Category: Healthy Mind

Examining our own fears

Examining our own fears

What is fear and why do we fear at all? Traditionally, we say that fear arises when the self is threatened with harm. This can be threat to the physical body or the psychological body, or both.

What are the conditions that allow fear to arise? For fear to arise, two conditions are required.

The first is that we do not see reality as it actually is. We have this fear of the unknown. Some scientists say that this fear of the unknown is innate in us. So, the more we don’t know or don’t understand something, the more we fear it. Conversely, if we know more about that thing, we have less fear of it, and if we know it completely as it actually is, we should have no more fear of it. Yet, from our own observation alone, we realise that even when we know something completely, we can still be fearful of it. This is because the second condition is also present.

The second condition is that we are unable or unwilling to accept things as they really are. If we are not able to accept reality as it is, we will resist it. Fear will arise because deep down inside, we know that we cannot win this resistance. We will lose, and then we will grief what what we have lost. We will feel the pain of not getting what we want, or of getting what we do not want.

Conversely, if we can see things as they really are, and if we can then accept them as they are, then we can eliminate fear.

How to reduce or eliminate fear

So the first step to eliminate or reduce our fear in anything is to learn as much about it as we can. We must know it objectively and rationally. For this, we need a discerning mind that is free from bias, free from the ego.

This is where the ability of our mind to examine and analyse a situation is important. In this Covid-19 pandemic, for example, we need to be able to differentiate facts from fictions, truth from beliefs, real news from fake news, rationality from fearful emotions. If we can do this well, we can reduce our fear. If not, we are only going to make matter worse. We see how nations following science are faring much better than nations that follow beliefs. Countries like South Korea, Singapore, China, and Taiwan are doing so much better than countries like USA, UK and other countries in Europe.

The next step is to have the courage and determination to change the things that we can and have to change, such as changing our lifestyle, our daily routines, our expectations, our desires, and accepting the things that we cannot change, such as the fact that the virus is here to stay for a long, long time. Accept the reality that the virus IS in our community, and then protect yourself accordingly by following strictly to the SOP – wear you face mask properly, wash your hands regularly, physical distancing, and avoiding contact with others as much as possible. Accept also the fact that our lifestyle has to change. We can no longer go back to how it was before the pandemic – at least not for a long, long time. Adapt gracefully into the new situation instead of resisting and fighting it all the time.

So, learn to see things clearly and rationally. Have the courage to change what needs to be changed, and the ability to accept what cannot be changed. Do these and you will start to be able to manage and reduce your fear.

The Danger is real, but Fear is optional

The Danger is real, but Fear is optional

I have said this before, and I will say it again here – In this pandemic, we are not just fighting against the Covid-19 virus. We also need to fight and manage our own fears.

The danger is very real, but fear is optional.

It is almost instinctual for human to fear the unknown. At the initial outbreak of this Covid-19 pandemic, we know very little about the virus. So, the exaggerated panic was not unexpected.

However, we are now 9 months into this pandemic, and we have learned a great deal more about this virus. We know how it spreads, and therefore we know how we can protect ourselves. We know what happens when it enters our body, and so we are more prepared to treat and support patients infected with the virus.

Let the doctors deal with the task of caring and treating the infected patient.

Our own task – which is the task of everyone – is to protect ourselves from this infection, and to prevent this infection from spreading to others.

To face an enemy, we must first learn as much about the enemy as we can. Accurate information helps us to make rationale decisions. So, firstly, let us learn as much about the virus as we can, and especially the relevant information that we will need to protect ourselves. Click here to learn about the Covid-19 virus. This will give us an understanding of the virus and the rationale for the SOP in place. Follow them strictly and diligently.

The more we know the enemy, and the more we know how to protect ourselves, the less we have to fear. There is less unknown factor.

However, for the majority of us, there will still be some lingering anxiety and worry. Do not dwell on them. Instead, turn your mind to some productive activities. Read, cook, exercise, do some gardening. Do anything that can keep your mind occupied in a positive way.

