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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and implications on Mental Health

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and implications on Mental Health

2021-05-25

Fostering Brave SpacesUnderstanding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

A pervasive endocrine disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition of hormone imbalance mostly characterised by hirsutism, infertility, menstrual disturbance, and obesity. Generally, it affects the functioning of ovaries in women. There is an excess of androgens in the body, which are the male hormones. The condition also observes polycystic ovaries whereby the ovaries increase in size and constitute fluid-filled sacs. Globally, the prevalence of PCOS ranges from 6% to 26% approximately. Research has revealed that besides the physiological implications of polycystic ovary syndrome, women are likely to suffer from mental health issues as well. These problems on a large scale remain unaddressed. However, it is crucial that concern like this are given due attention

Connecting the dots between PCOS and mental health
PCOS is a very complicated health condition that can affect, both, the physical and mental health of a person. It is important to recognize that having PCOS multiplies the chances of psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, the symptoms of these are reported to be more critical. However, one must note that experiencing bouts of anxiety and depression doesn’t mean you necessarily have PCOS. It is just one out of the many implications of PCOS.

Though anxiety and depression have the core focus in this debate, other conditions including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, and eating disorders can also prevail.

It’s unclear what causes the increased risk for anxiety and depression among people with PCOS. It could be due to PCOS symptoms or hormonal imbalances associated with the disorder, or to a combination of factors that is still unknown.

1-Hirsutism and Infertility
One of the symptoms of PCOS is excessive body and facial hair growth and infertility. Any person experiencing this may find themselves in great frustration and anxious behavioural patterns because hirsutism or the inability to procreate implies they have no control over their bodies, which in turn leads to a distressing situation. It can even create strain on a person’s moral values and the culture to which they belong.

2-Hormonal differences
There has also been some research on how hormonal imbalance causes anxiety and depression in people having PCOS. It is noteworthy to highlight that most people develop insulin resistance which means there are increased levels of the insulin hormone in their bodies. It has been reported that higher insulin resistance is directly proportional to intensified symptoms of anxiety.

Apart from insulin resistance in people with PCOS, there is a boost of a group of male hormones, including testosterone, called androgens. It is said that these elevated levels are linked to anxiety and depression issues, however, this requires more research.

3-Chemicals in the brain
The advanced anxiety and depression concerns can have a direct influence on certain chemicals in the brain that are responsible for sending out signals to the brain and the nervous system, namely, the neurotransmitters. One kind of neurotransmitter, serotonin, plays an important role in stimulating positive feelings and in people with PCOS, lesser serotonin causes high anxiety and depression.

What can be done?
It is extremely pertinent that people diagnosed with PCOS, when they observe behavioural changes, feel anxiety or go through depressive episodes, must consult their therapists and healthcare facilitators.

These psychological conditions may inevitably affect the quality of life of a person and while it is significant to treat the physiological symptoms, it is cardinal that the psychological symptoms are not neglected.

  • Diet
    Research has indicated that low-calorie diets are not much effective in improving the symptoms of anxiety. There is a considerable relationship between diet and mental health issues.
  • Medication
    Anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication could be prescribed by the concerned health practitioners in a similar manner as they are prescribed to people without PCOS. Especially medication that allow some hormonal regulations, under supervision of your health advisor, may be sought.
  • Alternative therapies
    Practicing mindfulness and alternative therapies may be a good step to begin with. Breathing exercises and yoga could be other ways to calm oneself.

Fostering Brave Spaces

Fostering Brave Spaces

2021-05-15

Fostering Brave SpacesThere is a need for such learning environments where we can indulge in brave conversations and learn together and exposing ourselves to different perspectives. A general assumption can be of a safe space. We will look into how safe space is a very ideally constructed notion, and resurface the concept of a brave space.

Does a safe space really exist?
Every institution observes devising such a guideline for the classroom environment where the educators are motivated to nurture a safe, inclusive and secure ambience. The idea of having a safe space has been tossed around very frequently by encouraging essential values to be put to place, such as, respect, empathy, listening, and no prejudices at all whatsoever. But, do you think a safe space can be achieved in absolute terms; one without any bias or one where everyone exists in harmony? Surprisingly enough, the answer is no.

To say the least, a safe space is more of an ideal concept. A place where nobody passes judgment on you with respect to your experience and you have no fear of opposition. Such a space aims to produce such an outcome which is based on the tenet of support to other people. However, you may question what kind of safety this support is providing.

The terminology of safe space can be traced back to the mid-20th century. The very notion of ‘safe’ is suggestive that any person within that space must protect each other from any kind of harm. But does this injunction fit to a group having differing opinions on a certain matter? Does this space protect each other from the emotional and mental harm inflicted upon participants? Let’s say if a minority group has been attacked for raising their voice, will they be able to trust the safe space as a tool to support them or assume goodwill for them?

