Mental health and well-being is a big subject these days, and I think that it’s a good thing that we are all much more aware or self-aware than we used to be.
While I’m no life coach, nor am I trained in this, I had a little encounter over the past week and on the weekend that got me thinking. So, I just wanted to put out a little reminder to you. A reminder to be present for yourself and for your family and friends.
Sometimes, you just never know what people are going through, because they choose not to tell you, or they’re not ready to talk. But yet, they are stressed and feel like it’s hard to cope with life at that moment. Being present for them goes a long way towards helping them, if not solve their problems, to be able to face them or know that someone else is there for them.
I was thinking about this over the past week, and over the weekend, and just felt like talking about this 🙂
Be present for yourself
The world today is quite different from the world before this. I feel like there are so many distractions in today’s world, simply because we are all so connected and plugged in.
We are all so attached to our mobile phones, and to the internet. A ping or a ding, and information is instantly pushed to us. Or we browse our favourite social media apps (Mine is Twitter for news and Instagram for fun) and are barraged with opinions and articles (sometimes informative, sometimes peddling false information) and we are constantly reading, filtering, thinking, and reacting.
Often, I feel that we barely leave ourselves time to stop and think about what we just read. You feel the need to react, to like, to leave a comment on a Tweet or a photo, without thinking too hard. Sometimes, a laughing emoji suffices.
Here’s something I have put into practice for a little while now. I try to hit the pause button.
While I am very present online, I make a conscious effort to withdraw for certain times in a day. This is more so at night. I give myself a cut off time to 10pm or so, when my phone goes silent on its “Do Not Disturb” mode till the next morning.
When I’m with people in a social setting, I try not to focus on my phone. The odd message or phone call needing my attention may come in, which I excuse myself and attend to. But everything else can wait.
When I read something online and feel the need to respond or share, I pause. I fact check if I can. If I feel like I’ll be saying something strong, I step back and think, before reacting or writing.
It helps me slow down, especially my brain, and it helps me be a little more present and in tune with what’s going on around me. I was on a holiday recently, and I have not shared anything from there. I did not take many pictures (except on my camera), I did not use my mobile phone camera very much, and I chose not to share anything at all, even though I could. All I wanted was to be there, in the present.
I also think this is important for our mental health and well-being, because often, reactions to what we say or do impulsively can react and rebound very quickly. Being more present with yourself helps you slow down and think a little.
RELATED READING: I started consciously implementing this “Slow down” concept last year. It has been helpful for me – READ HERE
Be present for your family and friends who matter
Being present is more than just being physically present. It is actively being present for someone, listening and talking to them. It is not about sitting there, each of you fiddling with your phones, then taking a selfie to post online, thinking you’re both fulfilling some sort of social obligation.
You are not there to be a problem solver. You are there, to offer support, to show them someone cares about them, and to listen should they wish to share. If you can help solve the problem, then well and good. If they don’t wish to share, just the human, familiar contact sometimes offers sufficient comfort.
I can vouch for this.
I am the sort to keep things private and close to my chest. I am what people would consider “strong” because I make things look easy when they aren’t. Even as I traverse bumpy pothole-laden roads, I make it look like I’m gliding on angel’s wings. It’s just me.
I’m not the sort to wear my heart on my sleeve or to pour my heart out to anyone. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. Is it bad? Who knows.
But a while ago, I hit a rough patch and nothing seemed to go right. Things were all wonky, life felt like it had turned upside down, and I felt rudderless. I’m not the sort to talk to anyone about the problems I was facing.
But almost as if my friends sensed it, I’d receive the odd word of encouragement out of the blue. Or I’d be invited to have lunch, or just to have coffee. A little word here, a little gesture there just to get me out of myself.
It did not solve my problems, it did not make them go away. I had to work at it, and resolve that myself. But what it did was to soothe my ruffled feathers, and inject some calm. The little time I spent talking and laughing over nothing in particular helped unknot some of the tension I was feeling.
On the other side, I also took it upon myself to ask people out. To meet friends, to make time and just find that space for myself. An hour or two where I could just forget about the problems and nonsense that I was facing. It didn’t help me solve my problem. My friends weren’t there to consciously listen to me. But it helped me feel better.
The road traveled became a little smoother, my mood improved, and it helped me find some clarity and strength to deal with whatever I had to deal with.
Ask “Are you OK?” and mean it
We all know many people, some of whom wear their hearts on their sleeve. They share their emotions and thoughts and feelings openly so you know what’s going on with them. It can be exhausting being around them, but you know where they stand.
But there are others, who don’t. There are those who have a more stoic approach, who are seemingly “strong” and capable and fiercely independent. People who, like an icebreaker ship, sail and plow into the frozen Arctic seas, slicing through like a warm knife through butter, seemingly without any problems at all.
It’s this second category of people who often need the help, but who don’t ask for it. And sometimes it is only there in the flicker of emotion on their face, or a note in their voice that poses any hint.
