What to put in your goals – and what to take out

By: Helena Louw, Occupational Therapist

As we head into another year, each with our own hopes, dreams, expectations and aspirations, I want to share some insights on goal-setting which have drastically changed the way I want to approach my goal-setting in 2019.

I used to set popular New Year’s resolutions for myself, such as exercising more, watching less TV, being less messy. These resolutions hardly ever amounted to lasting changes and I ended up making the same ones year after year.

Then, through the course of 2018, I slowly became aware of the work done by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist who teaches about the impact of our thoughts on our brains and mental well-being (among other things). Something she said stuck with me: whenever we meditate (i.e. reflect, mull over, think about, remember) on a thought, we are strengthening the neural connections and structure for that thought (or memory) in our brain. So, whenever we meditate on a negative thought, that negative memory grows stronger in our brain, and whenever we meditate on a positive, health-supporting thought, the positive connections for that memory grow stronger in our brain.

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Unhelpful Ways of Thinking

Whenever people talk about mental illnesses, they often say that they are illnesses of the mind and of overthinking.  In fact, overthinking, also called rumination, is the very hallmark of depression, anxiety and many other mental disorders. 

A good way to deal with overthinking is to learn to recognise when our thinking is becoming a problem.  Often there are patterns in our specific ways of thinking that we can identify, which can, in turn, help us to catch these unhelpful thoughts and change them.  Techniques to help us catch our thoughts and thought patterns can include journaling, mindfulness meditation and talk therapy.  Below are some of these unhelpful thinking styles to look out for.

A mental filter is kind of like tunnel vision where we only focus on part of the information, usually the negative parts of the situation and ignoring the positive. For example, when we go for a performance appraisal at work and our boss gives us 9 positive things they like about our work, but 1 area of improvement. Likely, most of us will tend to focus on the criticism and simply blow off the positive feedback.

Jumping to conclusions happens when we make assumptions about other people’s thinking and intentions or about the future. These assumptions are called mind-reading or fortune-telling. For example, when we walk down the road and hear people laughing, and assume they are laughing at us. Thinking things apply to us, specifically, when it could be someone else, is also known as personalisation. Or we may not apply for a new job or ask someone out on a date, because we “predict” that they outcome would be failure, even if we don’t really know what the outcome may be.

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Fretting About Betting: A quick look into gambling addiction

More often than not, addiction is characterised in terms of physical dependence, however, addiction can occur in many forms. There are a number of behavioural/process addictions, one of which that is particularly common in Namibia is gambling. Gambling can change from being a seemingly innocent leisurely activity, to becoming destructive if done in excess.

The regulation of gambling in Namibia can become difficult, due to the existence of shebeens and bars, particularly amongst the underprivileged communities across the country. This process addiction can contribute to several socio-economic challenges, especially within the family structure of the addict. Excessive gambling often leads to bankruptcy and broken relationships which may place strain on the addict’s mental well-being. Financial losses due to gambling deals going bad may result in experiences of anxiety, led by depression and even suicidal thoughts.

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Anxiety as the New Year Approaches

By: Tuli Ndilokelwa Coetzee

It’s been a long a December. Christmas has come and gone. One less festive season responsibility has been ticked off your list. But now the New Year is right around the corner. And so it dawns on you, a new year – a new beginning, a fresh start heavy with the weight of expectation. Your anxiety begins to kick in. The pressure builds. Will you be able to make 2019 better than last?

As 2018 is coming to a close, we start creating our resolutions for the New Year and those struggling with mental health issues can become inundated with the pressures of deciding which goals to set for themselves.  For the anxious person, your brain keeps reminding you that the chances of transforming yourself in the new year and sticking to those dreadful new year’s resolutions is unlikely and you are bound to fail. So those awkward days between Christmas and New Year can become overwhelmed with fear. What you have to do is to remind yourself to remain in the present because these are merely projections and not your reality.

