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  • Inevitable Path to Freedom | Katie’s Story

    Katie Lai became my mentee last year, as a participant of our Teens Empowerment Program at CandleX. She’s a multi-talented young lady, and the video editor of my article on “Effortless Consistency”. The first stage of the program is on self-awareness and self management, which begins with an article that these teenagers writing about their own life in a reflective and honest way. Katie’s always on top of tasks and proactive. However, this piece took her much longer than I expected. “I hate to admit that it has taken me days to finally begin writing. Mainly because it contradicts with my confrontational and brave persona on a daily basis. It’s partially also because I want to publish and showcase something that would represent me entirely. But mainly it’s because I’ve never really been so candid and cultivated courage to write this down.” -Katie The first step of looking inward to see ourselves wholeheartedly, accept all the different parts of us takes patience, courage and self-love. I didn’t have the opportunity to do it until I was 30 years old. Now, I am just glad that I get to create this opportunity to the next generation, and I enjoyed working on this piece with Katie. I hope you enjoy reading it too. Xiaojie Qin Psychotherapist, Director of CandleX Author: Katie Lai. HongKong Age:17 Time: Jan 2024 In the intricate tapestry of adolescence, my narrative stands out as a testament to the solitary path forced upon me by circumstances beyond my control, admittedly full of rewarding and eye-opening experiences yet at times agonizingly lonely. Hi, I’m Katie Lai, a 17-year-old student studying in Hong Kong with a complex family legacy of a mixture of Chinese mainland and Hong Kong heritage. Next year, I’ll be 18 and have the legal authority to take full responsibility for myself. While the reality of adulthood and the ideology of enforced independence may be daunting, terrifying, and may even seem like a huge leap for most youngsters growing out of their teenage years, I, on the contrary, have only waited on this turning point in life for as long as I could remember because I saw it as an exit pass from my muddled circumstance with grappling with the premature burden of responsibility and fulfilling the expectations of teenage naivety and youthfulness. Following up the years until today, the question 'What made me the person I am now?" was rooted deep in my subconscious, mainly to serve as a keen reminder to be grateful towards everyone and everything around me, but also for self-awareness and reflection. Obviously, there were countless considerable factors and no declarative answer to this rhetorical question. But separation always drew huge attention, specifically when COVID struck. An invisible wall of strict border controls separated me and my family between Mainland China and Hong Kong. It snatched away the opportunity for free mobility and placed a permanent strain on the relationship between my parents and me. The physical separation made us communicate less, share less, and connect less, to the point where most phone calls were made not to hear about my day but to check if I was safe and at home. Admittedly, in some aspects, it allowed us to focus on developing ourselves and minimized distractions of any sort. But what changed me the most was the freedom—with separation came freedom, which I later learned also carried a great deal of responsibility. Soon, I realized that I could not fully rely on my parents for every important decision I made. Frantically, I was pushed into a trial of independence, adapting myself to situations without a parental guide, and being given crucial roles in dictating life-altering decisions. It was tough. I'm sure many could resonate with the sudden pressure imposed on us as teens. The sudden exhausting yet exasperating, almost flabbergasting feeling that one could have so many roles in life and so much to carry on their shoulders at such a young age. It made me doubt and downplay myself. Is the matter at hand really that deep, or am I just over-amplifying the situation? Isn’t this what most teenagers are going through anyway? Time lapsed and growing up in this emotionally self-reliant environment removed the colors of adolescent naivety and immaturity from me, which juxtaposed my peers’ carefree childishness—a quality that I should possess, especially at this age of pure bliss. The separation had propelled my emotional and mental growth but erased my precious naivety. Sometimes I wish I had retained more youthfulness with the help of my parents’ presence and physical support. I wish I had someone who’d always be there to tell me what’s right and wrong, good and bad, but nonetheless, I remain eternally grateful for everything that has happened because ultimately it only pushed me to develop a profound sense of self-reliance and adaptability. On the other hand, with separation, freedom also came with the substantial obstacle of experiencing and getting used to the state of seemingly long-lasting solitude. In the beginning, I detested emerging feelings of seclusion and desolation, as I thought it was a signal of weakness and unnecessary neediness but also a signal of ungratefulness towards the sought-after freedom I had. “You shouldn’t be feeling lonely right now." “Why are you unhappy? You have the freedom that everyone wants out there!” Thoughts as such forever reverberated in my head whenever I felt a tingly creeping sense of isolation. Thankfully, it was not long until I met my group of savior friends who pulled me out of this unhealthy cycle of toxic thinking. Listening to their experiences taught me it was normal to feel lonely, even as teens with parents who are constantly around—aloneness was simply an essential stepping stone to growth. It wasn’t my freedom that created all the ‘avoidable’ loneliness; rather, we would’ve all felt lonely at some point, varying by circumstances. Loneliness and a craving for companionship aren’t signs of weakness or insufficiency but of the natural human orientation and its desire to connect and communicate. I was so relieved to learn that many others also felt the same way I did and provided companionship and guidance when I felt the most vulnerable and alone. Close friendships really brought the color of adolescent delight back into my life. Nevertheless, though separation took away aspects of my life I wished I kept, it has also undeniably provided me the chance to experience the elation of long-lasting connections and allowed me to create my guiding direction for the transition to adulthood. Sharing this publicly and even having the courage to think deeply of separation took persistence and resilience I had not previously envisioned before, and yet what kept me writing was that I’m sure there are countless teens like me silently struggling with this matter. Above all, I hope that sharing my reflection it can induce acceptance of separation; that it is so normal and inevitable; that just like me, so many others feel the same way even under varying circumstances; that ultimately every challenge of separation will always have their hidden glistening gem sparking a source of light towards our path to growth. (All pictures are from Katie Lai)

