a positive mindset brings. If you are not in a right frame of mind, it will influence other aspects of your life: your work, relationships, and your physical health.
It is okay to not feel 100%. But it is not okay to dwell in it. The next time you feel down in the dumps, think of the little things that you can do to make you happy. Being grateful to wake up to a new day. Seeing that fluffy dog running across the park. That nice sandwich you had before work. Receiving a text from a friend you have not heard from in a while. Being able to share a laugh with a new friend.
Ultimately, know that no season of life is eternal. You may not be feeling your very best right now, but this is not forever. Keep going – your time is now!
“If you can’t fly, then run.
Today we will survive.
If you can’t run, then walk.
Today we will survive.
If you can’t walk, then crawl.”
– BTS, “Not Today” (English Translation)
6. Accepting the good, but denying the bad
Living in denial may work for a short while, but we will have to face reality eventually. When I was younger, I used to suppress how I feel as much as I can. I was worried about showing any emotion other than happy. As I grew older, I realised that suppressing what I felt did not remove the problem – it just allowed it to grow bigger. When I accepted what I was struggling with and talked more candidly about it, I slowly found myself letting go of the past.
When sadness visits, let us learn to acknowledge what we feel. Process it, give yourself time to understand why – and get up again. When you own what you feel, you can let it go.