The world as we know it has entirely shifted under our feet in the last few months. As news about Coronavirus (Covid-19) dominates the headlines and public concern is on the rise, we need to have mental health awareness measures to fight the dreadful “Corona phobia”.
From stocking up on essentials to living life in snippets, we are struggling to unlearn and make the most of a new way of life.
Calls to mental health and suicide prevention hotlines have shot up drastically now more than ever. People with mental health issues such as depression and bipolar disorder have only seen their issues heightened. Meanwhile, those who have undergone paycuts, retrenchments and advised to furlough are worried about their job prospects, and soon-to-be-graduates will have to face the reality of a tough employment market.
But mostly, everyone else is troubled that they might contract the virus and spread it to their loved ones unknowingly.
As the saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. But what do you do when life throws a pandemic, a stock market crash, global recession, and the possibility of millions losing their jobs or going out of business, all at once? A multitude of negative emotions and thoughts snowball to a point they become overwhelming or destabilizing!
The first step to fixing this upside-down world is to bring a sense of control into your world and see through the day-to-day uncertainty.
#1. Optimise your news intake and only refer to legitimate sources
Limit reading information only from official sources like the World Health Organization (WHO), Ministry of Health (MOH) and other reliable Government sites.
Consider turning off automatic notifications and taking a break from the news updates and social media feeds. Setting boundaries to how much news you read, watch or listen will allow you to focus on your life and actions over which you have control.
#2. Create a weekly meal planner and learn pantry organization tips
Make a weekly meal plan and place it on your refrigerator. Printable weekly meal planners and pantry organisation tips and tricks are easily available on various local mommy blogs and lifestyle sites. Knowing what is going to be cooked, saves time and aids your grocery list with only what’s required.
Make an inventory list in excel and place it at a visible spot in the kitchen. Cross-reference this list for stock every week before grocery shopping. Anything that has been transferred or opened out of stock can make it on sticky notes. It’s always easy to miss something, so the list helps as a reminder.
A well thought out pantry and weekly meal plan can provide a sense of order plus help you eat mindfully and stay productive.
#3. Emotions and feelings
Feeling emotional, anxious, depressed or stressed are natural under the current circumstances. Allow yourself time to introspect and take note of your feelings. Everyone reacts and expresses differently in crisis. Some find solace in words, others in food, and some in other people, art or meditation. Whichever is your medium, follow your heart and find a way to express your feelings.
It is equally important to help children and the elderly cope with stress. Listen to their concerns and try answering their queries by providing the correct information about what is happening in the world. Help them understand things will be better if everyone takes care. Keep them in contact with their dear ones through phone calls/ video calls. Spend quality time with them and engage them in indoor activities. Encourage them to pick a hobby and create a routine.
Follow safety, hygiene and prevention recommendations provided by qualified health professionals. If all of this does not help, consider reaching out for professional support by Counsellor or peers at organizations like Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH), Institute of Mental Health (IMH).
#4. Practice gratitude and be of service to others
Pandemics such as the one we are currently grappling with can have brutal side-effects like illness, loss of job or income, or simply the worse— loss of a loved one. But practising gratitude for the things we do have can be hugely beneficial to mental health. Researchers have found that appreciating and helping one another releases dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These hormones make up the Happiness Trifecta or what Jason Silva calls the “Helper’s High”. Writing 5 things we are grateful for on a weekly basis, can impact us positively.
Beyond this, we are fundamentally social creatures, and during emergencies like this one, social bonding becomes the greatest determinant of wellbeing there is. An 80-year-long study from Harvard reports this as one of our most basic psychological needs.
Unfortunately, it’s the opposite of what we can do right now, but we have social media and a variety of apps to stay connected with each other. Just talking to one another and helping each other via ordering of food and other essentials for friends and neighbours on Stay-At-Home or Quarantine notices, or helping daily wage workers like cleaners, delivery men through cash payouts or community fundraising, can bring us happiness and provide help to those in need.
5, Have a routine, but also let yourself off the hook
Resiliency during traumatic times means eating meals at regular times, getting enough sleep, exercising at set times, and maintaining social contact (at a distance) helps you maintain control. Unstructured timings can create boredom as well as spike your anxiety and depression levels.
However, the most important thing to keep in mind is to not beat yourself up when things are not going as per plan. Above all, being upset with yourself is completely counterproductive. If the children get extra screen time or make a mess of things, it’s no big deal. It’s much more valuable for everyone to realize that life is precious and if we use this time to reflect on the important things, upon ourselves and try to keep an attitude that reiterates — “we’re all in this together”, then this too shall pass.
Written by Manasi Hukku. She likes to cover the intersection between research and relevance to help readers find a place they’ll love. She is a Medium columnist, mother of two and UX Conversation Designer.