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Don’t let money make you mental this festive season

By: Tuli Coetzee and Tuna Coetzee

The air is filled with merriment, the jangle of jingles echoes throughout the streets, buildings draped in tinsel and homes are filled with the smell of freshly baked cookies. Everywhere you look, you’re enticed by gifts, toys, discounts and specials. How do you stop yourself from getting too consumed in the perks and treats that the festive season brings?

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How Gendered Identity and Sexuality contributes to Mental Health

by Tuna Coetzee

The world is becoming increasingly tolerant towards various beliefs and ways of life. A person’s sexuality is no longer a taboo subject, and people feel more comfortable with opening up. Despite there being great strides, there still exists numerous individuals who are fearful of exposing their sexual preferences due to nonacceptance in relation to religion and other societal views. These individuals withdraw themselves so much, to the point where they may become depressed. Along with them feeling like outcasts,the constant ridicule and bullying that some transgender or homosexual individuals receive can lead to a downward spiral that may lead to depression,and ultimately suicide.

It is therefore important that society is educated on the wide spectrum involving gender dynamics. Gender relations are at the forefront of societal theorems, where ideals surrounding masculine and feminine identities allow for greater divisions, disparities and tensions within social society. In order to create an analysis of gender in accordance with the intricacies of social dynamics, one must characterize the notion, especially in relation to the concept of sex. The two concepts are often used interchangeable, as the distinction between them becomes blurred.

Gender can be defined as the classification of an individual as either masculine or feminine given a situational, contextual or sociological approach, whereas sex can be defined along biological or physiological grounds, where the distinction between a female or male identity is categorised according to genitalia and hormonal difference.

Conversations about gender and sexuality become controversial depending on the space that these topics are brought forward.Meanwhile, those battling with their gendered identity become overwhelmed,threatening their mental capacity. Information and tolerance on the subject of gender and sex are key in avoiding mental health related incidences.

Look after your mental health this festive season

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but even though the festive season is a time of joy and spending time with loved ones, it can also be one of the most stressful and lonely periods of the year. The chaos during the frantic party preparations and gift buying, together with the anticipation of the New Year, it is important to maintain and manage your mental health and well being during this period.

In order to cope with the stresses that may arise during the festive season, it is important to express your feelings upfront. Talking about your feelings can positively alter your mind-set, allowing you to better manage your mood during difficult times.

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Human Rights and Mental Health

This week, 10thDecember, marked International Human Rights Day, and as a mental health institution, it is necessary to note where mental health falls in terms of human rights. On this day, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, advocating for the protection of fundamental human rights for all; regardless of age, gender, or race.

But, do we all experience the same level of security in terms of human rights? What about people with mental health problems? It has been recognized that those living with mental health disorders tend to face widespread stigma, abuse,social exclusion and segregation.

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Depression and Our Youth

What is depression? Some say that it is simply sadness, others believe that it is imaginary, that it does not exist; However depression is a very serious mental illness and seems to be on the rise, especially among our youth/young adults.

Depression isn’t just sadness, there are different people who report the feeling of depression differently. It could be expressed as irritability, anger, guilt and a lack of motivation. One could ask why depression is on the rise among more and more young people and there are numerous reasons.

In our current climate the stressors on our youth are numerous. In addition to biological growth and the hormonal imbalances that come with growth, the youth are met with stressors from changing political issues to romantic relationships, Family problems, increased responsibilities and the question of how to secure ones future.

All these can cause depression in our youth/young adults especially if they are happening at the same time and though most of them cannot be avoided it is good to acknowledge the stressors that are affecting our youth and keep an eye open for signs of depression like changes in mood or low motivation.

The world is forever changing and so we must make a conscious effort to support and guide our youth.


Managing Evolving Stress

In this world of face paced advancement, it is inevitable that stressors undergo some changes and advancements of their own. Stress is neither good nor bad and is experienced arguably by almost every living thing. It is your body’s way of protecting or preparing itself from dangers and threats; However the effects of stress should not be ignored. Stress may induce symptoms like headaches, panic attacks, body and muscle pains, increased susceptibility to infection and insomnia (among numerous other things).

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