Brave Space
This is where the phenomenon of bravery over safety comes in. On one hand, a safe space can be important to provide comfort to people, on the other hand a brave space allows participants to not only acknowledge the differing outlooks but also learn from each other. The concept of brave space is not an ideal one, nor an illusion. It basically concedes that each individual holds a unique perspective towards the world and everyone may not agree to it. It essentially stimulates an exchange of dialogue among participants.

Being brave is analogous to display of strength: physical, emotional and moral. You do it because it challenges you or puts you in a vulnerable state and it is equally important to do so with great care and mindfulness. What plays a significant role here is the G-R formula: give and receive. As much as it is crucial to share, it must also be ensured that you listen.

A brave space will not be free of biases but it will foster such an environment where we are presented with different lens and can explore the cycle of injustice. However, it is pertinent to hold participants accountable when they make a mistake.

 Toolbox for Creating Your Own Brave Space

  • To begin with, try to identify your privilege and acknowledge it
  • Listen attentively and respect each other, no matter your background
  • Welcome new ideas and schools of thought, particularly those that pose a challenge to yours. You may not need to embrace them, just listen with respect
  • Challenging is the key, but with respect and integrity. Not only challenge others’ worldviews but yours too
  • You can be the facilitator for the group or have someone to become one. The facilitator will prompt cues and debrief

Remember that a brave space is an environment where you are openly challenging yourself while also speaking up for yourself. It is a collective and individual effort both. You will find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, but it is your strength and bravery that will bring you out of it.

Recall…
Do you remember any instance where you may have experienced yourself situated in a brave space? How did you feel about it? What were the elements that encouraged you to be brave? How did you contribute?

Body Positivity

Body Positivity

2021-05-06

Body Positivity

Body positivity, in recent times, has picked up quite the steam and has immersed itself within the sphere of social media very rapidly. Every now and then, we come across a post, a video, a story, an experience that relates to this notion.

Understanding Body Positivity 

Body positivity is the disintegration of the stereotypical and ideal standards set by society regarding beauty. It is a practice to defy all those patterns and norms that restrict a person from acknowledging their body and appearance. Popular media has triggered how people view body type, shape, size and appearances and we see a stark divide in the opposing views; one that is promoting these ideals, that are mainly inclusive of brands, and the other being those who advocate against these standards by promoting body-positive fashion and campaigns.

Every person in the room has complete autonomy to feel comfortable, safe and happy about themselves and that is what the underlying facet of body positivity is. This does not mean to only accept the body one has, but also embrace the change that comes with it. After all, we all undergo some natural development and growth processes that may cause various changes. However, that is a debate for later. For now, it is important to understand that body positivity calls for establishing a healthy relationship with oneself and realizing that each individual is worthy of love, respect and dignity regardless of their appearance. There is much truth to the fact that body stereotypes do not surface just through the physical differences, they also stem from discriminatory behavior that hinges on gender, race, sexual orientation and disability.

Peeking into the past 

The movement of body positivity was grounded on the fat acceptance movement that came about towards the end of the 1960s. This was established with the aim to shun all kinds of discrimination against people because of their body weight and size; importantly, destroying the fat-shaming culture. This movement was realized in the form of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. Thereafter, “body positive” as a unique expression transpired. With time, the term began circling around, gaining recognition among different groups, and there was an escalated growth when the focal point of the debate transitioned from weight acceptance to the notion that all body types are noteworthy.

The body positivity movement stands by the following primary objectives:

  • posing defiance to the problematic societal beauty standards
  • encouraging acceptance towards all body types
  • allowing people to build bodily autonomy
  • remitting beauty ideals that are unrealistic

Influence of Social Media and my Body Image

With the proliferating use of social media, the movement underwent a transformation because that meant that the message of body positivity would go across easily, instantly and more effectively.

But, it is important to note that social media can lend, both, positive and negative impact on body image. To some extent, we have been influenced by social media in many ways because of our daily consumption of content online. This is observed greatly on the image-based platform, namely Instagram. Many times people determine their self-worth by the number of likes and comments they receive on a particular post of theirs. Use of filters and edit options have caused body dysmorphia which has grave consequences. Users of Instagram come across the idealized beauty standards and body types, which can lead you to compare yourself with celebrities and influencers. People begin to set up unrealistic ideals because of what they have been exposed to. However, it is less often recognized that the seemingly ‘perfect’ image that you are looking may just be edited.

But, with a few simple steps you can actually encounter the positive side of social media that boosts body positivity and self-esteem:

  • Take a break.You are not obliged to use social media at all times. If it affecting your mental health, put your phone down and see if it brings a change
  • Remove profiles that discourage your self-esteem
  • Engage yourself with body positive accounts that are more inclusive and understanding

Me trying to achieve body positivity – What can I do?

Nurturing a healthy relationship with your body can sure become a daunting task, however, being mindful of your own self and understanding of your own needs can get you through.

