Over 300 and counting—that’s how many books Panahon TV employees have read since Executive Producer Donna May Lina launched the book report program in 2016. The rules are simple: read at least a 100-page book a month and write a review about it. Both the book and book report may be written in Tagalog or English, and the best book report gets a cash prize.
The exercise feels like a throwback to the employees’ high school days, but Lina believes that the skills learned from it remain relevant in the workplace. “As we are a content creation group, there’s a need to ensure we have a steady supply of ideas,” she shares. “One of the best ways of sharpening our comprehension and critical skills is through reading.” But Lina admits that the ultimate goal of the book report program is to develop a love for reading among her employees. “If you get to love reading and enjoy it, the possibilities are limitless. It can take you to places you have never imagined, and helps you understand the world better. Access is easier now with the e-books—or you can simply borrow books from friends and neighbors.”
Books read by Panahon TV employees are documented and filed.
Learning from Reading
Because of the requirement, non-reading employees were forced to pick up books—something they didn’t previously perceive as a leisure activity. Eventually, some of them acquired the reading habit, which not only honed work skills but also helped in coping with anxiety especially during the pandemic. It also gave them opportunities for self-improvement, particularly among employees who don’t normally write and converse in English. Though they are given the option to write their book reviews in Filipino, some still choose to write theirs in English to develop skills. Panahon TV’s head writer, who receives the book reviews, takes the time to critique each entry and encourage future submissions.
To gather their thoughts on reading, we chatted with some of the team’s regular readers.
Jun Bert Fabale
Position: Website Administrator and Tricaster Operator
How have you benefited from your reading habit? Reading helps me gain new knowledge and sharpen my grammar. It’s also a good stress reliever because it keeps my focus on the book I’m reading. For a moment, I get to take a break from my personal problems.
Cris del Rosario
Position: Motion Graphic Artist
How have you benefited from your reading habit? Aside from widening my knowledge, reading has helped improve my writing skills, which I consider one of my greatest weaknesses, along with verbally communicating with others. Now, I’m slowly gaining confidence in these areas.
Positions: Cameraman and Audioman
How have you benefited from your reading habit? I used to find myself more likely to finish a book report at the last minute, but lately, I’ve been trying to submit ahead of time. I want to continue improving my reading comprehension skills. This exercise lets me take a break from social media, which sometimes shows violent content that adds to my stress.
Position: Social Media Producer
How have you benefited from your reading habit? From the very start, I’ve always associated reading with escape. Besides the fact that reading expands my vocabulary and helps with my writing, I am thrilled that I get to do what I love and what I am required to at the same time. I have no more excuses not to read!
Position: Intern and a Broadcasting Communication student at UP Diliman
How have you benefited from your reading habit? Regular reading helps me expand my vocabulary and helps me learn new things. But more than that, reading lets me experience different worlds that I may never experience in real life. Every time I open a book, I start a new adventure with the characters. Every turn of the page is exciting because I dive deeper into the world that the book offers. This way, reading helps me forget about the current world that I live in. It’s like a temporary escape from reality, which helps me relieve stress.
The head writer used to solely determine the book report winner, but now, the previous month’s winner picks the best book review from three anonymous finalists chosen by the head writer. During the program’s weekly meeting, the previous winner presents his or her opinions about the top 3 submissions, and announces the winner. The head writer then reveals who submitted the winning entry. Lina agrees that this is a better scheme since it has “upped the ante for critical thinking” while training employees in public speaking.
Jun, who has twice succeeded in getting the top prize, talks about the exhilaration of winning. “It was a good feeling because the other book reports were also good.” Charie, who has won 3 times, shares how she writes her book reports. “There’s no magic in winning the book report of the month; I just make sure that whatever I’m submitting is close to my heart. For me, a good book scars or changes me, and successfully relays its message.” For Justina, winning was a form of validation. “The fact that my book report was chosen as a finalist, and eventually the winner meant that someone appreciated what I’ve written, and that made me feel happy.”
When asked about how they felt about choosing a winner, Jun says, “I was shocked because I didn’t know how to distinguish a book report especially if it’s written in English. But I chose the winner based on how well the submitter followed the format, and how the report effectively summarized the book.” Justina confessed that she, too, had a hard time picking a winner. “All the book reports given to me were well-written. There were even instances when I doubted my choice because the other reports were equally good.” In the end, she based her final choice on how she felt while reading the report, and the submitter’s writing style. Charie, who judged the book report finalists last month says she likes the idea of giving employees the chance to speak and choose the winner. “We get to see how someone critiques a work of art with depth. I believe that everyone have what it takes to be a winner,” she says.
