How is your Psychological Health?

The above are some statements measuring level of emotional distress. They can serve as a guideline that something might start to go wrong in life.

It is a difficult time for almost everyone, whether it is the economy globally, crime rates in the country, personal financial issues or major life events, or day to day stress from work, family, relationships etc. We might not be able to change all these challenging situations, but we are able to change our perceptions to them, and improve our coping abilities and psychological resilience.

I am a psychologist specialised in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I am also trained in Problem Solving Therapy and Hypnotherapy. I help people to pick up the role of therapist for their own problems.

Feel free to leave a comment below, or contact me via hello@huibee.com or 017-2757813.

Simple Breathing Relaxation 简单呼吸放松

Here is a 5-minute recording of tension release breathing, just follow the instruction (breath in – hold your breath & notice the tension – breath out and release the tension). Hold your breath for as long as you are comfortable, and try to exhale slowly and gently. You can do this anytime anywhere, with eyes open or close.

5 mins breathing relaxation - Recording


这是个简单的五分钟紧张释放呼吸录音,只需要跟着指示(吸气 – 屏气并注意肌肉紧绷感 – 呼气)。只要不造成不适,屏气时间尽可能长;而呼气的时候尽可能缓慢轻柔。在任何时候任何地方都可以做,不闭眼也可以。

五分钟呼吸放松 – 录音

Pity, Sympathy, Empathy, Compassion

This is a great graphic created by Psychologist Robert Shelton, comparing Pity, Sympathy, Empathy and Compassion:

pity-sympathy-empathy-compassion

People working in the health care sector (nurses, doctors, counsellors, carers etc) are always told that we should have “empathy”, which was also something I used to think I should always aim to have, to feel the pain and the suffering of my patients and sometimes of their family members. And I’d say, sometimes that becomes so natural in me, that seeing people suffering or talking about their sad past and weeping, tears would start filling my eyes too.

It’s good to understand and feel how others are feeling. Quite often I can help them better, we feel very much in-sync with each other. But sometimes this emotion that I sense interfere with the therapy. And not just that, I get so emotional long after the session has ended.

I realised that what we’d want to aim, is sympathy, or even better, compassion, but, not empathy. When I have compassion, even when I do not feel their suffering, I’m still very eager wanting to help them, to release their pain. This makes me feel better, as I quite often got stuck with “I can’t imagine how it’s like to go through that.” (e.g. a friend, who is the only child of a single mother, lost her mother quite suddenly. I have siblings, even if I lost my parents, it’s still not the same for me, I can’t imagine how it’s like for her. – I can give many examples like this, where I can’t imagine and hence can’t sense their pain. What’s more, even if I could imagine, it might still not be the same as experiencing and feeling it for real).

So now I’m no longer insisting that I should be empathising with all my patients. Of course I still do, somehow naturally, quite often. But if I do not, I have learnt that my job has a lot to do with a heart of compassion, I want less suffering in people, I want them to be able to help themselves and ease their pain. This way, the emotion affects me less, and I can help more people too.

焦虑(Anxiety) VS 担忧 (Worry)

最近刚从北京回来,发现那里的一名助教老师告诉我,她一直以为“焦虑”和“担忧”是一样的东西,也会互换着用。

担忧或许可以算是焦虑的一种,尤其比如说你对生活中任何大小事情都有忧虑,那你可能是“广泛性焦虑障碍” (Generalised Anxiety Disorder, GAD),如果你特别担心自己的健康有些什么状况,不断在网络搜寻关于健康相关的资讯,不断进行不必要的体检,那你可能是”健康焦虑“(Health anxiety),等等。

但是,担忧和焦虑有好一些显著的不同…

  • 担忧更多时候发生在头脑里(以文字/语言的形式),焦虑则更多时候发生在身体里(心率上升、冒汗等);虽然焦虑也可以以认知的方式(包含文字/语言、意象/画面)呈现,但一般都会带来躯体的症状。
  • 担忧的事物一般更具体一些,焦虑的事物更含糊(或广泛)。
  • 担忧比较可能(但不一定)带来问题解决,焦虑则比较不会。
  • 担忧带来的是比较轻微的情绪困扰,焦虑可以使人无法正常生活和工作等。
  • 担忧的原因一般比较实际和具体。
  • 担忧一般持续的时候比较短,焦虑却可以长时间不断地存在着。
  • 担忧属于正常的心理现象,焦虑则往往需要心理或药物的治疗。

要注意的是这只是拿两者作比较,两者的差别并不是完全的、绝对的。

河流上的飘叶

正念练习:河流上的飘叶(取自“接受与承诺疗法”Acceptance and Commitment therapy)

这是个闭眼练习。首先阅读说明,当你理解了这个练习的过程后,闭上眼睛开始。 (或者你可以使用这篇文章末尾的录音)

想象一下美丽、缓慢流动的溪流。水流过岩石,然后穿过山谷,周围有些大树。偶尔,风吹来,一片一片的叶子落入溪流中,随着河水漂流。想象一下,你正坐在那条小溪旁边,在天气很好的一天,看着河水的流动与树叶的飘落。