  • Sign Up | Mental Health Group Facilitator Training 2024

    ‘Over the last eight years, I have encountered many challenges both as a facilitator and as the manager of our mental health peer support group. I’ve documented our experiences, trained our facilitators, and brought all our learnings together in creating a manual. I hope that by sharing this with others, more mental health activists can get a better start and do great work in China supporting our very own community. ’ -Xiaojie Qin Director of CandleX Training Details Date: 3rd March, Sunday 2024 Time: 2:30pm-5:30pm Location: Online via Voov/Tencent Language: English Cost: 500rmb, no refund (Subsidies are available for individuals who are unable to pay but have demonstrated commitment and contribution to community mental health.) Registration: please contact Summer. Training Format: The training will be a combination of lecture, demonstration, group discussion, role-play, and hands-on activities. Participants may have the opportunity to practice their facilitation skills and receive feedback from the trainer and other participants. This year marks our 9th year of running our support group in Beijing. Seeing increasing need from emerging community members for us to do more on mental health, we are now providing training to prepare individuals to get on the path of mental health advocates and group leaders. This upcoming training provides practical guidance and knowledge based on accumulated experiences from challenges our facilitators have encountered, ethical considerations, and issues we have had running the support group. We will also go over our internal training manual that outlines the structure of CandleX’s signature program - mental health support group - and the step by step tasks of facilitation. By doing this, we hope to empower more people to get an easier start on creating their own mental health groups and projects in China. Who Should Attend: Mental health professionals including therapists and coaches Mental Health Peer support facilitators Community mental health advocates Anyone interested in get on the path of becoming a mental health professional Learning Objectives: Understand the principles of group facilitation and group dynamics Learn effective communication skills Develop conflict resolution skills Develop strategies for creating a safe and inclusive space for group members Learn about self-care and how to manage burnout Certificate You will get a certificate from us to indicate that you have completed this 3-hour training. More About the Training Content We created a question bank based on facilitator’s debrief, which we do  and document after every session. Over the years, we have engaged in discussions and mini-trainings amongst support group program team members as well as external experts to answer these questions. Note: our 3-hour training does not intend to cover all topics due to limitation of time. To make sure that this training is relevant to the training participants, I’d like you to look at the questions, and pick no more than 3 as your own learning objectives. Training Questions Bank About the Trainer Xiaojie Qin A psychotherapist, the director of CandleX, with more than a decade of experiences working with groups, as a researcher, an interviewer, a group facilitator, a group therapist, as well as manager of such groups. You can learn about her work on psychotherapy by reading Xiaojie’s therapy profile here.