Cris and Marmick speak highly of the winners. “ I admire them because they were able to clearly communicate their thoughts and feelings about the books they read. Reading their book reports is like reading the books they reviewed.” Marmick agrees. “I think good reports come from being passionate about reading. The winners effectively conveyed their opinions about the books they read.” For Lina, the reward comes when employees are “able to synthesize the put into context and application the books read. With so much ‘noise’ around, curling up with a good book is a good exercise for thinking and reflection.”
Charie’s multicolored notes in her most recent read, which was 720 pages long.
Here are the top 8 books read by the interviewees in no particular order:
- Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Live by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
- The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
- Sombi by Jonas Sunico
- All Grown up by Jami Attenberg
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
- Kapitan Sino by Bob Ong
- The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpugo
- Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab
Have you ever experienced repeatedly thinking about possible negative consequences of an action you haven’t done? How about being unproductive because of the countless thoughts running through your head? If you have, don’t worry because you’re not alone. I have experienced them, too.
I remember when I had to do an impromptu speech for class, and I kept thinking of what might possibly go wrong – such as not knowing what to say, not being familiar with the given topic, or experiencing mental block in the middle of the speech.
Overthinking can get exhausting, so to better deal with it, I had a chat with Dr. Raymond John S. Naguit, founder and national chairperson of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc.
What is overthinking?
Dr. Naguit describes overthinking as a phenomenon wherein we tend to get ahead of an action or an event before we do or experience it. Rumination is rooted in overthinking about the past, while anxiety involves overthinking about the future. Sadness, guilt and anxiety are normal and valid, but when these emotions hinder our growth and development, then we may have to consider a formal diagnosis.
Dr. Naguit explains that though overthinking in itself is not a clinical disorder, it can be a symptom of a mental disorder. He cited some signs when we’ve fallen into the pit of overthinking:
When we don’t live in the present moment
Overthinking takes away our focus on the here and now because we are too busy projecting into the future or digging into the past. I’ve noticed this in myself. Sometimes, I don’t even notice how my food tastes like because I keep thinking about the things I need to do. Scenarios like this make me question why I overthink since it prevents me from enjoying the little things.
When it affects our work
Though thinking can help us mentally organize our to-do list, it becomes a concern when it keeps us from doing the very things we think about.
When it affects our relationships
Overthinking about what people will think or how they will respond to our actions may keep us from taking risks and forming healthy relationships.
When it causes deviant behavior
Dr. Naguit states that this is when we become “overly cautious about doing a certain action or going to a certain place.” This can sometimes contribute to the stress that we experience, which may lead to mental disorders which, Dr. Naguit assures, is not an immediate effect of overthinking.
But if negative thoughts are repetitive, Dr. Naguit points out that it is possible to develop an anxiety disorder from overthinking. If we no longer have control over our emotions, feelings, or thoughts, it is best to seek the help of a professional.
Why do we overthink?
Dr. Naguit explains that overthinking is sometimes due to the “many stimuli that we’re faced with.” An example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has given rise to health risks, political issues, and economic concerns. Too much stimuli can be overwhelming because they exceed our capacity to cope with different stress points. This can contribute to overthinking since we find it difficult to banish these thoughts.
Dr. Naguit says it is normal for us to sometimes overthink, especially if we have many concerns or tasks. He adds that our reactions to a current situation are sometimes a result of previous experiences. Someone who had been bullied in school may approach going to school with caution and anxiety.
To manage overthinking, Dr. Naguit suggests the following steps:
Express our feelings.
Whether we’re experiencing heavy feelings or bothersome thoughts, we need to release them. Dr. Naguit suggests exorcising emotions on paper; some have “worry journals” that house their thoughts. We can also share our concerns, no matter how irrational, with trusted friends. Sometimes it just takes somebody to tell us that everything will be okay to make us feel better.
Divert our attention.
Dr. Naguit states there are times when we simply cannot control what goes into our minds. However, we can look for a positive diversion. We can try exposing ourselves to another source of stimulus – such as making art, watching television, or exercising.
Understand our sphere of influence.
How do we differentiate the things we can control from those we cannot? Dr. Naguit advises to map out our sphere of influence. For example, instead of stressing over the number of COVID-19 cases every day, it is better to focus on wearing our masks and washing our hands because these are the things we can control. Doing so will not make us feel so helpless and will give us a sense of agency.