1-Self-love and appreciation:
Body positivity and self-love goes hand in hand. It all starts with reassurances. Remind yourself daily that you are worthy and important. You are a complete person. On some days it will be difficult, so keep room to be kind to yourself too!

2-Appreciation List:
You may want to list down, on a daily basis, qualities about your body that you appreciate most. Start from 2 qualities per day and collect all the notes at the week’s end. Read it back to yourself and allow yourself to become aware of what you like about your body.

3-Trust the process:
You know what comforts you best and what will make you feel good about your body.

4-Identify Patterns: Identify patterns that bring contentment to you and those that trigger you. Try cutting down on the latter and practicing things that satisfy your inner self.

5-Follow positive accounts: Overhaul your social media with more reassuring and positive content, one that is calming and campaigns for inclusivity.

6-Do not compare:
Remember that most pictures you see on the internet are just filtered and may not reflect reality. So, try not to compare yourself with these edited versions. DO YOU!

7-Wear clothes that make you feel good:
Do not give in to societal pressure and how other people will see you. Wear what you want, what makes you feel content and what is good for you and your body.

8-Have a support system:
Surround yourself with people who support you and love you for who you are.

9-Break the vicious cycle of your thoughts:
Whenever a negative thought pops up in your mind, try and identify the pattern as to what triggers it and look for ways you can deal with that situation. Challenge these thoughts with positive and calming thoughts.

10-Be responsible not just to yourself but to others too:
You never know how many battles the other person is fighting so be empathetic, kind and generous. Try adopting the habit of making non-physical complements in order to avoid any discomfort and mistrust.

11-Do not hesitate to ask for help!:
It is completely human to be vulnerable. If you feel immensely overwhelmed, such that you may not be in a position to help yourself, ask for help.

Overall, prioritize your well-being over the expectations of society. If need be, do not hesitate to consult a therapist to get expert advice.

SELF-CARE AFTER A BREAKUP

SELF-CARE AFTER A BREAKUP

2021-03-25

Talking About SRH: It’s Not Just One Conversation

After a break-up, you may find yourself being constantly reminded of your former partner. These thoughts can trigger a range of emotions from anger or sadness to guilt or relief. Leaving the relationship may seem like the best or worst mistake you made. You may find yourself being consumed by these thoughts  and wanting a moment of peace. They may infringe on your daily activities, resulting in ‘sticky’ thoughts that just won’t stop replaying in your head.

We’re here to tell you that all these feelings are normal!

Break-ups can be incredibly difficult to navigate through, regardless of what end you were on and how old you are – they don’t necessarily get ‘easier with time’. This is a situation in which practicing self-care becomes as important as ever. And we’re here to help you through it.

Let’s start with why a relationship may end:

It just didn’t work out.

It is important to remember that most of the time, when a relationship ends, there’s usually no one to blame – it probably just didn’t work out.

A healthy relationship is one in which boundaries are respected. There is a mutual understanding of one another, and a peaceful balance. You work well together and uplift each other. If needs aren’t being met in a relationship, it’s difficult to work through them.

This doesn’t mean you should immediately pull the breaks though! It’s completely okay to want to work and build on a relationship, however, when it’s clear that it’s not honoring your wants and needs, it’s just as okay to want to step away.

It was a negative cycle.

On-again-off-again or abusive relationships can take a tremendous toll on our mental health.

When we are stuck in a cycle that negatively impacts us, it can often be difficult to break out of it. Be proud of yourself for taking that step and prioritizing your safety and health.

Whatever you are feeling right now is normal. Remind yourself of your strength and reach out to trusted loved ones for help. Now is the time to only focus on you, your wants and your needs.

So how do you navigate a break-up?

Talk it out.

Express what you are feeling. You may find yourself going through a range of quickly changing emotions – let them out. Whether it’s telling yourself out loud or speaking to someone you trust – verbalizing your emotions can help ‘release’ them and eventually help you move forward.

If you’re finding it difficult to cope with certain emotions, or don’t know who to talk to – consider seeking out a professional therapist, ideally one that specializes in relationships.

Remember, wanting to seek help does not mean there is something wrong with you or something that needs to be ‘fixed’. Asking for help is completely okay – it shows you’re prioritizing yourself and practicing self-care.

Work on your relationship with yourself.

Now is the time to focus on you and your needs. After a relationship, you may find that your wants and needs have been neglected. It’s normal to sometimes forget or lose ourselves in relationships, and that’s okay.

Self-care can be as simple as taking a nice, long shower or a moment to breathe. Make time for the things that you like and bring you pleasure. Seek out activities that excite you and feel good. The more relaxing, the better!

Surround yourself with loved ones.

Our support system can often be the source of great strength. Even if you’re not quite ready to talk yet, sometimes just sitting with someone you love can help.

Allow your loved ones to help you and care for you.

Clear your space.

Rearranging your living space can really help declutter your mind. It may be a good decision to clear away anything that reminds you of your former partner, and only keep the things that resonate with you. If you have any impending household chores to do – now may be the perfect time!