现在开始意识到你的想法(思维)。每当一个想法出现在你的头脑中时,想象把它写(或放)在其中一片叶子上。如果你用文字思考,把它们作为文字,轻轻地放在叶子上。如果头脑出现的是图像或画面,就将它们作为图像放在叶子上。目标是留在溪流旁边,让溪流上的树叶继续流动。不要试图让河流流得更快或更慢;不要试图以任何方式改变叶子上出现的东西。如果树叶消失,或者你的思绪飘到了其他地方,那就停下来、注意这发生了,然后再次回到溪流边,把刚刚的想法放到叶子上,让叶子随着河水流走。

(图像的生动或清晰程度无关紧要,只要有这个概念在就可以了– 觉察自己的想法,一旦发现它们就轻轻地放下)

继续进行至少5分钟。如果你现在已经了解说明,请闭上眼睛开始试试。

(练习后继续阅读)

当河流在流动,你也能注意到想法并轻轻地把想法放下时,这就是认知解离 (Cognitive defusion) 的时候。记得头脑本来就是设计来思考的,所以它总是会不断弹出各种想法,你虽然不能控制这点,但你能选择是否对这些想法作出反应,或者选择轻轻地放下它们。如果你认为“我做得不对”、“这个练习对我不起作用”或“我怎么会没有想法”,留意到它们也是你其中的一些想法,后退一步,把它们也放到落叶上。一些其它特别“粘”的想法(比较难以觉察和解离的想法),包括含强烈情绪的想法、比较性的想法等。

这里有两个中文版本的录音:

“河流上的飘叶”录音I

“河流上的飘叶”录音II

(类似的内容,只是前面的指示稍微不同;5-6秒后指示才开始)

多些练习,有问题的话,不妨在这留言。

Mental Problems Relapse Prone Situation

Relapse Prevention plays a big part in treatment of mental disorders. It normally involves two parts, (1) to identify high risk situations, what are the situations that are likely to cause relapse? (2) to prepare of coping plans, what would you do if you find that you are in one of these situations and feeling overwhelming?

Here are some general examples of relapse-prone situations to most commonly seen psychological, mental or psychiatric problems. There are normally some high-risk situations that are specific to each individual and the psychological problem that s/he has.

  • Stress: from any source really, it could be accumulative, or due to single (major) event
  • Negative emotional states, such as anger, anxiety, depression, frustration, and boredom
  • Physical illness: when you don’t feel well physically, your emotions are affected too
  • Social isolation (Very important! Face-to-face social interaction has been found to reduce risk of depression, yes F2F, not through whatsapp or instagram!)
  • Major life transition events (graduating from college, starting a new job, getting a promotion, getting married, becoming a parent, ending a relationship, loss & grief, moving house etc)
  • Going back to the environment that is related to your onset of previous episode(s)
  • Social pressure, interpersonal conflicts (especially for relapse of addictions)

So yes, do pay attention if you are in one or some of those abovementioned situations, and watch out for those early warning signs, including by watching out how your sleep patterns, appetite, mood level and (physical & social) activity level are.

LGBT in Malaysia

Everyone has been talking about the change of government since the GE14 in May. Yet my blog seems so cold about this whole shift as if I don’t care, because I have not mentioned it at all so far, but this does not represent how I personally feel about it.

This morning I heard on the 89.9 BFM regarding LGBT in Malaysia. Some were hoping that with the new government, “something” can be done for this minority group. Today I’m not commenting on the Sharia (Islamic) law or how pervasive the discrimination towards LGBT is in Malaysia, I’m writing this as a psychotherapist who works in private psychiatric clinics and private hospitals. I do not represent one or any of them.

In the year of 2007, statistics showed 8% of the Malaysia population thought that homosexuality should be accepted, while in 2013 there was 9%. One of the lowest rates of acceptance in the world.

I’m pleased to see some of them appearing on the newspaper and in the public sharing their stories occasionally. But those were just a very small percentage of the people. From time to time, the clinic and myself received phone calls and emails from people suffering from them. They do not contact us because of mental distress, they get in touch because they want us to “change them back to normal.” They do not want themselves to be like this.

Yes you can set up any law to control their appearance in the media or even in the public. You can also stop them from entering your country. You can prosecute them for cross-dressing and other behaviour. Your law enforcers can also assault and humiliate them however they like it without getting into any trouble. etc. etc.

You can pretend that you don’t see them and disallow them to appear anywhere you don’t want them to be seen, but they don’t just disappear. They suffer. They continue to suffer. In silence. They seek help from private services like us. They avoid the general or government hospitals. Many of them even never speak to their family members about it. They do their best to hide it.

No I’m sorry I can’t change them back to normal. Because who is there to decide what is normal and what isn’t. Not me. Not you either. I can help them though, with all the anxiety and depression that stem from the discrimination and problems in their everyday lives.

So I’m really hoping that whatever laws and regulation the new government may come up with, consider each of these unique individuals, how the interests of the public and theirs can be served, and how can there be less suffering for all. And for the public, I’d really like to urge everyone to be more open, you don’t have to accept them or like them or befriend them, but just bring an open heart and mind, and see what happens.

 

Related read: Can we help with Sexual Orientation “Issues”?