  • Xiaojie Qin | The Multi-Faceted Psychotherapist

    I am a psychotherapist; director of CandleX. I am also an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a mentor, an interviewer and a story teller, a mindfulness practitioner, a student of life, and more. I am Xiaojie. Having a therapist, the right therapist, is a big deal. I want to make myself known to you as much as possible so you can make an informed decision. Let’s do it like this: How about you ask me questions about me? You: Where are you from? I was born and raised in Sichuan. I have been living and working in Beijing for most of my adult life, working with various teams of international colleagues that spread around the world. You: Have you always been a therapist? I wasn’t always a therapist. My previous work experience was in program management in major international organizations for a decade. In 2015 I founded CandleX, a local mental health organization, and have been running the organization as the director ever since. In 2021 I co-founded Project A, through which I provided group and individual counseling to people that were in abusive relationships. So, I have ample experience working in multi-layered, large companies. I also have the very different experience of being an entrepreneur facing the joys and pains of starting everything from scratch. All of these have given me first-hand experiences to relate to my clients with similar career experiences. You: What are your credentials, and what clients do you see, where are you, you know, the basics. I am based in Beijing, where I work with clients in English and Chinese, face to face and online. As a therapist I provide individual, couple, family and group counseling. I’ve been a certified level three counselor in China since 2018. I am a registered member of Australian Counseling Association, and acquired ‘master of counseling’ from Monash University, Australia in 2021. You: Who do you work with? People who are making an effort to heal, grow and live their best lives. Adults, as well as teenagers, particularly those from international schools. I work with clients to address a range of emotional and behavioral issues including: mood disorders, anxiety, grief and loss, relationship issues, career stagnation and issues, and personal growth in general. I have in-depth experience working with those who have been in abusive relationships, and am good with clients with bipolar disorder in particular. (Note: Please be aware that clinically diagnosed mental illnesses need medical attention from clinical professional from mental hospitals.) You: Modalities, Approaches, I know therapists have different schools of trainings. What approach do you use? Good question. Did you know that there are over 300 therapy approaches now? Rather than choosing a particular modality, choosing the right therapist is more important - especially for people who are new to therapy. As for me, when I first started my training and practice, I was primarily using cognitive behavioural therapy(CBT) and acceptance commitment therapy(ACT), which is a modality that I was formally trained in in my master studies. It feels natural to me, makes sense to me, and is a popular evidence-based approach. Along the way, in the interest of exploring other ways to work with clients who may find limitations with CBT and ACT, I picked up some other approaches. That is when I started getting my hands on EMDR, Art Therapy, and hypnosis; I believe there are still more that’re on my list to dive into. This combination of skills has made my practice integrative and eclectic. I believe strongly that each client and each issue require a personalized approach. That’s why I work with flexibility, using tools from different modalities to come up with a tailored approach for each client. Me, therapy and the therapy circle As a therapist, I aspire to share knowledge on therapy that I’ve learned through working with my clients. I’d like to express my gratitude towards those clients who have given me permission to share these materials so that we can bring more awareness of mental health to others. My Video Channel on psychotherapy education I want to encourage learning and sharing among therapists. We can learn together, support each other on this professional path, inspire one another to become a better therapist, and more. I provide training to other mental health professionals (including therapists, life coaches and facilitators) on group facilitation, and on building & maintaining mental health professional networks in Beijing. Here are some of my reflection on my work as a therapist: A Note To My OCD Clients | Xiaojie’s Reflection On Her Asthma A Snapshot of Project A’s Group Therapy | The Therapist’s View Psychotherapy on Healing from Abusive Relationships | Group and Individual Therapy If you want to know more about me, you can find out more at these links: CandleX: An organization providing mental health for all: www.candlex.cn My reflections about my life and the world: https://www.candlex.cn/about-our-founder Media interviews: https://www.candlex.cn/press You: Could I have a short call with you and understand your approaches before booking a formal session? In my practice, due to the limitation of time, I do not offer pre-session calls. I hope this article provides you with enough information about me, and I am happy to make answer any additional questions via email. You: How could I book a session with you? You can email me directly at xiaojieqin2020@163.com. Due to my professional boundary setting, I do not add clients to my personal contacts. All emails are replied within 48 hours, and most likely, you will get a reply within a day. I am looking forward to meeting you and getting to know you, especially the part of you that you haven't met yet.

  • Lessons Learned at Xiaojie's Startup Story- A Teen's Perspective

    I took Leo Yu, my new teen mentee, to a story night by Startup Grind where I was invited to talk about my startup journey with CandleX. I remember my teen years, spent in school and at home, I always wanted to learn more about the world, the real world. It looks so exciting, adult, and cool. Growing up in the 80s in Sichuan, I could only wish. Now that I'm at a place where I can offer that, I do, to be the adult that makes a meaningful impact on a young person’s life. I love mentoring teens because they are at the age where they can be shaped and hit their potential when they are given the right opportunities. I created the Teens Empowerment Project for this reason. I remember that night, Leo, another team member, and I were sitting on the rooftop, and I asked Leo: what would you be doing instead if you weren’t here for your first task with us? He said: ‘I’d probably stay home and do my homework. This is interesting.’ Yes, life is interesting, and let’s keep it that way. Xiaojie Qin Psychotherapist, Director of CandleX Nov 2023 As a mentee in Candlex’s teen empowerment project, I recently attended the event named Startup Story Night hosted by StartupGrind as a participant listener and an assistant for Xiaojie, the speaker and founder of Candlex, a mental health organization. It seemed as if the challenges and obstacles brought to her never ended, but she continued her pursuit. Listening to her story, as the only teenager in the room, I couldn’t help but feel inspired and relate to her experiences in my journey as a high school student. One challenge I specifically remember and that seems to have long resonated in my mind is the management of money. Hearing the speaker describe her struggle with running the organization she had created that required funds and investments, I have learned the balancing of idealism and practicality. I learned the significance of considering sustainable models, exploring partnerships, and seeking innovative solutions to ensure the longevity as well as sustainability of our business projects. Xiaojie said, “We all have our comfort levels.” The concept of comfort levels reminds us that everyone has their own boundaries and preferences. When starting a business or organization, it should be a crucial reminder that we have our own comfort zone and to work within it. Through this, we should understand our strengths, values, and limitations that could enable us to make reasonable decisions and build a venture that aligns with who we are. She added that “when you do your hobby in a way that others want,” we will soon lose our interest. Xiaojie’s comment highlights the importance of maintaining the personal connection and enthusiasm that we have for our chosen endeavor. I asked myself, what if I’m never ready simply to commit the leap of faith and belief in pursuing psychology as a career? Unexpectedly Xiaojie made another point: “We are and never will be ready.” I was never ready to break free from the chains that peers and relatives fabricated. Still, I was willing to change the current circumstances in which I was situated - lost, unknowning of the future and what I aim for as an occupation. For far too long, I had allowed myself to be confident in the perceptions and limitations that others imposed. I find myself often waiting for the perfect moment or seeking the validation of others before pursuing what I truly want. The weight of familial and peer expectations pressed heavily upon me. I lost myself in the 'role confusion' stage of Erik Ericson’s psychosocial development. Pressures and aspirations conflicted with one another, causing my mental health to degrade. But I yearn for a sense of purpose and direction. As Xiaojie previously stated, I am reminded that readiness is not a destination for one’s success but a continuous process of growth and self-discovery; to be quite honest, it is in the moments of uncertainty and stepping into the unknown where we find the strength and resilience to create a future aligned with our true desires. This is one of the most important takeaways for me during this event. I realized, truly, that I’m under the influence of my peers and parents in the field I’m stepping into, although I sometimes struggle with the idea of whether I should take these influences into account. However, I should take these influences to a certain extent in the belief that some are beneficial while incorporating them into my inner voice, where I observe and answer this situation holistically. Attending this panel discussion has been a transformative experience for me as a high school student. With each step that I take in the future, to forge my path with a renewed sense of purpose and determination, I will continue to honor and challenge my comfort levels by embracing the uncertainty and striving for a future that stands with my values.