For the more discerning ones, observe your own mind. Look at the thoughts that arise, and see how they affect and give rise to your feelings of fear and anxiety. Examine your views, beliefs and attitude, and review them in light of the new evidence and information we know about this virus. Perhaps some old beliefs and fears should be discarded, and some new more informed precautions put in place. See how tightly you cling to your body, feelings and thoughts, and learn to let go of that clinging. You might even be able to reflect on your own fear of dying.

Know that you can surrender or let go of any or all of these – views, beliefs, attitude, even clinging to body, feelings and thoughts. All can be let go of. Try it and see how it relaxes your muscles and body, and loosen your tightly bound mind as well. Feel the tension eases away.

When you are able to manage your own inner feelings and thoughts, you would have gained an inner peace that you probably never knew was there all along.

Truth and the Covid-19 Pandemic

Truth and the Covid-19 Pandemic

Truth and the Covid-19 Pandemic

If there is any blessings arising from this Covid-19 pandemic, it is that it is showing us the importance of truth.This is because we cannot fight this pandemic with denials, lies and distortion of truth. Doing so only makes the situation worse for everyone.

There have been many reports of patients who have history of close contact with known Covid-19 patients denying this very important aspect of their medical history when they go and see their doctors. This resulted in triage error, thus sending them to doctors who are not properly attired and protected. Later, when they are tested positive, they finally admitted but by then it is already too late. Scores of healthcare personnel would have to be quarantined for at least 2 weeks. Sometimes, an entire clinic or department had to be closed down. At a time when we are already short of all kinds of healthcare resources, including skilled personnel, this is nothing short of a disaster.

Another important tool to fight this pandemic is accurate and truthful information. Unfortunately, there have been wide and indiscriminate dissemination of fake news and suspicious information disguised as coming from authentic authorities or experts. This means we will waste valuable time trying to sieve through what can be trusted and what are lies. Accurate information can help us understand the disease better, and make it easier for us to protect ourselves. Fake news are harmful, often giving false sense of security or trigger outright fear or panic.

Lastly, truth is not a privileged but a necessity in healthcare. One may distort reality and still succeed in politics or even business, but it is disastrous and even deathly when applied in healthcare. Little wonder that we now see our politicians, who are used to distorting realities, having a difficult time trying to cope with this pandemic. Their method is useless in this fight.Let the scientists and doctors take the driver’s seat in this fight, and the politicians humbly taking the backseat.

Universal Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic

Universal Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic

Starting out in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019, the Covid-19 virus has spread like wildfire all across the globe within just a few months. It is causing tremendous amount of destruction and disruption to our “normal” lifestyle. There are death and suffering everywhere it goes.

However, looking from a more spiritual perspective, this pandemic may be just the prescription humanity needed right now to reset our views and attitudes towards the world and towards each other, for it teaches us a few very fundamental and essential lessons about life.

  1. Accept reality, instead of resisting or fighting it
  2. Humanity must come together as one family
  3. Actions motivated by fear are destructive for everyone

Accept reality, instead of resisting or fighting it

This is examplified by countries that refuse to acknowledge the global nature of this virus, and by leaders who refuse to face the truth or speak the truth, thus causing the situation to become worse rapidly due to inaction or inappropriate actions. The best example of this is Donald Trump and the way he trivialized it until it became too late to act. Precious early opportunities to contain the spread were missed because of this refusal to acknowledge reality.

Humanity must come together as one family

Precious early opportunities were also missed in China in the early stage of the outbreak in Wuhan, also due to the refusal of their leaders to acknowledge it. However, when the outbreak became apparent, the Chinese government went all out to contain it and prevent its spread. During this time, the rest of the world simply watch and do nothing to help. Our attitude seems to be — it’s your problem, not mine. We should have learned from the Ebola outbreak that early concerted global effort can successfully contain a serious outbreak and prevent it from spreading further.

In addition, when a lockdown was ordered in Wuhan, many of their inhabitants willfully “escaped” the lockdown and travelled overseas, thus spreading the virus to other countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, the Phillipines, Thailand, etc. This created new clusters elsewhere, making it even harder to be contained, and effectively exporting the virus to the rest of the world. This selfish attitude is the actual cause of the pandemic.

