It’s been a week since the Malaysian government imposed a nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) to curb Coronavirus spread. Even if you’re a hardcore introvert, cabin fever might have already settled in. Whether you’re living alone, have a few housemates, or are with family, it’s a huge challenge to deal with the implications of the deadly virus and also the major disruption to your routine.
We spoke to Kenny Lim, executive director of Befrienders KL on how to take care of our mental health during times like these. Even if you’re unaffected, keep other members of the family or your home in mind, especially if they’re prone to anxiety or depression. Lim offers 7 guidelines to help you get through this with your sanity (hopefully) intact.
1. Maintain normality
“Try your best to continue living as per normal and carry on with your normal routine as much as you can. Wake up early and change into suitable attire (not pyjamas!), work at a designated work space or work station. Let the sun in and take a break when needed,” he says.
It’s also important to take small breaks in between so you don’t burn out from working. Among some ideas Lim has on what you can do during these breaks include watching funny videos, talking to someone, meditation, decluttering your home, read a book (or if you’re feeling ambitious, write one), paint/doodle/draw or just take a nice, long shower at the end of each day.
2. Take care of your health and wellbeing
Lim said it is essential to take care of your diet and get adequate rest and quality sleep. You may think of sleeping in now so that you can work from home, but maintaining a proper sleep schedule is important in getting enough sleep.
Also, you shouldn’t throw your dieting efforts out the window. Skip the instant noodles and focus on eating a well-balanced diet, preferably with whole foods. You can get it delivered to your doorstep during this MCO period.
3. Limit your screen time
“It’s very tempting to spend time online if you are doing nothing else. Just be careful with how you are feeling while browsing through social media,” reminds Lim.
We know you want to keep up with news on Covid-19 cases around the world, but you can’t deny that it’s draining. “There are so many posts about the current situation and this can evoke fear and anxiety. Limit the time spent reading about this and only obtain information from trusted reliable sources such as Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM) and World Health Organisation (WHO).”
You know what that means – no relying on fake news sent over to your extended family group chat on Whatsapp. You should probably limit your screen time all the same; indulging too much in social media can take a toll on your mental health.
4. Take some time to self-reflect
“Some questions you can ask: What do you want to do after CMO is over? What do you want to change in your life? What do you want for your future? It helps to have some things to look forward to in the future, because it gives hope in this period of difficulties,” suggests Lim.
There’s no better time than now to do some self-reflection – after all, there are no external factors to distract you. This is particularly helpful if you’re sharing the same house as someone you’re don’t necessarily get along with, whether it’s a family member or a friend.
“Ask yourself: what are the reasons for this? How do you feel about your relationship with this person? Would you want to improve it? If yes, how would you approach it?” suggests Lim.
5. If you’re living alone, stay connected
Staying on your own may create a sense of isolation. Remember to stay connected with your loved ones, says Lim
Most of us probably aren’t used to working from home or staying at home for such long periods. Those who live alone may feel this especially more. Lim recommends chatting with friends by texting each other and calling or video-calling family members to keep in touch.
“Knowing that the people you care for are doing fine brings relief. It is also a good time to catch up with a long-lost friend or family member,” he continues.
6. Reach out for help
If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, this period of self-isolation may be more difficult for you. It might even aggravate your condition, says Lim, hence it’s important you reach out for help if you need it.
If you have someone that you can trust, talk to them and share your feelings and concerns with them. Otherwise you can call helplines such as the Befrienders KL, which offers emotional support for 24 hours.
“Other ways of expressing your feelings include writing a journal or expressing it through art. Spending time with a pet helps too,” he advises.
7. Help others too
Living with someone who has depression can be challenging, but not impossible. It’s important that you lend your support to them during times like these, which may be more difficult for them to take in. Lim advises giving them time to talk about how they feel without interrupting or judging them.
“Do not deny their feelings, instead validate their feelings of fear and anxiety and any uncomfortable feelings that they may be experiencing,” he adds.
“If they are on medication, gently remind them to take their medicine on time. If they are worried about the COVID-19 situation and CMO, share verified information and encourage them to talk about it openly.”
Safeguard your mental health during our trying times. If you feel helpless and don’t have anyone to turn to, call the Befrienders KL helpline at +603-7956 8145.
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia KL.