Mindfulness is the concept of being aware of the present moment. Because overthinking – or anxiety – is sometimes caused by our fears for the future, the idea is “to reorient [our] attention back to the present moment,” says Dr. Naguit. Mindfulness-based practices like meditation and mindful eating are deliberate and help maximize our five senses to “reorient [ourselves] to the present moment or to the current environment.”
Dr. Naguit adds that part of mindfulness is accepting that we cannot control our thoughts. Thoughts will inevitably enter our minds, and the more we try to control them or shield them, the more stressed we get. He advises to simply recognize and acknowledge our thoughts, and allow them to flow. Then take deep breaths and one by one, let them go.
Physically release our stress.
Some psychologists recommend using stress balls as a means for physical release. Dr. Naguit adds that one of the things he teaches is “progressive muscle relaxation,” wherein patients “cyclically flex and relax [their] muscles.”
Get enough rest and sleep.
Rest is also an important part of mental health intervention. Dr. Naguit explains that when we don’t get enough sleep, we become irritable and tend to conflate things, which then make us overthink. Interventions for physical wellness also contribute to our mental well-being.
When we are doing something, it is best to have our full attention on the task at hand so we can perform our best. However, there are times when certain thoughts pop-up in our minds– and this is perfectly normal. You don’t have to overthink overthinking!
Overthinking is definitely something I can live without. And that impromptu speech I mentioned in the beginning— the one I’d been so worried about? It turned out fine! I knew just what to say about the topic and I finished the speech without a problem.
We don’t have to worry so much or about things because often, they turn out fine in the end. If not, then that’s fine, too. We’ll just learn from the experience and improve ourselves.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health condition, know that there are people whom you can talk to. Get in touch with them through these numbers:
National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline
UP Diliman Psychosocial Services – Free Online Counseling
Philippine Mental Health Association – Free Online Counseling
PMHA Facebook Messenger
Philippine Psychiatric Association – Free Online Counseling
One night, fifteen years ago, Lea was flipping through the channels on her television, looking for a movie to help her destress from her job as a financial adviser in one of the country’s top insurance companies. Instead, her channel surfing took her to a show on yoga, which kept her glued until the end. Watching the gentle flow of yoga poses helped relieve her stress, which kept her tuning in to the show regularly, until she found herself practicing yoga. “I fell in love with yoga since then. I loved how it had a holistic approach to health, focusing on both physical and mental abilities.”
For ten years, she dabbled with yoga until five years ago when she decided to make it her daily practice. “At that time, I was feeling exhausted and stressed. My body was pleading for a break. I decided to focus on myself.” With her regular yoga practice, Lea discovered a more focused way of thinking, and with this clarity came the realization of what she wanted to do with her life. “Two years ago, I decided to go to Vietnam to undergo training so I could be a yoga teacher. Our yoga class had five teachers, which we called masters. We would start our practice with pranayama, or breathing exercises coupled with meditation. It taught me to focus on my breath and to be still in the present. In the stillness, I could hear what my mind and body were telling me.”
Her six-month training certified Lea as a yoga teacher. Because of the pandemic, Lea holds online yoga classes, not just for Filipinos, but also for friends she made in Vietnam. At the same time, she supports her husband in developing an organic vegetable garden in Rizal. He focuses on growing high-nutrient fruits and vegetables that complement Leah’s yoga practice. Though Lea is living proof of yoga’s ability to help regulate blood pressure, fight insomnia and support the body’s natural healing process, she finds that the most important thing she gained from her practice is mental strengthening. “A weak mind can’t carry a strong body, but a strong mind can carry even the weakest body,” she shares. “A strong mind will keep you stable and grounded. It gives you the power to cope with stress.”
This October 14, Lea will share simple breathing and meditation exercises in Panahon TV’s much-awaited webinar, Peace of Mind during the Pandemic, which also features psychiatrist Dr. Rowalt Alibudbud, and Dr. RJ Naguit, chairman of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc.
From this webinar, Lea hopes that participants will learn to let go of things they can’t control. “Stress is inevitable, but what’s more important is that you know how to manage it. If you’re on a continuous fight-and-flight mode, you’ll get sick. Gentle yoga helps release the tension with mindful poses. Just by focusing on your breath, you honor your body, allowing acceptance, awareness and letting go. When you do this daily, you develop a calm state of mind. It’s a powerful tool to manage everything that’s happening in the world today.”
To register for the webinar, click here: https://panahon.tv/webinar/index.php
When RJ Naguit decided to become a doctor, he wanted to fulfill, not a personal dream, but the much bigger goal of improving the country’s public health system. While working with the Alliance for Improving Health Outcomes which allowed him to work closely with PhilHealth and for the current health information system, Dr. Naguit joined the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians, where he learned the many paths a doctor could take. “I discovered that there were a lot of doctors working outside the health system. Some of them entered government, while others took their masters here or abroad. It reassured that there’s no one direction toward public health. That’s why I’m forging my own path by focusing on community development and public health.”