  • Sign Up | Mental Health Peer Support Group in Beijing

    Updated in Oct 2023. Moving to a new country, going through a breakup, losing a job, or living with mental conditions are very challenging. Yet, there’s no reason to suffer alone when one can choose to join hands with others and let the power of connection and group support encourage and heal us. In the absence of such social support in Beijing, CandleX established the peer support group in October, 2015, with the goal to provide psychosocial support to Beijing community. It provides a safe and supportive environment for people living in and out of Beijing to share personal thoughts and experiences in small, confidential gatherings. To understand this project, or if you’d like to read our 1st, 2nd and 3rd year support group review, please visit https://www.candlex.cn/mental-health-support-group. NOTE: If you are looking for information about mental health treatments or have a close friend or family member who is living with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety and you want to support them, our Pre-treatment Guidance Program is perfect for that. Please read here and sign up accordingly. Key Information Peer support group Participants: Our support groups are for people living with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or suicide ideation. The support group is especially effective for newcomers who are in situations of lack of social support, experiencing shame and guilt of having depression or people who present an elevated risk of mental illness. Date: every second and fourth Tuesday (both offline by default) Time : 19:30-21:00 Location: near Dongdaqiao (details will be communicated via a confirmation email after 4 pm, the day before each meeting) Language: English Max number: 7 people each session Fee: 50rmb Registration via scanning QR code, or click on https://yoopay.cn/event/05475102 Support Group coordinator will reach out via private message to confirm your registration after screening and payment. Content and Approach: During the meeting, the core elements are as follow: Share our stories and feelings, and let others help you and give you emotional support when dealing with the difficult emotions alone. Help each other recognize the importance of tending to and promoting our own self-care The meeting is generally conducted in talking and sharing, but we offer other approaches to make sure that we feel relaxed and comfortable to share, including some guided meditation, breathing exercises, etc. There is one facilitator to throughout the session, monitor the progress of each session and facilitate group interactions. Keep in touch with each other, as we have a WeChat group (that you may join after attending at least one meeting) where you would be informed of Beijing community mental health events, other information that might be helpful for your recovery. Peer Group Principles We shall not be held responsible for group member’s safety. We are all peers. There are no professionals in this group. CandleX will not be responsible for people engaging in self-harm or suicidal ideations. By signing up to the peer support group, I understand and agree to release CandleX and its staff or volunteers from any or all liability connected to my own participation, including but not limited to any forms of self-harm or suicide. All information shared with the group is confidential. All new participants will need to register first for eligibility screening. No graphic description of suicide, self-harm and death as it may trigger some of the attendees. Please note that this is a Peer Support Group, there will be no professional therapists attending. If you have any concerns or feedback of the support group, we welcome you to let us know by emailing it to xiaojie.qin@candlex.cn . The concern would be handled sensitively directly by CandleX’s director. CandleX Resources If you are in a crisis, please seek a professional immediately at the same time. Your will find useful information on our crisis page, visit: https://www.candlex.cn/single-post/crisis-hotlines-be-brave-reach-out-for-help. If you’re more interested in how to navigate the mental health world and get more info on how to get support or get treatment, for you or someone you know, please check out our pretreament guidance program. If you are looking for professional support, you can check out our video channel this channel for more info. If you’re a facilitator or interested in becoming one and joining the facilitator processing group, please check out the facilitator’s processing group article.

