With the Movement Control Order in force, the sudden and drastic changes to daily routines can bring about negative feelings like confusion, frustration, dismay, anxiety and helplessness.
A recent study published in The Lancet has revealed that being in quarantine over a long period of time is linked with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms with some research suggesting these effects can be long-lasting.
In times like these, the best way to take control of our mental health is to be aware of the signs:
- Strong, overpowering feelings of fear and anxiety over health, family safety, income
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco
Here are some simple yet effective measures to help you stay in control.
1. Take time to explore your feelings
Ask yourself: How do I feel about this current situation? How is it affecting my actions and behaviours?
Realise that it’s okay to feel sad or alone. Write out how you feel and what you think is making you feel that way.
Look at that list with a clear mind and evaluate whether these things are outside your control.
Consider talking out your thoughts and plans with someone you trust who can give you reassurance or offer alternative suggestions.
2. Stick to your old routines (as much as possible)
The Covid-19 outbreak may have transformed how you live your daily life, but that doesn’t mean everything has to change.
Maintain your normal routine by keeping some structure from your pre-quarantine days.
If working from home is new to you, start your day the same way you would if you were heading into the office. Get dressed and get coffee if it helps keep you focused on work.
Having some sort of familiarity in your daily activities can make life feel more manageable. Studies have also found that your body tends to perform better when eating, sleeping and exercise patterns are set to a consistent schedule.
3. Concentrate only on things you can control
With so much doubt in the air, it’s essential to accept that you are not in control of many things.
The most important thing you should be focusing on now is safeguarding yourself and those around you.
- Wash your hands often.
- Cover your mouth when you cough and nose (with a tissue) when you sneeze.
- Avoid touching your face whenever possible.
- Avoid non-essential travel.
- Leave face masks for medical professionals, caretakers, and individuals at higher risk of infection.
- Keep your immune system strong by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and getting an adequate amount of sleep.
4. Embrace the ambiguities and focus on the positive things
Stop obsessing over things like, what will happen next? When will this all end?
Instead, focus on the positive and uplifting moments. Start thinking over things to be grateful for such as your safety, a roof over your head, or your friends.
Or think about what you can do to treat yourself. Take it a step further and think about what you can do for others.
5. Stay connected
Don’t detach yourself completely. According to studies, solitude can be as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Keep in touch with friends, family, neighbours, and coworkers. Ask how they’re doing and let them know how you’re doing. Offer support, love and encouragement.
Humans are wired to rely on social connections. Staying connected helps with stress management and guards against unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol consumption and over-eating.
6. Count your blessings
Be grateful for your health, friends and family.
Appreciate the frontliners, from doctors and nurses to delivery workers to the folks bagging your groceries. These are the heroes who are knowingly placing themselves at risk to serve society.
7. Stay updated with reliable sources
Stay informed about what’s happening through reliable sources, such as the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation.
8. Seek mental health advice
Seek professional help if you’re finding it hard to adjust to social distancing.
- Consider services like TheHelpTalk which allows you to communicate with mental health professionals through their digital platform.
- The Befrienders is a non-profit organisation providing emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week without any charge.
- Malaysia Mental Health Association also provides support via their phone line (03-2780 6803) on any mental health issues with qualified mental health professionals providing psychological support services.
The bottom line is you should take care not only of your physical health, but your mental health as well.
Do your part to adhere to government regulations and maintain social distancing to help flatten the curve.
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