However, this selfish attitude is not exclusive only to the Chinese in Wuhan. We see this selfish attitude in other countries and communities as well. In South Korea, the virus appears to have been well contained until participants in a religious congregation started spreading it elsewhere within and without the country. To date, many of the participants have still refused to come forward voluntarily to be tested. Similar challenges were seen in Malaysia.

In order to successful fight this pandemic, human beings must consciously and intentionally come together as one big family to think and care for each other, instead of acting through selfish impulses.

Actions motivated by fear are destructive for everyone

As we can see from the above, the Covid-19 virus is not the real enemy. The real enemy is fear. Fear and actions motivated by fear are the actual causes of this pandemic.

Fear is seen in many forms. Selfishness is one that we have discussed. Another equally destructive one is denial. The outbreak has shown us many examples of how people in denial of having the Covid-19 infection actually put themselves and their loved ones at risk, as well as their community and the healthcare frontliners working to save them. Everyone of us stand to lose when denial is at work.

This Covid-19 pandemic clearly shows us the negative consequences of actions motivated by fear.

On the other hand, we also see examples of positive consequences of actions motivated by love. We see healthcare workers facing the virus head on, putting themselves and their loved ones at risk so that we and our loved ones can stay safe. They are the real superheroes in our lives.

How to Overcome the Fear of Aging

How to Overcome the Fear of Aging

Aging, like sickness and death, is part and parcel of life. Everyone who is born must eventually age and die. This is the natural cycle of life. However, not everyone ages in the same way. Some age gracefully. Others age with fear.

Fear is Optional

If you are fearful of aging, you should know that this fear is not inevitable. It is there only because of your own past experiences, your own beliefs and your own attitude towards it. In the end, it is a matter of choice. Aging is inevitable but fear of aging is not. Aging of this body is a physical phenomenon. That is why it is inevitable. Fear, on the other hand, is a mental phenomenon. It is optional.

Identify Your Fears

If you are fearful of aging, you should try to be more specific and identify what it is that you are really fearful of. Generally, those who fear aging are actually fearful of sickness and death. Those who believe that they can age with a healthy and functioning body have little fear of aging. Those who think of the possibility of sickness and death as they age become fearful.

Having identify our specific fears, it then becomes possible to do something about it.

Fear of Sickness

If it is sickness, then we can start to live a healthy lifestyle. It is never too late to start a habit of living healthily. If you smoke, stop smoking. If you drink alcohol, and especially if you drink heavily, then tone it down. Drink less. Scientific studies have actually shown that a small amount of alcohol is good for your physical health but too much is harmful. Sleep early and wake up early. Sleep well. Exercise regularly. Eat healthily. Drink lots of water. Practice yoga or tai chi. Learn to meditate. All these improve the quality of your life, making you healthier mentally, emotionally and physically.

Fear of Death

If your fear is death, then once again you have to be specific. Is it the process of dying that you are afraid of, or is it death itself? If it is the process of dying, then the real fear for most people is actually the fear of a painful dying process. If that is the case, we have good news for you. Science and medicine today have reached a point where we can almost always minimise pain in the dying process. In most cases, we can even totally eradicate pain. However, even without medicine, pain can still be managed well. Physical pain may be inevitable but mental suffering is optional.

The question then is how do we free ourselves from mental suffering in the presence of physical pain? The answer to that is a strong mind. We can train our mind to be strong and resilient. It is a skill, and like all skills, it takes practice. The most common and popular mind training is meditation. So, learn to meditate, and learn it well. Gain mastery over your own mind. Then you will have little to be fearful of.

Fear of the Unknown

Lastly, if it is death itself that you are afraid of, then it is most likely because death is a big unknown. What happens to us after death? This is a spiritual question, and you will need a spiritual answer. It all comes down to your belief system. So, when you talk about death, and especially when you want a solution to this type of fear about death, then you must re-visit your spirituality, and the very nature of who you are.

