Women’s mental health is widely discussed these days, yet there remains a stigma around the topic. Raised by a single mother and growing up in a family of women, Mabel Yiu experienced firsthand how societal pressures and expectations on women increase their possibility of developing mental health issues. Hence, as a therapist and CEO of Women’s Therapy Institute today, she is on a mission to help women in their mental health journey.
As someone vulnerable to mental health issues herself, Mabel Yiu understands how taxing mental health conditions are. Her mental health deteriorated during her teenage years, and despite her self-medicating efforts, she did not escape the dark tunnels of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Later on, she was diagnosed with ADHD and high-functioning ASD. Mabel became a therapist to share what she knows and went through and hopes to ease the burden on other women. In an interview, the CEO revealed the eight things she did to be better.
First: Not being in denial.
“Things weren’t well, and I did not want to acknowledge it. I had a lot of pride and did not want to be seen as weak by seeking help. As a kid, I would rather be seen as a bad kid doing shenanigans than a stupid kid. As an adult, I would rather be a busy bee rather than slow down and risk being discovered that I wasn’t well. I think the first step is to let go of that pride.”
Second: Taking care of herself.
“Some people think self-care is selfish: it’s not. It’s about sustainability. Sleep is the biggest self-care strategy that helped me against depression and anxiety. I have urges to stay up and do work until late at night because that’s when it’s the quietest, and there isn’t any sensory stimulation overload. I had to quit that and forcefully put my phone and electronics downstairs at home or locked in a hotel safe when I’m traveling so I don’t work or revenge scroll past my bedtime. I wake up multiple times when I have electronics around me for no reason. I sleep like a baby when those things are far from me.”
Third: Decreasing her sensory stimulation.
“As a person with high functioning ASD, I have several sensory sensitivities. One of them is auditory sensitivity. I’m fine with loud rhythmical sound but find daily ambient noise jarring. I walk around with earplugs in my ears because certain sounds can get me irritated, so I am very mindful of them and minimize them as much as possible. Of course, never wear it while you drive or when safety is a concern.”
Fourth: Reality testing.
“With depression and anxiety often comes a psychological myopia: a negative self-dialogue of ‘Nothing I try ever works out.’ ‘How could I have been so stupid?’ ‘I don’t know what I am doing!’ ‘What if my plan doesn’t work?’ To get out of it, I need to use a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach called reality testing. It means to actively find evidence to test the reality base of a belief or assumption. For example, ‘Nothing I try ever works out,’ I need to test the absolute terms of that and find the exception.”
Fifth: Taking care of relationships.
“This may not sound business-like or CEO-like, but having good relationships in personal life can actually heal and buffer you from your stressors at work. People are your support, and bad relationships give more stress. Working as a couples counselor, I have never seen arguments and divorce bring joy. Take care of your relationship. Learn empathy, learn to listen to each other, act in compassion. Don’t be too proud to change. It’s also expensive to have a divorce, so nurturing your relationship is the best ROI.”
Sixth: Learn empathy.
“It goes hand in hand with #5 above. This is a big one for me to learn because I didn’t have much, to begin with. As a child, I had a flat affect and could come across as very blunt. I did and said what I wanted without thinking about others. I also have a lot of empathy sometimes, and it’s hard to control and show it. I actually learn to manage empathy and be mindful towards others and myself from my own therapy work and in therapy school. It teaches me how to be human and relate better with other people.”
Seventh: Keeping perfectionism in check.
“Perfectionism is a double-edged sword, it spearheads us to the success we have today, but it can also cut us to pieces.”
Eight: Being adaptive.
“Things change all the time when running a business and managing people. I was not good with change. Therapy helped, but I had also taken numerous improv classes to learn how to be adaptive and manage change and my own expectations around changes.”
Learn more about Mabel Yiu and Women’s Therapy Institute on their website.