Yes, it has happened, my fellow Malaysians. After more than a year and several different variants of Movement Control Orders, the entire nation has entered into a third round of MCO. Many of us are rightfully angry, disappointed, and generally just mentally fatigued. As the battle against COVID-19 rages on, not just in our own backyard but around the world, it’s safe to say that many of us crave a return to pre-COVID days more than anything else.
Many of us are hurting and discouraged by the new round of the MCO, especially with Hari Raya festivities starting tomorrow. This marks the second year in a row that the annual “balik kampung” migration has been forcibly cancelled. I can only imagine the toll this is taking on all of us, especially our Muslim brethren.
I, too, have been feeling overwhelmed by the vicious, and seemingly endless cycles of MCOs and ballooning daily cases in Malaysia. But I also recognise that, beyond politics and personal sentiment towards the government and all parties involved, it really is now up to us to break the chain of transmission. But as much as the MCO is about safeguarding public physical health, we must also not ignore the mental health impact of these (hopefully) strictly-enforced measures.
As we stay at home and try as best as possible to get on with life, there are a few things we can do to keep sane during this trying time. Here are a few tips to help manage your mental health during MCO 3.0.
With the reimplementation of the Work From Home (WFH) policy, many of us will likely be spending more time at home. While first time WFH-ers might think that it’s a blessing, those of us who have tried WFH before know that it’s tougher than some people think it is. I’ve been working remotely even before the MCO and yes, it’s not that easy.
The temptation to procrastinate, the social separation from colleagues, the daunting task of facing work pressure on your own, all these can severely impact not only your work performance but also your mental health. One of the key things is to set boundaries.
What do I mean by that? Well, while it can be nice to work in a comfortable environment like your own home, you can quickly become too comfortable. Your pets or family members might interrupt you during work or perhaps you might be working in bed which will likely kill any motivation for the day.
Try, as best as possible, to have a distinct working space (preferably not the kitchen or you’ll be eating a lot!). Make it clear to family members that they should keep distractions to a minimum while you’re working. Set a proper time frame if that helps. Nothing feels as demotivating as not being able to complete a task on time, so try to avoid that!
Taking off days
Another important aspect of working from home during the MCO is taking a break. I had a friend who, during MCO 2.0, confessed to me that he was on the verge of a mental breakdown. He was fatigued and mentally exhausted. When I suggested that he take a couple of days off from work, he immediately said no. His reasoning was that he was “already working from home” and so it was unnecessary to take leave.
I cannot stress this enough: working from home is not the same as being on leave! You may not physically be in the office, but you’re still spending time on your work and your tasks. In fact, WFH may even result in you working more than usual as it’s easy to lose track of time!
If you feel tired or worn out, PLEASE, exercise your rights as an employee and take a few days off to recharge. Do not feel guilty about taking a break for the wellbeing of your mental health! Don’t forget, it is your right to take an off day, even during the WFH period of the MCO.
Shut out your social media
I understand that keeping up with the latest information is super important these days, especially with the constantly changing SOPs and directives. However, social media burnout is a real thing and in some cases, it can even cause insomnia and depression.
The overflow of information, especially with regards to the pandemic can be downright overwhelming. If you feel tired out by looking at the constant influx of tweets and Facebook posts during the MCO, it’s best to sign out of your social media for a few days.
Let your mind rest and let your mental health recover. I have one golden rule: if it is important enough, that information will reach you one way or another. So don’t worry about “missing out” if you turn off your social media!
Fill your time and don’t be idle
I’m the type of person who, if I have free time and I’m not doing anything, my mind starts to wander and I start overthinking. It then leads to more mental exhaustion and a feeling of gloom and doom.
If you find yourself with plenty of free time, try to find ways to fill it. It doesn’t even have to be a meaningful activity! Of course, if you manage to learn a new skill during the MCO or start reading up on things like cryptocurrencies, great! But even if you’re just binging Netflix all day, it’s fine (especially on a day off!).
Filling your time by doing things you like or are interested in is vital to maintaining the state of your mental health during the MCO.
Step outside for a breather
Thankfully, unlike the first MCO, we’ll be allowed to leave the house for some fresh air this round. Jogging, cycling, and other individual outdoor exercises are allowed and I do urge you to take full advantage of this.
Being cooped up in your house all day is a mentally tiring experience. Not only is it physically healthy to step outside for some fresh air, but it also helps rejuvenate your mind. Even if you’re not a fan of jogging or cycling, you should also try some form of exercise to relieve your stress and stay physically active.
Keep in touch with family and friends
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, humans are social creatures that need daily interaction with others. Even as we come to terms with staying home during the MCO, don’t forget to check in with friends and family, even for a quick conversation.
Be it through Whatsapp, Skype, or a phone call, it’s always good to hear a familiar voice and read a text from a loved one. This is especially since Hari Raya is coming up and we’re not allowed to cross state or district borders to be with our friends and family.
If you have a friend or family member who you have not heard from in awhile, it’s always good to check in on them. We’re all in this together, so let’s try to be kinder to each other and to ourselves.
Find some normalcy
This sounds a bit oxymoronic. After all, how do we live “normally” when everything about this situation is anything but. However, even as we stay home during the MCO, we should try to establish a daily routine as we would in daily life. Our mental health will benefit a lot if we stick to some form of routine rather than just randomly pacing throughout the day.
Finally, understand that all this is temporary and we’re all in this together. Regardless of how we feel about the way the MCO is being handled, what matters most is that we support each other and together flatten the curve. Stay safe, Malaysians, and stay strong!