Mental Health and Practicing Self-Care

We do not give enough attention to mental health. Women, especially younger women are reporting higher rates of mental health problems. Mental illness, much like other illnesses can spread, grow, and deepen if you ignore them. No matter how much you push it down, the more will come back up.

Mental Health Issues

Image Source: Monash University

I want to draw attention to the Asian American community in particular. In Asian culture, mental health is not taken seriously at all. We are taught to face life stoically, and sadness is seen as a sign of weakness. We are told to simply “get over it”, and that buried pain manifests itself later in our personalities, in our relationships, in our actions, and inhibits aspects of our lives. We face the special problem of the “model minority” myth, and that we don’t have problems like that. I once asked an Asian American doctor in San Francisco to refer me to a therapist and he looked at me like I was a sewer mutant.

In a condescending tone he spat, “so you’re the one who wants therapy.”

With a response like that, I can see why Asian Americans are less likely to seek help.

There are many reasons why mental health could be declining. Higher standards, pressure from social media, discrimination, inequality, traumatic events, and sometimes just our DNA can cause affect our mental health.

On the brink of panic attacks, I’ve found myself swallowing tears and struggling to breathe. I was unable to feel excited or happy about anything in my life, but rather everything felt like a deep nervousness. Life had lost all its color.

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It took me a long time to figure out what to do. To be honest I really didn’t know what to do. I sought help, I sought advice, I just knew that I needed to do something about it. I’m trying to take things slowly, I’m taking time off to find myself and figure out how to slowly mend things in the wake of my father’s death. I don’t know how or if I can just “fix” everything, but I’m taking the steps to mend my mind and my heart.

I’m writing this because I really want everyone to know it’s okay to feel sad. Sadness, much like happiness is a part of life. But constantly feeling sad and worthless is not healthy, and here are some small things I can share with you.

  1. Admit that something is wrong, and seek help.

We often don’t seek medical attention until we’re in tremendous pain and it inhibits us from going to work or school. If you’re feeling so bad mentally that you can’t focus on work or school, why is this any different? I think the first step is acknowledging that something wrong and seeking the appropriate medical attention or counseling. If you suspect that you suffer from a mental illness, please please please seek a doctor. If left untreated, it can worsen and cause serious problems.

2. It’s OK to feel lost.

No one has their shit figured out, no matter how put together we look. As a woman of color in their twenties, I’ve felt a lot of pressure from my family and society to know exactly what I want and to be actively pursuing them. I recently attended a Professional Women’s Conference where many of the speakers advocated for self-care. One said in particular that if they regretted anything, it was that she wished that would have spent more of her 20s focusing on herself, taking risks, and pending time finding what she liked to do instead of jumping into her career.

3. Take time

When anxious, things feel so much heavier and time gets warped. Take things slowly, and try to take a step back. In the grand scheme of things, events or actions may be a lot smaller than they feel in the moment. Take time off for yourself. Even if it’s just a personal health day, just take some time to reflect and do things to help you feel relaxed. I think this is where “treat yo’ self” comes in.

No matter how anti-social we may be, humans are naturally social creatures and its important to have a support system. You’re never alone. Try to reach out to people who care for you and make you feel safe. Try to push yourself to do things like working out or reading a book that normally have enjoyed. And if you really feel like you can’t take it anymore, seek medical help.

Please remember that you are special, you matter, and you are loved. 💖

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