How you choose to navigate a break-up is entirely up to you. It’s important to remember that:

Finding a relationship that works for you can take time.

Just because you haven’t found the ‘right’ person for you yet, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. A break-up definitely does not mean that you’ve failed or that there’s something wrong with you. It’s completely natural to feel sad over separating from someone you cared for and it’s just as normal to feel relieved and ‘free’ from someone who wasn’t good for you.

Use this time to prioritize yourself and your health. Taking the time out to focus on things you like and bring you joy is not selfish. It’s self-love.

SAFETY IN PHYSICAL RELATIONSHIPS

SAFETY IN PHYSICAL RELATIONSHIPS

2021-03-15

Safety in Physical Relationships: It’s Not Just One Conversation

What does ‘safety’ mean in a sexual relationship?

Safety often refers to the use of contraception. There are a range of birth control and contraceptive methods to choose from. The best way to decide which method is suited to you, would be to ask a healthcare professional. However, you may also speak to a trusted adult and do your own research. e.It is significant that you educate yourself on this for healthier relationship.

Ideally, a contraceptive method should be chosen before you start having sex. By making this decision before hand, not only are you ensuring your safety, but also taking the time out to think about what you want. It’s okay to want to take it slow, and it’s just as okay to jump right into it (safely and responsibly, of course). What’s important is that you feel ready, prepared and confident!

Safe sex also means communication. Include your partner in your decision-making and discuss your individual histories and preferences. Knowing what the other person likes and is comfortable with, ensures that it’s a fun experience for everyone.

However, always remember that your comfort is first priority. If your partner is insisting on something that you may not be up for – tell them. If they seem uninterested in what your wants are, then take a step back and reassess. A healthy relationship is one that respects boundaries and maintains open communication.

Why is safety important?

By practicing safe sex, you lower your risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unplanned pregnancies. Are you not only protecting yourself and looking after your physical and emotional health, but your partner’s as well.

What are STDs exactly?

Sexually transmitted diseases are conditions that result from an infection, thereby causing greater health issues overall. There are also sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which are due to bacteria, viruses or parasites entering your body and causing an infection. Both terms are often used interchangeably. Examples of some STDs and STIs are: chlamydia, gonorrhea, pubic lice and genital herpes.

How can I be safe?

Apart from avoiding any sexual contact all together, there is no way to be safe. Many humans are intimate beings, and for some, sex is a natural part of intimacy.

One of the best ways is to use barrier methods such as condoms. Barriers protect you from sexual fluids, which is one of the main ways STDs are spread and they protect from unplanned pregnancies as well. However, some STDs can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, which is why regular testing for STDs, even when using a condom, is recommended.

Sometimes, infected individuals may feel fine and not show any signs of infection. Regular testing ensures early detection and proper treatment to avoid further spread to your partner. If you notice any genital blisters or warts, unusual discharge, genital pain or discomfort – always get tested before having sex. These could be possible signs of an STD.

Using lubricants along with condoms can help increase safety and comfort. The friction during skin contact can cause irritation and tearing, which can increase the chances of an STD entering your body. Different types of lube work with different types of condoms – be sure to check which ones you’re using!

Safe sex doesn’t need to be overwhelming. With a little pre-planning and stocking up on your chosen contraceptive method – it will be easy and enjoyable!

What if I already had unprotected sex?

Contraceptives usually have a specific period in which they are most effective, so it’s important to act quickly. However, a constant contraceptive method should be use to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Concerning STDs, you can call a healthcare professional and ask what the next best step is. If you or your partner have symptoms of and STD, or you were informed by a current or past partner that they have an STD – get tested.

How do I bring safety up with my partner?

Discussing a safety game plan with your partner can make your relationship stronger. Wanting to protect each other shows you care for and respect your relationship.

Ideally, this discussion should be had before engaging in any type of sexual activity. Decide which contraceptive method works and figure out if there is a need for testing.

Come up with an emergency game plan, just in case. Pre-planning and discussion ensures that you’re on the same page with your partner, and makes it easier just in case something goes wrong. It’s also a great opportunity to learn more about what your and your partner’s expectations and comforts are.

If your partner doesn’t seem open to the idea of safer sex, and insists on not using protection or getting tested – there may be a need to step back and reassess the relationship. Safe sex is a way to respect your body and health – if your partner does not understand that, then unfortunately, they may not be the right sexual partner for you. You are not under any obligation to compromise on your health and comfort for someone else. It is okay to say no.

ASKING FOR HELP

ASKING FOR HELP

2021-03-06

Talking About SRH: It’s Not Just One Conversation

It’s very normal to find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to do. So what would the ideal next-step be: suffer in silence, or ask someone who does know what to do?

Though the ‘ask for help’ option may seem obvious, sometimes, the ‘suffer in silence’ option seems easier. But why is that?

We often fall into the trap of believing we need to do everything ourselves. We may feel that asking for help will mean that we’re weak, incompetent or needy. We may be left feeling vulnerable and exposed, resulting in a fear of being exploited or judged.

