07 Oct Q&A: World Mental Health Awareness Month with Heloise Chong
This Sunday 10th October, we celebrate World Mental Health Day. Flex yoga instructor Heloise Chong shares about her personal journey and gives ideas on how to start caring for one’s mental health
It goes without saying (the “C” word), global issues of the last two years have had a major impact on people’s mental health. Some groups and countries in particular have been more affected than most, and though we in Hong Kong can call ourselves lucky in many ways, we have been affected in a different manner – more having to do with mental health than perhaps physical illness.
According to the charity Mind Hong Kong, 61% of adults in the city currently suffer from poor mental well-being, with anxiety and depressive disorders being the most common health issues.
Yet there is cause for optimism. During the World Health Assembly in May 2021, governments from around the world recognized the need to scale up quality mental health services at all levels. And some countries have found new ways of providing mental health care to their populations.
During this year’s World Mental Health Day campaign, we sit down with one of our favourite yoga instructors Heloise Chong to highlight her story as an inspiration to others.
How do you promote mental health awareness in your yoga practice and teaching?
In my classes, I remind everybody to take a moment to look within, scan how they feel, take a breath and honour what is present within themselves.
When did you start becoming aware of your own mental health care? How has that evolved over the years?
It started when I had no choice but to. About 10 years ago, I had burnt myself out, felt down and unlike myself. Thanks to the support of my naturopath, I had to learn how to take time for myself. At first it started out with learning to say no, and allocating at least one hour of restorative yoga a week.
As my body and mind continue to shift and change, so does my mental health care routine. It can be as simple as spending more time in nature, carving out time to meditate daily, or taking a nice salt bath with candle lights.
How do you care for your own mental health personally, today?
At the moment, I have daily meditation, gentle yoga and pranayama practice. It can range from 10 minutes to two and a half hours of practice, depending on my schedule and what support my body and mind need.
How would you suggest people can start taking care of their own mental health and that of those around them? Why do you think that’s important?
It can be as simple as starting your day by taking 10 deep breaths… allocating time away from your screens and social media.
In my own personal experience, what I choose to do first thing in the morning and right before bed has the biggest impact on my day, mood and quality of sleep.
What are the effects of yoga and meditation on one’s mental wellness?
The effects of yoga are endless! It’s great for calming the mind, relaxing the body, helping with sleep and brightening your mood. In my experience, many people get into yoga for the physical benefits and then fall in love with how it makes them feel on a mental and emotional level as well.
Can you recommend any resources or habits people can look into to help them along their journey?
There’s an abundance of resources available, all you need to do is a little bit of looking. There’s plenty of short daily yoga practices and thirty day meditation challenges available online for free.
Try looking into your local community for yoga and meditation classes, you may find it helpful to surround yourself with likeminded people. Great books to read to help you get started and let go of the mental chatter are “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle and “Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul” by Melody Beattie.
The overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness on mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. This year’s theme is “Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality” #WorldMentalHealthDay.
If you’d like to carve out space for your own self-care this weekend, join Heloise’s Restore and Recharge Yoga Workshop on Saturday 9 October from 2:30-3:45pm at Flex Studio One Island South. Heloise teaches regular classes Detox Flow and Power Yoga on Thursdays at 9:45am and Fridays at 11:00am. View her schedule here.