  • ‘What do I Want to Do When I grow Up’ | A Teenager’s Reflection

    Leo Yu, a 16 year old Chinese student attending international school in Beijing, recently joined our teens empowerment/mentorship project this summer in 2023. I took him to the entrepreneurship story night by startup Grind where I was presenting as a guest speaker, with the hope of giving him some idea of what entrepreneurship is about. Not the logistical knowledge on how to start one, but rather the awareness of each entrepreneur’s inner self, both strengths and struggles, and understanding of ‘entrepreneur’ as a manifestation of how we interact with the world. At his age, teenagers are starting to answer the big question. Some teens set foot on the right path, and some do not. Those who do not, are still seeking answers today, regardless of their age. What do I want to do when I grow up? If you are a parent, a college application counselor, a teacher, I hope this #TeensOpenLetter can offer some deeper insights into a teen’s world beneath the surface level, and aid you to work with them better. If you are a teenager reading this article, I hope you understand that the confusion, doubts, pressure, and stress at this time of your life are emotions that every teenager experience. Yet if you find that they are too much for you to deal with, and you start to experience depression or anxiety, don’t forget to reach out for help. School counselors are always there, guiding you through it. Have you met them yet? Xiaojie Qin Psychotherapist, Director of CandleX Oct 2023 Leo Yu, that is my name. As you can tell from the last name, I’m Chinese. I'm currently 16 years old and in my junior year at an international school here. I grew up in an ordinary family no different from any other, with kids entering the world in the mid 00’s capital city of Beijing, China. My mother is a housewife, and my grandfather has been a doctor his entire life. He aspires for the younger generations of his family to pursue the same occupation as him. It was when one of my cousins told him she was going to major in medical management, that I saw a smile on his face that I had never seen before in my life. My dad, on the other side of my family, CEO of a well-known business abroad, also holds his own expectations for me to start a business. As for me, at the age of 16 I question myself, "What occupation should I pursue later in life?”. The thing is at this age, nearly reaching adulthood, teenagers get anxious due to the lessening amount of time they have left to answer to this question. A question that is asked by almost all family, relatives, and friends. It wasn’t long ago in 2022, during my freshman year in high school, when I started pondering what the future holds for me almost on a daily basis. Viewing social media everyday and seeing people starting and booming up with their businesses caused me tremendous stress and pressure. In my view, being an entrepreneur, especially one with an economics or business major, is not such a unique or personal choice since it is the advice that almost every Chinese family provides their children. At the same time, I felt scared about being replaced by artificial intelligence. Or ending up in a job that cannot sustain my desired lifestyle and hobbies (take for example my interest in the rhetoric of English language and literature). I, like many of my peers, was raised with the constant question of what career path we are going to follow. Occupations such as “doctor”, “CEO”, or “engineer’’ are the most common responses that fill our classroom. All of us have, at one point or another, aspired to get a job that offers a lucrative wage; to make a name for not just ourselves, but for our family. My journey towards discovering my career path has been filled with twists and turns, not just from peer pressures, but also the “iron chains” that family expectations put on us, restraining our choices. I don’t know if my parents know that the high expectations they put on their children creates such heavy burden. To be quite frank, I really wish that my parents could communicate with me in a way that differs to how their own parents demonstrated their love. I wish that I could overcome the fear of opening up to my parents, and tell them the way I actually want them advise me when it comes to my future career. Not through common phrases such as: “this is for your own good” or “this is what you really need in the future to live a lavish life.” Rather, I dream that maybe someday I could hear them say: “I'm here to support you every step of the way,” or “I trust and have faith in every decision that you make.” I don’t tell them this because I fear that they might take it as criticism, and that’s not what I mean. I also know that they do what they do out of love. So I haven’t expressed how I really feel in an honest and transparent way. I fear that, if I do, they wouldn’t be able to listen because they already know what they want from me. Do they care about what I want for me? Although this is their way of expressing their love and care, and they do want the best for me - a stable, rich life ahead - I just have to say it all feels just like any other traditional family with kids born in 00’s. I personally believe that what I really need and want is to have my parents’ method of care changed, the tone of their voices from demanding to inviting and affectionate. Ultimately, what I seek is a shift in the way my parents and I communicate as I continue to explore my career path. I aspire to find balance between following my own passions in psychology and mental health, and fulfilling the desires of my parents to the fullest possible and attainable extent. In the end, I hope that my parents can embrace the idea that my happiness and fulfillment lie not just in meeting societal and familial expectations, but in pursuing a career that truly resonates with my passions and values. And so, as I continue this path of self-discovery into the unknown, I remain optimistic that we can bridge the gap of misunderstanding between generations to foster a bond and bridge built on mutual understanding and unwavering support.

  • A Letter to Educators on Student’s Mental Health Work

    Author: Xiaojie Psychotherapist, Director of CandleX Time: Oct 2023 Stepping out of the campus of an international school in Tianjin, I couldn’t help feeling hopeful and inspired by the effort made by this school to improve its students’ mental health. In many schools in China, students are not willing to seek counseling and therapy support from school counselors. One time, I was told that the room where students go to for counseling and therapy is called the ‘crazy room’ and ‘No students want to volunteer themselves to go’. This was a typical description for Chinese schools. Even in international schools, situations are not much better. Growing up in China, I’ve witnessed a significant improvement of people’s attitude towards mental health in the past decades. Working as a therapist and advocate for mental health, I am usually in contact with people who seek my help, my opinions and services. If I am not self-aware, I tend to forget that my experiences are skewed because the majority of people that I work with volunteer themselves to my services. There are many people out there that still cannot talk about mental health, still feel ashamed of feeling bad or going through a hard time. I do not always have access directly to these groups. But luckily, in recent years, there’s a growing number of workplaces and schools that are paying more attention to student mental health, and actively seeking external support to reduce stigma and bring awareness to the very core of being a human: our emotions. An international school in Tianjin is one of them. In Sep 2023, I delivered a workshop to their high school students on campus. Although it’s important to teach students emotional regulation skills, and address common struggles of peer relations, family pressure, academic stress, the school counselor and I decided to first begin by covering the basics of stigma reduction. Only when shame dies, can a person accept themselves where they are, learn emotional coping skills, and seek help. In schools today, even in international schools, we cannot rush into “teaching” yet when the students’ emotional brain is still offline. 90 mins workshop went by quickly. I gave them an chance to anonymously express their struggles and rate them according to the level of stress they experience. We then categorized the submissions so we could collectively see them, thus bringing these topics into the light. We had moments where we addressed the very real, but often taboo topic, of contemplating life and death. I showed them post cards of adults who live with bipolar disorder who I worked with and who joined me to do awareness raising in Beijing. All of these, luckily, help those who struggle in isolation alone to understand that they are not alone. As they wrote in their feedback, this workshop gave them a beam of light that they too, could recover. In my nearly decade-long campaign to raise awareness on mental health, I always talk to participants’ emotional brain, where shame resides. I share stories - my stories, stories of community members, stories of adults or teens I’ve worked with who’ve joined us to share their personal experiences with mental health. I try to create an environment of safe and strong vulnerability that we all need in order to be allowed to feel the difficult feelings, and be okay with to them. We cannot ask a student or an adult to go see a counselor and hope they’d listen by explaining to them why it’s helpful. We must talk to the emotional part of them that resists getting help, even though they may logically think it’s not a bad idea. I admire educators who think outside the box to address mental health on campus, and I am inspired that more and more educators are reaching out to do whole school mental health, in addition to putting school counselors into place. Mentally health students mean mentally healthy adults, and a mentally healthy society means more peace and joy in this world.