It was this that prompted my thoughts about this issue last week.
A little story
A friend had reached out early last week about something work-related. I had a look, and told her what I thought, and that was that.
But something niggled at me for a day or two after. There was something in her voice that didn’t sound right. A little catch? A little break?
This was someone I knew to be independent, strong and capable. Someone who would face problems head on and has a strong religious beliefs. Someone who doesn’t really talk about issues she might face whether at work or otherwise. Not the sort to buckle under pressure.
After a few days, I decided to reach out. So I asked if she might want to have lunch with me on the weekend, as I felt she was out of sorts when I spoke to her.
So we had lunch, and had a chat, and soon, bit by bit, she shared some of the problems that had plagued her. I was in no position to solve them, but what I could offer was a listening ear.
Sometimes, that’s enough.
I could see that she was less tense at the end of it all, and along the way, we worked out some knotty issues she had, and if nothing fell into place perfectly, there was some clarity in the situation.
Sometimes, that’s all that’s needed. A talk, a listening ear, a presence.
I’m not blowing my own trumpet. It was a situation that triggered something in me, because I had gone down the same road. Just as my friends had helped me, so did I feel the need to just take my friend out of herself.
Have some empathy
A trait I’ve noticed in decline today is empathy. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re all more selfish now, or if we have lost the ability to connect to others except over the digital divide.
Having empathy and being sensitive to another person’s thoughts or deeds makes you human. But in the world today, when people are content to be faceless trolls spewing hatred and being cruel from behind the safety of their gadget screens, empathy seems almost a foreign concept.
I think it’s important for us to raise our heads from our gadgets once in a while and take a look around the people around us. Are they feeling OK? Are they stressed? Do they need a listening ear?
Can you be there for them, if only just to talk or listen?
I think this goes a long way towards helping all of us with our own mental health, and makes us better people, better family and better friends. You never know if you might need to be on that receiving end tomorrow.
Do you know of a friend who might be feeling a little down?
If you are in a stable and good place yourself, perhaps now would be a good time to drop them a note and ask if everything is OK? Or if you are feeling down yourself, but don’t really want to talk about your problems just yet, call your friend, have lunch or tea or dinner and just be present for a few hours. Perhaps it will help you find some clarity too 🙂
16 comments ... Read or JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Hui Min says
Dear Paris, thanks for bringing up this topic and sharing about your thoughts.
First thing first, I got attracted by your red lips look in FB about this new post. You look absolutely gorgeous with red lips. Mind sharing the brand and code of the lipstick you are using in this post?
Yes, I do have a few friends who are in the range of ‘a little down’ to ‘super down’ recently. One of them is my best friend whom I knew for more than 10 years. She was not going smooth on her career and after a few tries, she decided to shut herself off from the world. I am worried about her and tried talking to her, but all I get was her blue ticks.
For this, I have realised that it is really important for us to not neglecting our own feelings. While I was trying to reach for my friend and worried for her, I myself was occupied with stress from work, family and life partner. I too, was “infected” by the negative vibes.
In addition, there is a friend of mine, whose girlfriend is suspecting herself to be autistic (but not diagnosed by an expert yet), looking for my help in counselling his girlfriend. I am no expert in this and I thought that I am just helping a shy girl to have more confidence; However, I found myself emotionally broke down after realising that I can’t help much.
Therefore, the moral of the story is that we should also be taking care of our own feelings, before we take care of the others. I am now having a break for myself by getting myself more me time.
By the way, I am only sharing what I faced recently here after reading your post. I genuinely appreciate Paris for giving tips for many out there on how to calm ourselves down for a better world. 😀
Paris B says
Hi Hui Min, the lips are Bobbi Brown Luxe Matte lipstick in Red Carpet. It’s a beautiful deep red that I love and wear often, and also one of the few matte formula I can wear. I just realized I haven’t blogged about it. Oh dear. I’m slipping 😛
And you are actually absolutely right that you must first take care of yourself. Hence I say, only reach out to others if you’re already in a good place yourself. If you are having trouble, then you will find it too much to handle. Also, the other thing to realize is that we cannot help everyone. At most, we can offer to listen and maybe direct them to people who can help them e.g. psychologists, counsellors etc. I have done that too, if it is something that burdens them personally. If it’s a job problem, I find that sometimes, they just need to talk. Perhaps not online (I’ve found that doesn’t work) but just face to face. Even if they don’t talk about their problems (I didn’t), it helped me to juet be out there, talking to someone. We need that human connection, like it or not.
Also, realize that unless you’re an expert or in the field of counselling, you probably aren’t equipped to counsel. I make sure I tell myself that. I can listen. If I can help, I will help. But if I cannot, I will find people who can help e.g. doctors, counsellors etc. We aren’t superhumans and you should never beat yourself up for that 🙂
So be fair to yourself, take your time away from people where necessary, to be present for yourself. If we aren’t there for ourselves, we cannot be there for anyone else 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts Hui Min, I appreciate it!