However, when it comes to unhelpful thoughts like these, we can all benefit from asking ourselves – “where did this belief come from? and is it true?”

There is absolutely no shame in feeling the need to ask someone  to help us. We all do!

So how do we go about asking for help?

If asking for help seems overwhelming and confusing, the first step would be to reframe your thoughts around the word ‘help’ and what it means to you.

There are many reasons why seeking help can be beneficial, here are some we came up with:

  • Asking for help conserves time, energy and lays the foundation for relationships. It makes life easier for you, and makes the other person feel good. We like it when people approach us for help, so why assume someone else won’t?
  • Asking for help can introduce you to a whole new perspective, based on the other person’s experiences. It’s an opportunity for everyone involved to learn and grow together.
  • Asking for help builds a support system. It’s allowing people to share a part of your life with you – the beautiful and the stressful bits.
  • Asking for help is an act of self-love. It’s acknowledging that you are human, and are not responsible for being perfect all the time.
  • Asking for help is an act of courage. You overcame the thoughts and feelings that were holding you back and reached out. That, in itself, is an achievement.

The next step would be knowing when to ask for help.

A lot of people are under the impression that something horrible needs to happen, in order to be able to ask for help. That’s not the case!

Any seemingly ‘small’ task is worthy of help. In fact, if you start ‘small’ it’s a healthy practice for when something ‘big’ does happen!

If you find yourself feeling stuck, overworked and stressed out – that’s one indication of possibly needing someone to help you out.

Whether it’s to do with school work or if you’re having a hard time coping and are under a lot of stress – asking for help does not reflect negatively on you. It does not need to be a one-time event, sometimes, asking for help is long-term and that’s perfectly okay.

You may be confused about whom to ask: consider friends or family that you are close to and trust. When feeling vulnerable and lost, we need people we are comfortable with and who respect our boundaries.

Prioritize yourself first and understand what you are comfortable with. If you find it difficult to tell them everything the first time, that is okay! Do not expect yourself to immediately open up – it takes time.

Sometimes, our closest friends and family may not be able to help due to lack of resources or time – but that does not mean you have to carry on alone. You can still tell them your struggles, and come up with a plan that will help you together. They can put you in touch with the people who will be able to help.

For instances where you may not be comfortable talking to someone close to you and are having a difficult time coping and managing – it may be appropriate to seek out a counsellor or therapist. Though it may seem daunting to talk to a complete stranger, remind yourself that counsellors go through extensive training to be able to help people through their stresses. It does not mean there is something ‘wrong’ with you, but simply that you require some assistance in facing an issue that is negatively affecting your life in general. In the same way, you would go to a doctor to treat an ache that won’t go away, you’re going to a counsellor to help with a tricky situation you want to tackle.

But what if asking for help makes us feel like we’re ‘free-loading’? What is the difference?

However, asking for help does require surrendering some control of a situation to someone else – you still have a part to play. If someone is helping you, it does not mean they are in charge of making all the decisions for you. It is a team effort – one that requires mutual understanding and respect.

While asking for help, you’re also learning how something can be done, so that you may use the same method in future if needed. However, if you choose instead to just let the other person do the same task for you repeatedly, even when you could have done it yourself, then it may begin to infringe on boundaries and require some reassessing.

Asking for help also opens you up to opportunities where you can be of help. However, remember that ‘help’ does not equal to ‘score-keeping’. If you’re cashing in on a favor, because you feel ‘owed’, then it may result in the other person feeling disrespected or pressured. Asking for help is a moment of learning and bonding, rather than a transaction that requires later ‘payment’.

When it comes to your mental health, asking for help is empowering. It’s acknowledging an issue you are facing, and being proactive about tackling it. The accompanying negative feelings are normal – but don’t let them keep you from seeking the help you need! Everyone deserves access to the right people and resources, to help them achieve their best and healthiest self.

UNDERSTANDING BOUNDARIES

UNDERSTANDING BOUNDARIES

2021-02-25

Talking About SRH: It’s Not Just One Conversation

Though the word ‘boundaries’ is often used in the context of relationships – familial, friendly or romantic – it’s really all about you. Boundaries can be seen as our individual guidebooks – they outline our likes, dislikes, comforts and ways we like to be treated. Your boundaries reflect your relationship with yourself – your needs, wants and feelings. They apply to all emotional and physical aspects.

What do boundaries sound like? Saying “I keep weekends for personal time with family and friends only” or “I’m comfortable with some touching, but I want to take it slow” is a form of expressing your boundaries.

How do you figure out what your boundaries are? Pay attention to how you respond or react to different situations or behaviors. What makes you comfortable, what annoys you and so on – these are all indicators of your boundaries. Spend some time with yourself and engage in some deep self-talk. Write down your thoughts or notes for the future. It’s really all about figuring you out. If you think it may be beneficial, find a trusted individual to help out.

