Sana Akbar is a school counselor at The Learning Tree and is also privately practicing as a therapist/counselor since 2014. She has an M.Sc in psychology from the Institute of Professional Psychology, Bahria University.

1. How do you deal with the trauma of losing a loved one in a healthy way?

There is no one-size-fits-all way to feel and cope with loss. Nevertheless, there are several helpful hints that can soften the blow of loss and promote the healing of emotional pain. First, face the loss instead of ignoring or denying it. Second, share your pain with other people. This is very important because talking about our feelings helps our brain and mind to process the loss and often allows us to come to terms with it sooner than if we kept our feelings bottled up. Third, remind yourself of what you still have and what’s good and meaningful in your life. Thus, take an inventory of the blessings you have and the various parts of your life that you can feel genuine gratitude for. Not only will this help in moving toward acceptance of the loss but it will also ward off deepening sadness because of a process called “behavioral activation” which has been shown to effectively treat depression.

2. I am unemployed since six months and cannot deal with it anymore. I constantly doubt my potential and have severe self esteem issues. How do I deal with it?

An emergency demands action and creativity. The challenge is finding the energy to act and the freedom to create when one is buried under the stress of unemployment/underemp-loyment. If you have been laid off and/or cut-off from an organisation, please know that it is completely normal to experience deep grief, shame, loss of identity and meaning, fear, and other negative feelings – even if part of you is glad to be away from the company drama. Finding time to grieve can be healthy and essential.

In addition, you may find that you are reaching out to other former employees and discussing problems and people in the organisation at length. This is also part of the grieving process. However, this situation becomes a problem when it slips into obsession (can't stop thinking or talking about the job) or when it never appears and the grief gets displaced into other areas of life. Take time to grieve – it allows you to process your feelings and release any negativity. It prompts you to confront the shadow of shame and guilt and release them. It also enables you to find the other part of you that is able to nurture and love yourself. To accomplish the process of working through the grief phase and accessing your inner creativity, try journaling about it, talking to trusted colleagues and friends, go on hikes and find time for meditation/prayer, and/or work with a counselor.

3. I have a lot of trouble in making friends, I can’t seem to start a conversation in a social circle and always end up being quiet in a corner. What is wrong with me?

Shyness is a reflection of awkwardness or apprehension that some people feel when approaching or being approached by others. Shyness is a response to fear, and research suggests that although it's related to the neuro-biology of the nervous system, it is also strongly influenced by parenting practices and life experiences. Researchers find that it's often best for people to acknowledge their shyness and try to release themselves from feeling self-conscious. Instead of avoiding social events, shy people can schedule them in advance and practice their social skills. Another strategy is to reframe one's mindset to expect a positive response rather than to assume a negative reaction is inevitable. Planning a few talking points ahead of time, and then observing the discussion to get one's bearings before contributing can be helpful. Another skill is acknowledging the possibility that an interaction might go poorly but recognising that the reasons may be outside of one's control. A conversation partner could be in a bad mood, the topic could be private, or the two people could simply be incompatible. Approaching social experiences in a strong emotional state can also allow people to be more fully engaged in the discussion.