In the debut of our video interview series, we ask Professor Kua Ee Heok, Professor in Psychiatry and Neuroscience from NUS School of Medicine, about his journey of fighting the stigma of mental health in Asia, his war stories, and most importantly, his tried-and-tested Seven Habits to Combat Anxiety.
This marks the launch of The Masterminds, a video series where MindFi speaks with professionals and thought leaders on mental wellness every two weeks.
Professor Kua Ee Heok is an esteemed psychiatrist who has received training at Harvard and Oxford universities. Since then, he has been actively trying to reduce the stigma against mental health in Asia through doing local studies and sharing them on a global scale. In this interview, Prof Kua shares his inspiration behind setting up the Age Well Everyday Program to help combat the rising rate of mental wellbeing problems and dementia in Singapore, and Asia at large.
Not only is Prof Kua fighting a mental battle, he fought a physical one too, when he was conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War. This was easily the most stressful episode of his life, but as people say, tough times build tougher minds.
“You become very, very strong, mentally, because you see death and all, killings and all that, you know.”
Naturally, Prof Kua has his own methods of maintaining his mental health. Despite having a busy work life, he actively and cleverly inserts pockets of time into his day to do short mindfulness practices and to just be present with his family. I bet you didn’t know that Prof Kua still uses CDs these days, Spotify’s predecessor.
Moving on to the topic of workplace burnout, Prof Kua mentions his favourite line, “There can be no health without mental health”. This is especially true during a pandemic, where fear and uncertainty are rampant, especially in the workplace.
“Besides the covid 19 pandemic, there’s also a pandemic of fear. So, if you have two pandemics running together, pari passu is called a Syndemic.”
Now, more than ever, good mental health is needed for society to function. Thankfully, Prof Kua has some concrete advice to follow to keep sane during this period of time. He calls this the Seven Habits to Combat Anxiety, we call it the Seven Habits of Surviving this Syndemic.
- Get the right information
- Acknowledge that you will be feeling stress
- Remember to get some exercise
- Watch your diet: Limit caffeine and alcohol intake
- Spend some time doing mindfulness practices
- Partake in recreational activities
- Build your social capital
Watch the interview to find out how you can practise these Seven Habits!