How do you communicate your boundaries? Talk about them! Tell others what you’re comfortable with. If someone does something you like or don’t like – tell them. Say, “I like it when…” or “I’m not comfortable when…”. Use “I” statements to keep the conversation focused on your feelings and needs in a situation.

What happens when boundaries are not respected? A lack of respect in relationships leads to someone feeling hurt, unvalued, unsatisfied and possibly unsafe. Be open and honest – communicate to go over the what, how and why of the situation. Work to move forward together.

If you feel like you can’t talk to someone and express your feelings, that is a telling sign on the nature of your relationship. Boundaries are ways of honoring and respecting yourself – if they are being constantly broken, it may be time to remove yourself from the situation. There is no shame in wanting to distance yourself from someone or something that makes you uncomfortable.

The same goes for others – if you want someone to respect your boundaries, you have to respect theirs.

Are boundaries permanent? As we grow and change, it’s likely our boundaries will too. We have a right to change our boundaries, remove or add new ones, according to our experiences and relationship development. As we get closer to someone, we may be okay doing something that we wouldn’t have done initially when we first met. The same goes for in situations where our loved one’s needs take priority (for example, a loved one needing comforting) – that’s being supportive and honoring your relationship. In some situations, you may feel okay adjusting your boundaries to make room for someone you care about, their likes and dislikes – that’s perfectly fine. The key is to feel confident and secure in your boundaries and the changes you make to them, any uneasy feelings need to be checked and evaluated.

It’s important to ensure that you aren’t adjusting your boundaries at your expense. If you are constantly expected to compromise, put other’s needs above your own and adjust your boundaries accordingly – that’s not growth, it’s pressure. And more often than not, such situations of constantly overstepping our boundaries lead to feelings of low-energy, exhaustion and may have a negative impact on mental health.

How do boundaries differ from expectations? Boundaries and expectations are often mixed, due to their similar nature. After all, they greatly impact how we interact in a situation. However, boundaries are often more loving and set in place to help protect and honor you, whereas expectations often involve projecting onto others or a particular outcome.

Expectations can be attached to an element of ‘control’ or wanting to ‘change’ someone else for our benefit. When we take our ‘shoulds’ and project them onto some else in the form of our ‘expectations’, we set ourselves up for disappointment and dissatisfaction. We can never truly control an outcome or another person – only our approach to them.

For example:

I like to keep weekends as personal time for family and friends, it helps me relax- this is a boundary.

We have to keep weekends as personal time for family and friends, it’s rude if you don’t – this is an expectation.

Can boundaries be unhealthy? In cases where your boundaries move away from you and become dependent on other people or things, they can become harmful. For example, I always need a second opinion from my family / friend in order to feel confident in my decision. There is nothing wrong with asking for help or an opinion, however, to be unable to make a decision without this – that is dependency.

Unhealthy boundaries can be seen in relationships that are overly co-dependent or abusive. It involves feelings of a person feeling they need to constantly prioritize someone else over themselves, feeling like they are never good enough, and are at the whim of another’s emotions, wants and needs.

Healthy boundaries involve embracing and understanding your individuality. They reinforce your power and autonomy, enabling you to take responsibility for your actions and emotions. Boundaries allow you to gain a deeper sense of acceptance and respect – for yourself and others.

RESPECT IN RELATIONSHIPS

RESPECT IN RELATIONSHIPS

2021-02-15

Talking About SRH: It’s Not Just One Conversation

Respect means accepting someone for who they are, regardless of similarities or differences.

Everyone deserves respect and healthy relationships, no matter their age, identity or relation.

Why?

Because respect makes us feel safe. It’s easier to freely express ourselves and our identities in a space that is welcoming and uplifting. Mutual respect fosters trust and a close bond, promoting overall wellbeing. It is also key in striving for a more inclusive and intersectional future.

What does respect look like?

During an argument, listening to the other person and what they have to say is a form of respect. Sometimes, respect involves practicing patience and mindfulness. Remember, different does not equate to ‘wrong’.

Knowing when to apologize is also a sign of respect. Saying “I’m sorry” may seem awkward and difficult, especially if you were adamant on proving yourself right and now feel a bit silly. But that’s all part of it! Overcoming the want to ‘be right’, acknowledging your actions and making attempts for amends will eliminate any fear and resentment in a relationship. It means you’re receptive and open to communication.

Being able to openly express your needs and wants, and listening to when someone else does the same, implies that respect is present. Honest conversations can be intimidating and uncomfortable – but in a respectful relationship, truth and trust are vital.

Giving the other person space and honoring boundaries is a form of respect. Having the understanding and faith to know when to step back, and let someone deal with things themselves is an asset for building stronger relationships.

Self-care is a form of respect. Yes! Read that again. Respecting yourself and your boundaries shows other’s how to do the same. You need to respect yourself before anyone else. Invest in yourself, do the things that make you feel good, refreshed and excited. In cases where we may have been doing too much of the ‘giving’, we need to take a step back, reign it in and regain control by focusing on ourselves. Self-care is not selfish. And if someone else seems to think so, that’s on them.