  • 8th Anniversary | CandleX Mental Health Peer Support Group

    In 2015, I organized the first meeting of the mental health Peer support group in Beijing because I couldn't find one myself. Today, it celebrates its 8th anniversary. Consistency has always been a value that I take seriously. I am glad that now, in the year 2023, we see more people offering support, collaborating to provide more coherent services. In these eight years, we have not only provided a space for people who are struggling with depression and anxiety, but also created opportunities for those who want to help the community, want to explore their interest in working in mental health, or who are applying for psychology majors. We have opened up all internal trainings so we can provide what we have learned running the support group to others who want to start their own groups. Last but not least, I'm truly thankful for the trust our community has placed in us along these years. Xiaojie Qin Director of CandleX

  • Effortless Consistency | Xiaojie’s Reflections

    Author: Xiaojie Qin Time: 2023 If consistency requires tremendous effort and self-discipline on your part, you might not be pursuing the right thing. Just as your stomach doesn’t require your conscious effort to be consistent about eating, your mind inherently knows what it wants and desires. Therein lies your potential for fulfillment and loving your life. We have collectively been starving our minds for so long, and we over compensate with self-discipline. If you dare, for a moment, set aside the goals, the endless pursuits that have gotten you to this place of disliking yourself, not enjoying the things you do. Try stopping. It's unthinkable, I know. It requires courage. But when you get through that intense fear, you will meet the passionate and life-loving you on the other side. When you let passion fuel your consistency, you will tap into that unconscious flow. Find your effortless consistency. “What I admire about you is that you can do one thing over and over again, to the point of excellence for which you are paid”. My friends say this to me sometimes. I have never spent as much time enjoying hearing this as I should. There’s always a part of me that tells me to be humble, a part of me that has the ‘imposter syndrome’ and shuns compliments, and a part of me that doesn’t know how to respond to them. Today, I decide to take a different approach- a proud one. This summer, just out of the blue, I started recording yoga videos after 10 years of regular yoga practice. In just a couple of months, I’ve recorded over 40 videos in different parts of Beijing, and in multiple other countries. I wouldn’t call it ‘hard work’, despite the fact that it required me to get up around 5am on many days and get to the location before security guards start working. My casual summertime yoga videos amounting to 40 surprised me. I never really count the numbers. I simply find myself consistent with the majority of the things I do in life, including my work with CandleX, my hobbies as a dancer, yoga practitioner and teacher, my meditation practice, etc. I always find the concept of ‘hard work’ to be problematic. I invite you to take a different perspective looking at people who can day in and day out do one thing over and over again. Perhaps they also adopt this ‘effortless consistency’ as I do. Perhaps, you may find a different relationship with the things you do. Special thanks to Katie Lai, our newest member of our teen mental health mentorship project , for putting this video together with patience and delicacy. Xiaojie Qin Oct 2023