Another great post, Ms. P.
Paris B says
Thanks SG 🙂
Great post, this hits very close to home. I have a friend who ranted over something tiny in our WhatsApp group over a week ago and left the group chat abruptly. The rest of us didn’t think much of it and now she’s a missing person. Her workplace reported her missing to the police when she didn’t show up to work for a couple of days and after visiting her home to find her not there although everything else like her car is in place. The police was able to give an update that she is in another country a few days later but nobody knows anything else. Basically, she simply took off without telling anyone and no one knows if she is even coming back. She was not responding to messages, unreachable and she had deleted all of her social media. There were probably warning signs and we all sort of know that she seemed depressed but I always thought she was strong enough to get over anything. I have tried asking her out to talk it over in the past year but after five dinner invites which she rejected over being ‘tired’, I just gave up and thought she probably doesn’t want to hang out with me anymore. I only know now that she treated other people this way too. After all this, I now feel all my problems are insignificant compared to what other people may be going through.
Paris B says
Hi Liz, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with your friend, and I’m so sorry to hear that she’s now missing. On the flipside, you did try to reach out multiple times, but was rejected. While I think we should do all we can to help others pull through, there isn’t much else we can do if they choose to reject it, or not embrace that helping hand. So I won’t beat myself up over it – it isn’t as if you didn’t do or say anything to try to help. But we also have to realize that we have our limits because sometimes, people must also first want to help themselves.
This post made me cry. Because you are so right. I am myself in so much work and stress and my closest ones too that we sometimes aren’t even able to really talk to each other. And when we do, we’re trying to avoid the real things just to divert. It is so important to slow down. Nothing can be more important than your closest family but we tend to take it for granted. Its not. 10 minutes to breathe can do such good! Breathe, smile and truly ask if everything is ok. If not, ist down and listen. Full attention and care for 5 minutes are worth more than 1 hour chitchat, when someone needs to feel and know he / she is loved.
Paris B says
I’m sorry to make you cry Anna, but thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂 You are right, ultimately, we must all slow down a little. Everything is moving very fast these days, that we often don’t have time to process how we feel, before having to deal with something new. We should do what we can for self-preservation and also to remain connected to loved ones. I’m glad it made you think a little about slowing down and smelling the roses along the way 🙂
Good post 🙂 we all need a little love and care every now and again and we should give a little love and care whenever we can as well.
Paris B says
Absolutely, Sharon! We we all human after all!
This is a wonderful post that hit me. When someone just drop by to say hi whether it’s online or face-to-face, it’s just warms the heart knowing there’re still people who cares .. So, now I don’t underestimate the power of saying “how are you” sincerely ..
Paris B says
Thank you for sharing! I always say to never discount the human touch. There is nothing quite like sitting down and talking to someone face to face, as opposed to speaking over the phone or through text messages. Sometimes, the latter can get lost in nuance. Also, I think that being humans, our human social interaction and connection is very important for our mental health too.
Mary Weynand-Ragan says
Yes to all of this, indeed!
The machines in our everyday use now rob us of our natural intuitive state. I see many people who cannot hold another person’s gaze while speaking, without glancing down periodically at their own phone.
As an empath, I feel the emotions of other beings, and I often hear their thoughts. It gets pretty noisy! I clear myself with crystals, breathwork, trees, and music, and I look at my phone computer for a limited time each day.
The world and her beings need our love, attention and empathy very much. This includes ourselves!
Love and light,
Paris B says
Hello Mary, thank you for sharing your thoughts. While technology has brought us closer, I do think also that it has made us more remote as people. Empathy is something that’s missing today, and I wonder if it’s because all this technology makes us clinical beings who don’t see other ‘accounts’ as human? Either way, I love how you clear your mind – never underestimate the power of nature – trees are wonderful things to help us ‘discharge and power down’ 🙂
Thought-provoking post. I think one of the best compliments I ever received from a man was that he told me he liked my “presence”. Not my appearance, my brains, gift for gab or any of that. But my presence ! I was astounded and never forgot it.
Also, I’d just like to add that sometimes we can ghost people, or they can ghost us, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, we all need our space and when this happens it’s probably a sign that some significant healing is taking place and we should be accordingly understanding of that need too. Just my little input.
Take care and have a nice day ?
Paris B says
Thank you so much for sharing Kristine! 🙂 I totally hear you, and I too believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong in wanting to be alone, or to be by ourselves for a while. It can even be good for our mental health to not have that sort of external pressures of being social thrust on us. Goodness knows, I feel that way often 😛 But I also feel that if that is something we want, then we should say so to those who try and make an effort to get us out of our shells. Perhaps to just say that we aren’t ready to talk, or just don’t feel like going out. But at our core, I personally believe that we are social creatures, and need social contact. We may not need wild parties or lots of people around us, but we do need that human touch, even if we don’t talk about our problems with them 🙂 But that’s just something I believe in 😀 Hope you have a good weekend lined up!