How do we develop respect?

There are many ways to express respect for someone. For starters, understanding that respect stems from acceptance, regardless of one’s beliefs and identity is key. You accept people for they say they are instead of who you think or want them to be.

Establish open communication. Learn to effectively verbalize your thoughts, wants, needs and to be a good listener in ways that are beneficial for everyone’s well being.

Does that mean you should stay quiet if what you want to say may alienate someone? No! Don’t bottle it up. In such cases, focusing on “I” statements helps – “I don’t feel valued”, “I am uncomfortable in this situation” and so on. This keeps the conversation on your feelings and needs.

Don’t project fear or past experiences onto your current relationship. This may involve some self-work, acknowledging your fears and overcoming them. In such cases, using reframing methods or speaking to someone may help. It can also be useful to voice your concerns to the other person and talk through it. This is an opportunity for growth and development.

Understand each other’s views. Knowing what your individual definitions and expectations from a relationship are, can help in ensuring there are no misunderstandings. It promotes connection and understanding of how the other likes to be treated. In romantic and sexual relationships, this point is key when working to progress the relationship and provides an insight into your partner’s desires.

It is important to note that our needs, wants, definitions and expectations can change over time as we grow, which is why continuous communication on where the other person is ensures versatility.

Boundaries. This one starts with you. Understanding yourself, how you treat yourself and how you make yourself feel. Are you honoring your boundaries? Do you find yourself consistently stressed and exhausted? Could that be because you’ve overstepped your boundaries, and are ‘giving’ too much of yourself to someone or something else? These questions aren’t always easy, and it isn’t always an obvious answer. Practice, patience and kindness are key.

Once you’ve established your boundaries, communicate them and allow other’s to do the same.

Not sure about someone’s boundaries? Just ask! It’s impossible to be perfect and just know, in fact, expecting you or anyone else to automatically understand what is needed is unfair – that’s not communicative. Checking in and saying “Hey, is this okay? How can I help?” can go a long way.

What if I don’t feel respected?

Miscommunication and misunderstandings are common. They are not something to be afraid of or to be considered as immediate ‘deal breakers’.

Find a time to speak with the person in a place that is free of distractions and feels safe for both of you. Have an open and honest discussion. Come back to those “I” statements and express how the situation affects you. Allow the person to express their feelings, and find ways to work through it together.

How someone responds or reacts to you expressing yourself can help you gauge how you’d like to proceed. If you find they are genuinely wanting to make amends, giving them a chance to change their behavior may be beneficial. However, if they continue to deny their actions, become defensive and possibly more disrespectful, then consider removing yourself from that space.

Though difficult, it is completely okay to want to distance yourself from people that don’t honor you and from situations that don’t feel safe.

The same goes for when someone calls you out for being disrespectful. Be an active listener – try to understand their view and where you misstepped. Again, saying “I’m sorry” is a form of respect and a great way to begin to make amends.

Acknowledging your behavior and it’s impact makes other’s feelings seen and heard. However, apologizing doesn’t mean they are obligated to accept your apology. It is not their responsibility to forgive you or help you change – that’s on you. The best way to show someone you want to do better, is to stick to your apology and be mindful of your actions in the future.

UNDERSTANDING CONSENT

UNDERSTANDING CONSENT

2021-02-06

Talking About SRH: It’s Not Just One Conversation

Consent: asking for permission to do something. It involves respectful communication and mutual understanding of one’s boundaries and comforts. Understanding consent equips one with the skills to leave an uncomfortable situation and respect when someone else wants to do the same.

So let’s dive right in!

When is consent needed? Literally for everything! Whether you’re with friends, family or romantic partners – consent needs to be taken before carrying out an activity or attempting to touch someone. We each have our boundaries, our individual likes and dislikes. What seems okay to you, may not be okay for someone else. That’s why you ask for consent, before going ahead and possibly overstepping or harming someone.

It is important to remember that both parties need to agree and have an understanding of what they are agreeing to. Agreeing to do one thing does not mean consent has been given to progress or do something else. In romantic and sexual relationships, agreeing to go out on a date does not imply agreeing to “taking it to the next level”.

Additionally, there are conditions in which someone cannot give consent. Factors such as the person’s age, state of mind and consciousness need to be taken into account. A lack of consent can become a legal matter, especially when engaged in sexual activity. That’s why its always good to check for consent. If you’re unsure, or feel like the other person may seem uncomfortable – ask again!

Situations in which consent is not valid is when someone is:

  • Under legal age of consent
  • Unable to understand what they are consenting to
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Asleep, unconscious or semi-conscious
  • Being forced, threatened, pressured or trapped
  • Mistaken or tricked about what and who they are giving consent to

What does consent sound like? Consent is clear and certain. There is no mystery, no doubts, no what-ifs, no buts.