  • A Note To My OCD Clients | Xiaojie’s Reflection On Her Asthma

    Author: Xiaojie Qin Psychotherapist, Director of CandleX Time: Aug 2023 Over the past year, I have found myself getting more and more anxious as my asthma symptoms worsened. OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder) is something that can be developed when there are stressful events. As a teenager, I had some quirks that overlap with OCD patients‘ behaviors. I remember I had to buy my journals from the same store, and use the same pen to write in that journal. If I didn’t have the same pen, I wouldn’t want to write. I grew out of it eventually, but as an adult, I continue taking note of my mental hygiene tendencies. In the past six months, I tried many different ways to manage my asthma symptoms: all different kinds of western medication in different combinations and dosages; Chinese medicine on top of western medicine; acupuncture, the traditional kind, the new kind; dramatic change of diet; management of the environment in terms of humidity and air quality, and the list goes on and on. When you cannot breath, you are desperate to find the cure, any cure that could effectively help you live like a normal person. My fear of not being able to breath increased excessively after a few random asthma attacks. I have seen my brain trying so hard to make connections between what are really just random dots, which doesn’t really make sense. That’s the emotional brain’s need to release the anxiety generated by not knowing. It asks my rational, or sometimes as I call it, my thinking brain to do whatever it can to make sense of what’s happening. The benefit is that we have a chance to figure out what’s going on and manage it; the disadvantage is that the dots might not align and things not making sense can lead to a feeling of desperation. I find sometimes that hours pass by while I research asthma treatments online. An entire weekend morning could go by without me even noticing. This pattern began to take over my schedule which was initially filled with fun stuff: walking my dog along the river, practicing handstand, rehearsing a dance routine, etc. It made sense to do all this research at the beginning, a few months back, when I knew little about asthma. But now, I don’t find new info anymore. If I continue to get caught in that same researching mode, my day is spent in an anxious, exhausting, and ineffective way. Luckily, being a therapist myself, I know the best way to save myself is to make sure I contain the emotional needs to know. My daily yoga and meditation practice serves as a foundation for me to create space for my emotion needs, and not get too carried away by them (check out my recent article on yoga here). I use distractions, such as indulging myself in my hobbies, so my mind is not overly obsessed with finding out how to treat asthma. Very recently, my airway opened up a lot more. Not sure what worked, but I suddenly felt a release of pressure in my bronchial tube. It felt like the invisible hand that’d been squeezing my breathing pipe for weeks suddenly let go. I was thrilled and nervous at the same time. I’ll get to the nervous part in another chapter. For now, I want to keep the focus on what happened to my emotional brain, which yells at my thinking brain and demands it to make sense of things so the emotion of confusion could resolve. The rest of the day, I kept wondering what it was I did that helped. Was it the new type of acupuncture, maybe the newly added emergency treatment, could it be that one medicine that I started taking again? Or could it be the bubbly water that I started drinking? I do also feel a sudden relief of the airway pressure when the bubbly water makes me burp… There were so many voices came to my head. “It has to be the bubbly water”. “It has to be the new medicine”. “It has to be the emergency treatment.” Even my mom’s voice interjected to say- with humor yet complete seriousness- “I donated money to the temple and put your name on it. I think that’s what’s working”. If I am not careful enough, I can feel the tendency to just believe in one voice so that I can rest. Our mind works on its own to seek relief. In this case, I know it started to form a belief that soda water would stretch my airway and I would be able to breathe through conversations. I began to find myself drinking more soda water, especially before meetings when I struggle to get air or felt nervous. Sometimes I found myself reaching for soda when I got anxious about my asthma. My mind tried to ease itself by doing something about the situation. I know I had to be careful with this behavior because one soda water could potentially turn into 2, 3 and 4. That’s what happens to OCD patients with ineffective routines: as long I check the door lock one more time, I can be re-assured that it’s locked, thus the house is safe and my family will be okay. One check turns into 10 checks, which then turns into 100. I had to have a calm conversation with my mom about the fact that so far, we have not found any specific triggers for my asthma, and the doctors haven’t found out an effective treatment that leads to sustained improvement. “Your donation and prayers might have worked, and they might not have” (I feared she wouldn’t accept if I said ‘probably’ or ‘could not’). I paused, and luckily, she replied, “You are right. I do not know. I’m just glad you can breathe normally today as well.” She has been worried sick, feeling useless being a mom not able to help her daughter (I’ll always be her little girl even when I’m 60!). She’s seen my asthma symptoms worsen over the last few months despite undergoing more treatment. I know that knowing how to help me would ease her anxiety and allow her to relax emotionally. When I heard her associating my recovery to her donations and prayers, I was concerned that she’d just keep donating money on my behalf and praying. Once we go down that road of fixation, we are heading towards the possibility of OCD behaviours. I am not particularly worried about myself and my mom, because we do not tend to cope that way. But if my mom did have OCD tendencies, she might go down that road. In this case there could be potential for her to donate more and more money in order to feel she’s done enough for me. The temporary mental relief she’d get from the act of donation would then lead to the need to repeat the same behavior more frequently and intensively to produce the same emotional result. Does it sound familiar? The negative loop- OCD patients spiraling down into a thinking/behaviour pattern and becoming trapped inside. It’s a similar pattern for addiction to gambling, sex, drugs & alcohol, and all that fall under the addiction category. This note of my observation serves as an exercise for me to understand what’s going on in my mind in response to the new situation of worsening asthma, so I can be careful of falling into any habitual mind traps. I also hope this note can help those with OCD to unpack their own situations and better understand the anxiety, fear, compulsions, and emotional/physical pains that come with the unknown. I would like to end on a positive note with this encouragement for all: Let’s not forget, to live, to laugh, to love and to enjoy life nonetheless. Xiaojie is a Chinese-English psychotherapist and the director of CandleX. She runs a video channel that addresses common questions the public has about psychotherapy and psychology. Scan the QR code to follow her. If you are interested in inquiring about her psychotherapy services, whether for individuals or couples, please feel free to email her directly at xiaojieqin2020@163.com.

  • Wellness in Sanlitun | Yoga and Psychotherapy

    This is part 2 of the conversation between Xiaojie and Bruno, on mental health and yoga. CandleX founder Xiaojie in conversation with Bruno, founder of Avisha Space. Located in Sanlitun, Avisha Space is a yoga studio imbued with openness and spirituality. Xiaojie and Bruno discuss the therapeutic journey of stepping onto your yoga mat, finding stability within your body, and reconnecting with the present. CandleX and Avisha are joining forces for an upcoming event to promote mindfulness and mental health through yoga.