Are you simply this body or are you more than just this physical body? When you die, is there a part of you that continues on? This is your quest. It is a journey that none can take for you. Only you can do this for yourself.

Facilitating Children with Emotional Literacy

Facilitating Children with Emotional Literacy

Many children today need help in emotional literacy. According to the National Health Morbidity Survey III (NHMS, 2006), about 20% of Malaysian children and adolescents have some form of psychological or behavioural problems that are preventing them from fulfilling their full potential.

Do you know a child who…

  • is not realising his/her full potential – academically or socially?
  • has nightmares or has disturbed sleep?
  • is at risk of being/is excluded from school?
  • has suffered trauma?
  • has suffered emotional, physical or sexual abuse?
  • is (or in the process of being) adopted or fostered?
  • suffers because of separated/divorced parents?
  • suffers from anxiety, stress or phobias?
  • has suffered a loss or bereavement of any kind?
  • is withdrawn or continually unhappy?
  • finds it difficult to make friends?
  • quarrels frequently with peers or siblings?
  • bullies others or is bullied?
  • displays inappropriate behaviour?
  • doesn’t play?
  • is ill or disabled?

Then you need to know how play and creative arts therapies can help.

Therapeutic Play – how does it work?

Therapeutic play (including play therapy) is a well established discipline based upon a number of psychological theories. Research, both qualitative and quantitative, shows that it is highly effective in many cases. Recent research by Play Therapy UK suggests that 71% of the children referred will show a positive change.

A safe, confidential and caring environment is created which allows the child to play with as few limits as possible but as many as necessary (for safety).

This allows healing to occur on many levels following our natural inner trend towards health. Play and creativity operate on impulses from outside our awareness – the unconscious. No medication is used.

During the sessions, the child is given strategies to cope with difficulties they face in life and which they themselves cannot change. It provides a more positive view of their future life.

A session may last from typically 30 to 45 minutes. A variety of techniques, including the “Play Therapy Toolkit”, are used according to the child’s wishes and the skills of the practitioner.

Little white lies may be bad for your health

Little white lies may be bad for your health

ILLINOIS, Aug 9 — How to be healthy? Exercise, eat your vegetables, and refrain from telling little white lies, according to a new study.

In early findings from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, US, researchers studied 110 participants who were told to stop telling either major or minor lies for 10 weeks. The control group was given no special instructions about lying. When those in the no-lie group told three fewer white lies than in other weeks, they complained less of headaches, sore throats, tenseness, anxiety, and other problems than those in the control group.

“Recent evidence indicates that Americans average about 11 lies per week,” said lead author Anita E. Kelly in a recent press release. “We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health.”

Kelly presented her research on Saturday at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Linda Stroh, a professor emeritus of organizational behavior at Loyola University in Chicago, told “USA Today” that the findings are similar to her own research on trust. “When you find that you don’t lie, you have less stress,” she says. “Being very conflicted adds an inordinate amount of stress to your life.”

Some of the ways people refrained from lying in the study included avoiding exaggerating the truth about daily accomplishments and not making false excuses for running late or not finishing tasks. — AFP/Relaxnews

Meaning-based Therapy may aid terminal patients

Meaning-based Therapy may aid terminal patients

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Psychotherapy focused on spirituality and finding meaning may help improve quality of life and well-being in terminally ill cancer patients, suggests a new study from a large cancer treatment center.

The talk therapy sessions only seemed to provide a short-term benefit — though researchers said that was reasonable given that many of the study participants were near the end of their lives, with progressively worsening disease. The study’s lead author said that while hospice and palliative care doctors and nurses are well-versed in treating pain and nausea, for example, there hasn’t been definitive evidence on the treatment of non-physical symptoms in very ill patients.

“What palliative care clinicians have not had up until now are interventions that have shown some effectiveness in dealing with issues like loss of meaning, feeling demoralized (and) a loss of sense of spiritual well-being,” said Dr. William Breitbart, from New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

“This is a new tool,” he told Reuters Health. “It gives more structure to what people are already attempting to do.”

For full story, click here.