YES! Absolutely! I would love to. I am enjoying this – these are words that imply consent.

No. Maybe. Stop. I’m not sure – these words mean consent has not been given.

Consent is always verbal. There needs to be a clear ‘yes’. Someone being silent, unresponsive, or ‘showing’ interest but not implicitly voicing it – that is not consent.

If someone initially says no, but you try to convince them and they reluctantly agree – that is not consent. It’s always good practice to ask them again, and if they say “no”, respect it. The same goes for you – no one has the right to force you into doing something you are not comfortable with. Honor your boundaries and voice your feelings by simply stating them – “I don’t like this. I am uncomfortable.”

Listen and watch for body cues – our bodies may tense up as a means to protect us from a situation that we may not be aware of. Sometimes, our gut feeling dominates and we just don’t feel comfortable. If you just can’t seem to relax in a situation, remove yourself from it. If you see someone visibly uncomfortable, always check in and ask them how they’re feeling.

We have a right to our bodies and what we do with them. Read that again. You and you alone have the authority to make decisions about your body. If something makes you uncomfortable or if you just don’t want to – say no! You know what is best for you, what would feel good and safe for you. The same goes for everyone else – we are the sole experts on our experiences, no one else.

How do you get consent? You ASK! Say, “do you want to”, “would you be comfortable with” and then describe the activity or action. Consent needs to be asked before any activity, whether it’s new or been done before. Consent is ongoing, it’s not a one-time thing. If someone says yes once, they can say no the next time. Consent is also reversible, saying yes initially does not bound one to carrying out the activity they agree to – they can always stop in between.

Consent doesn’t need to be awkward. In fact, it’s more likely to make the other person feel valued. An environment with solid consent practices is one that feels safe and comfortable. All participants feel heard, understood and free to express themselves. It allows for healthy relationships that foster a deep understanding and respect of one another, bringing people closer.

In short: everyone’s happy and having a good time!

THE ROLE OF YOUTH IN SOCIETY

THE ROLE OF YOUTH IN SOCIETY

2021-01-27

Talking About SRH: It’s Not Just One Conversation

“The youth” refers to individuals transitioning into adulthood, often taken to mean all those between the ages of 15 to 30 years. This time period can be particularly harrowing, as it’s seen as the make-or-break period, where our decisions pave the path for our future. However, not only is it a key factor in our individual futures, but our respective societies as well. (Oofh, that’s a lot of pressure!)

But why is that? Why is this immense responsibility and expectation placed on an entire age-group, which if we’re honest, spends these years barely figuring out their own wants and needs, let alone everyone else’s?

It might seem like it’s an easy cop-out for older generations – we inherit the world as they left it, with the assumption that we’ll do ‘what needs to be done,’ or fix past mistakes. Sometimes, it is exactly that.

However, while going through these formative years, we develop an edge that may often go unnoticed. We have the advantage of experiencing and understanding the world as it is now instead of projecting past norms and ideas onto it. This means we can easily shed any ‘shoulds’ or ‘norms’ we’re taught at a young age, discard the ones that are harmful and exclusionary, and create our own rulebook. A new, improved, responsible and more compassionate way of doing things.

We live in a digital age, where everyone leaves a footprint online. The thought of the internet being ‘forever’ may be overwhelming, but it also provides access. More people are being seen and heard. We’re able to navigate the world without having to leave our doorsteps. We can collaborate, connect and innovate in ways past generations couldn’t.

With this versatility, we bring a renewed sense of ownership and leadership. We’re able to push forward and strive for systemic improvements of previous practices and culture.

It’s not uncommon to see a young individual be the face behind a movement – the main driver for social change. The same goes for individuals across the globe advocating for embracing ancestral practices and meditations as a means to become more mindful and self-aware. You may find yourself scrolling past these, telling yourself – you ‘should’ be doing more, you ‘should’ be better.

Yes, these methods and practices are incredible ways of rallying for change. However, you don’t need to be someone to bring about change. We each have something to bring to the table in our own respective fields, and we each deserve a seat at said table as well.

So then what can you do?

  • Start at home, start small. Start with yourself.
  • Be respectful and educate yourself. Read up on your history, the good and the bad.
  • Be aware of the privileges you’ve been blessed with, and how they impacted your course of life (the obvious and the subtle).
  • Listen when someone describes an experience different to yours.
  • Work on community building, through any platform you’re comfortable with – for everyone, all identities, all cohorts. Ask people what they need and what would help, instead of assuming. Think as a unit, instead of an individual.
  • Speak up for others and know when to put the spotlight on someone else.

These may seem like insignificant or rather obvious points. And sure, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of daily life and overlook seemingly ‘small’ gestures.

However, change always starts small. It’s not something that happens overnight, but rather a quiet spill-over and addition of events. And when done right, it can create an environment that embraces everyone and paves the way for our peers and even the generations after us, to do more and achieve more.