You Talk I Talk with Certified Counsellor Faith Foo

Interview by TeamKanyin

When was the last time you give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done? When was the last time you thank yourself for self-care action as simple as making yourself a nice hot cuppa? Well, let’s try this the other way: when was the last time you blaming yourself for leaving the house without your wallet, or calling yourself stupid just because of some petty mistakes?

In this exclusive interview with certified counsellor and EMDR therapist Faith Foo, we’re going to get more insights on mental health and how to be kind to ourselves. Self-care is the key to happiness.  

As a certified EMDR therapist, can you explain to us what is EMDR?  

EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy is a trauma treatment first started by Dr. Francine Shapiro, which was to help soldiers with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). A lot of scientific researches have shown that EMDR is very helpful for people suffering from depression and anxiety, whose lives are affected by traumatic memories. I do a lot of EMDR therapy with clients who are at the stuck points in their lives that they did not even understand it is caused by their childhood trauma, or something traumatic that has happened to them. There is also EMDR therapy for children.

What are the most common problems faced by adults nowadays?

Stress and pressure that manifested into depression and anxiety. But basically, if you boil them down, these stress and pressures are caused by unrealistic expectations. When we are young, the society or our family have some expectation on us. For example, you have to work hard, you need to be successful, and if you don’t work hard, you are not successful, you’ll not be happy and you’ll be poor. All these are injected into the way we see things, that we have to be successful, we have to do a lot. And when people are so pressured into performing, to being successful, they become more and more stressed, causing them to become very depressed and anxious.

30-year-old CEO suffering anxiety attacks despite success; why? -> Watch the full interview here

We hear people saying ‘I want to have money and be successful so I can have time with my family and be happy’. But, why can’t you start to do that first? Why can’t you be happy now?

Can you tell us more on midlife crisis?

From your early adulthood, you will go into your middle adulthood and later, into late adulthood. The middle adulthood is between 40 and 60 years old and this is where midlife crisis usually happens. At this age, we tend to start looking back on our life.

Usually, people who have midlife crisis have a lot of regrets and the feeling of lost. What is the meaning of life? What am I doing right now? Age is catching up, what have I done? What have I contributed? What kind of legacy have I left behind? They are lost and self-doubting. People who are dealing with midlife crisis can have depression and other issues. Some might change totally that they would dress very young because they want to feel ‘young’ again. They are going through a very complicated state of emotion.

You see, young adulthood is a going-up curve, middle adulthood is like going down the curve. People who are dealing with midlife crisis is at the “going down” state. But if you can pull through, you have a good mindset, you do a lot of self-care, think positively, you will be going up again in the next curve of life.

Listen to the interview podcast here

Many theories have described late adulthood as a second spring. Because you’ve learned so much and you have so much in you, and this is the phase of life where you can share, contribute back to the society. This is where your wisdom and knowledge is powerful, where you can share with people what you have learned, all thanks to the many years of experiences you have.

So, do not dread when you are going through middle adulthood. You always have something to give back. Like the Chinese saying that goes, 家有一老,如有一宝 (elders are treasures). Because it’s really about the life experience, there’s so much treasure in you. Don’t forget that you have all these treasures. 

Feeling nostalgic? There could be more to this feeling. -> Watch the full interview here

How do we avoid having to deal with midlife crisis later in life?

Start to be grateful for every little thing in life. Have a habit of keeping a gratitude journal before you go to sleep, so that when you are older and look back at this journey, you’ll be grateful that so many wonderful things are happening in your life. You’ll be so proud of yourself about the hurdles you overcame and the milestones you have achieved, like how you worked hard, how you burnt the midnight oil to complete the assignment, how you managed to pass and graduate etc.

Self-care is very important. Midlife or not, it’s always about how to take care of ourselves. Do you spend enough time to make yourself happy? Do you focus only on how to make other people happy? Are you just serving your job? Do you spend enough time to take care of yourself, making sure you sleep enough, eat good food?  

I always ask my client: how many times do you charge your handphone a day? So, don’t forget to charge yourself every day. If you love your phone more than yourself, that’s crazy!

Do not treat your handphone better than you -> Watch the full interview here

“If you pump petrol every week into your car, how many times you pump petrol into your life?”

How do we practice self-care?

Self-care is more than just having a good meal and travelling. Self-care is some of this, what you do to yourself, but is more than that. Self-care is stop punishing yourself, stop pushing yourself, stop being your slave master. Stop calling yourself stupid for a mistake made. Stop scolding yourself. Life is already so hard, why are you still saying those things to yourself? Self-love is about telling yourself, ‘Hey, today you’ve done such a good work, I’m so proud of you’.

Self-love is about acknowledging yourself, being proud of yourself. Stop treating yourself badly. Stop criticising yourself.

We are all hypocrites! -> Watch the full interview here

When do you know if you or someone need help?

When your friend’s personality or mood change. For example, he/she used to be very friendly, active, jovial, and suddenly he/she talks less, avoids all the meeting. They look down and sad, showing a change of behaviour. Insomnia is one of the symptoms showing that you are suffering from some mental health issue. When people are suffering from severe anxiety, it is usually hard for them to sleep. And for people who are suffering from depression, they might either want to sleep, don’t want to get out from bed, or they cannot sleep at all.

How do we normalise counselling and psychological therapy/treatments?

I think people are more open (to counselling) now, especially after the pandemic. People do talk about mental health. I think basically we need to provide the society a safe place to show people’s vulnerability. It’s okay to say ‘I’m feeling so down/depressed’. We as a society, we have to start learning that depression, flu and fever are the same. If we go to the doctor when we are feeling unwell, why do you think you have depression and you are okay? That you’re supposed to think positively and you can snap out of it? You cannot!

Depressed is depressed. It’s like flu and fever, people with depression need to get help, they need to see a professional. And they will get well. Like flu and fever, the faster you see a doctor, the sooner you’ll get well.

Counselling and therapy is like going to a bomoh? -> Watch the full interview here

There’s no such thing as negative feelings.

Is there a rise in people seeking counselling help in the past two years?

Definitely. Even myself as a therapist also feel depressed. Because it was a tough and stressful time. I felt stuck at home, helpless and powerless because there were many things I couldn’t do. There was a lot of uncertainties that created a lot of anxiety. Even a therapist like me is not spared from that kind of feeling. We are all facing the same struggles. But I’m blessed (because I’m in this field) to have the skills to manage my stress and struggles. When I noticed that I’m starting to feeling depressed, I began to do a lot of self-talk and self-care. I have to keep encouraging myself, I have to recharge and take care of myself, more so. I have to do a lot of things that make myself happy. For example, go to my garden, appreciate the sun is up another day, appreciate every little thing, appreciate the birds are singing out, appreciate that I’m still breathing. All this I have to do so much more during that time. Double the effort. 

What is your advice to our readers?

I started this journey, being a counsellor when I’m 40 years old, where I started to do my master and study part time while working full time. It’s never too late to change the course of your life. It’s never too late to find who you are. I just gotten to be certified as a couch, at age 54. And the other dream of mine is to maybe sell a piece of my art when I’m 60. Things can happen when you’re still old, you can still be doing what you want to do. Never think that it’s too late, even if you are 60 can do something.  

Listen to the interview podcast here

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