At present, Dr. Naguit is the national chairman of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc., a driving force behind the Philippine Mental Health Law enacted in 2018 after 20 years of lobbying from psychiatrists and other professionals. While working with senators, Dr. Naguit proposed bills on various issues such as nutrition and teenage pregnancy, but mental health remained close to his heart. “When I was in high school, I received a suicide note from a loved one. That feeling of frustration and helplessness of not knowing how to respond to such a situation is something I don’t want other people to go through.” His advocacy was strengthened when his co-founder died by suicide before the law was formalized. “Mental health became more than just policy work; it was something near to us as young people.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the 15 to 29 age group is the most vulnerable to mental health issues. In fact, mental health-related deaths rank second in the cause of fatalities for this group of young people. Dr. Naguit believes that the pandemic is exacerbating this situation. “Biological and psychological factors are not the only factors that affect our mental well-being. Social factors also come into play. We’re collectively grieving an ambiguous loss—things and people we’ve lost without certainty and closure. Grieving patterns are altered because of COVID-19. We can’t attend wakes and seek psycho-social support because of social distancing. Online meetings are not enough to substitute face-to-face support.”
On October 14, Dr. Naguit, psychiatrist Dr. Rowalt Alibudbud and yoga teacher Ananya Lea Thomas will share their knowledge in Panahon TV’s webinar, Peace of Mind during the Pandemic. “It’s not a light topic, especially now that people might be experiencing different forms of distress. We can’t force people to be okay if the situation is not. When we talk about finding peace, we should start with coming to terms with the current situation and acknowledging our feelings.” At the same time, Dr. Naguit believes in being pro-active in addressing the sources of our distress. “We can’t just cope and do self-care. The social factors need to be addressed. If the COVID-19 cases continue to rise, and people are losing their jobs and going hungry, you can’t expect people to smile all the time.”
At the end of the webinar, Dr. Naguit hopes that participants will feel validated. “Emotions should not be kept under lock and key. Acknowledging our emotions is acknowledging our common humanity.”
To register for the webinar, click here: https://panahon.tv/webinar/index.php
October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a commemoration that deserves more attention now during the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that though the Philippines consistently ranks high in the global optimism index, which means that Filipinos are generally hopeful and expect favorable outcomes, the National Center for Mental Health reported an increase in hotline calls about depression from 80 to nearly 400 a month during lockdown.Dr. Rowald Alibudbud, a psychiatrist who handles various cases ranging from normative stress from daily life, to severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, confirms this observation. “In my experience during the quarantine and pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of psychiatric consultations, especially for depression and anxiety. Interestingly, stigma remains despite the higher demand at present.”
Dr. Rowalt Alibudbud will be part of Panahon TV’s upcoming webinar, Peace of Mind during the Pandemic.
All over the world, the stigma around mental health is disturbing. The 15 to 29 age group, which, globally, is the most vulnerable to such issues, also has deaths related to mental health as its second leading cause of fatalities. To address these figures, those with mental health challenges should feel safe in sharing their problems without the fear of being ostracized. Instead of shying away from a topic that is generally considered taboo, Dr. Alibudbud decided to specialize in psychiatry. “I’ve always been fascinated with human behavior, the mind and the brain. I thought psychiatry was a good step toward understanding these. Psychiatry is fascinating since it’s a perfect mixture of medical, biological, behavioral and social sciences.”
A diplomate of the Philippine Psychiatric Association, Dr. Alibudbud has had his share of challenging cases. “The most challenging for me are those with family problems that led them to experience some psychiatric symptoms since this requires a lot of coordination with the family. Basically, you address the principal cause—in this case, the family problem.” As to the causes of these mental health issues, Dr. Alibudbud shares that they’re more than just brain chemical balances. “They are also associated with psycho-social factors such as isolation from loved ones and poor self-esteem. Medication is important but psycho-social interventions are also needed. In this regard, it is important to address stigma, discrimination, misconceptions and prejudices regarding mental health.”
Dr. Alibudbud looks forward to sharing more of his knowledge in Panahon TV’s upcoming webinar, Peace of Mind during the Pandemic, on October 14, Wednesday, at 2 p.m. The webinar will also feature Dr. RJ Naguit, chairperson of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc., and yoga teacher Ananya Lea Thomas.
Click here for more details: https://bit.ly/35W3ixL