  • Meeting Myself on the Mat | Xiaojie’s story with Yoga

    Author: Xiaojie Qin Psychotherapist Founder and Director of CandleX Date: July 2023 As a therapist, I encourage my clients to try yoga or meditation, not only because research shows that it helps to enhance body and mind resilience, but because I am a living testimony to its benefits. Unlike jiu-jitsu or swing dance, both of which I fell in love with at first sight, my initial yoga session was a terrifying experience. However, this year marks the milestone of ten years of practicing yoga. I am glad that I finally sit down and reflect on yoga journey and I want to share this with you. Video below Impossible? Do anyway Yoga isn’t easy. I can attest to that! I still vividly remember my first yoga class back in 2008. The teacher instructed us to do a basic forward fold, and as I glanced at my colleagues next to me touching their toes, I couldn't help but wonder how they managed it. I tried with all my effort and I was just reaching for the impossible. The next few classes were just as challenging. I struggled to understand when to breathe in and when to breathe out. The slow pace of the class only served to highlight my lack of coordination with my breath. Even something as seemingly simple as the resting pose, downward dog, felt impossible for me. It all felt overwhelming and left me feeling defeated and frustrated. In all honesty, I only persisted because my workplace covered the cost of the class, and the convenience of having the teacher come to our office made the decision to continue easier. The Alignment To me, the very basic of yoga is the most important work, and alignment is at the center of yoga practice. First, it's the alignment of our bones, by paying attention to how we engage our muscles. Our everyday modern life is so busy. We don't have time to pay attention to that, and then we have shoulder, knee, or back pain. I think of our bodies as a fine machine that requires fine-tuning. I think of old age, and I know money would not buy me a pain-free body. Second, it's the alignment of our breath and movement. Using breath to guide the body, to deepen the posture, to propel movement. The breath should never be compromised. Do you know why? That's where grace resides. Grace has time, and grace never rushes. Grace is patience, and practice within the window of tolerance. Our breath indicates where we are in the window of tolerance, so use breath to guide our level of effort. Yoga does the opposite of what we do the rest of the day, where our body follows the orders of the mind. In yoga, I give priority to my body, listening to its signals, monitoring my breath, and managing my mind to create a joyful, rewarding experience that draws me back to the mat every day. Beyond the Mat In recent years, I have had many moments where I realized how much yoga has helped me in everything else I do. When I went surfing for the first time in Sri Lanka in 2018, about 5 years after starting my yoga practice, the coach said I had good balance as a beginner. Boy, did that make me proud! In 2021, when I went horse riding in Siguniang Mountain, the 8 hours on the horse seemed to fly by. I was moving with the horse and able to engage my core while keeping the rest of my body relaxed. You have to know, prior to my yoga practice, horse riding was painful, uncomfortable and plain scary to me. This year in 2023, when I went rock climbing for the first time, the coach said I was using my core correctly, and I did well. that made me wanna dance. Oh, I did! Talking about dancing (In Dance, I Expanded | My Story With Swing Dance), my dancing has also improved over the years, and yoga has definitely helped me do jiujitsu (Never say Never | My Love Story With Brazilian Jiujitsu) better as well. Injured and Healed My time before yoga, it was difficult to be me. I felt broken in many ways, my body wasn’t strong enough, neither was my mind. A healthy body serves as a stable foundation for a peaceful mind. Honestly, if you asked me when I was 21 if I could envision myself achieving what I have accomplished with my body, my answer would have been a resounding no. I endured severe back injuries that left me unable to lift even moderately heavy objects for five long years. Living with perpetual back pain, despite countless treatments, was a constant struggle. Medical professionals expressed skepticism about my chances of recovering to the level I was at prior to the injury, but they were proven wrong. Not only have I recovered, but I have surpassed all expectations. Mentally, I have transitioned from experiencing severe mood swings in my 20s to being able to observe my own emotional state and gradually readjust and reposition my thoughts and behaviours so I remain in harmony with myself more and more. Through yoga, I have learned the virtues of patience, consistency, distress tolerance, and self-trust. I've faced numerous challenges and setbacks throughout my life, which have compelled me to deposit faith into the jar of self-trust in order to weather the storm. One meaningful item that symbolizes my journey is this Buddha statue, a cherished memento from my trip to Bali years ago. At the conclusion of each practice, I bow to this statue, imbuing it with the strength and unwavering faith I have cultivated for those uncertain days filled with doubt and instability. Each mantra etched into this statue, from #patience and #present to #receive and #relax #focus #grace, represents the countless daily sessions where I developed and repeated these affirmations. This year, I discovered the profound joy of recording my yoga sessions outdoors, in locations that truly deserve mindful moments to savor. Through reviewing these recordings, I have gained valuable insights into areas where I can enhance my practice, allowing me to approach each session with greater consciousness. Additionally, the sheer bliss of awakening early to bask in Beijing's tranquil atmosphere, along with that of other cities, has been truly remarkable. If you are interested, please visit my video channel on YouTube and Bilibili (search for #xiaojieyoga or #小杰瑜伽), where you'll find a collection of these videos available in both English and Chinese. I look forward to meeting you on the mat. Namaste.

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