5 steps to good mental health as life returns to normalcy during the pandemic


Individuals who have issues with anxiety may benefit from relaxation and breathing techniques. Photo: Unsplash/Dingzeyu Li

World Mental Health Day is observed on Oct 10 every year to raise awareness about mental health issues as well as mobilise efforts in support of mental health.

According to Thrive Well (a social enterprise that offers mental healthcare services) clinical psychologist Anum Sofea Muhamad Fadzli, the first step to mental health improvement is to “understand that everyone, at some point in their life, may face challenges or issues that can impact their mental health – some more than others due to their past experiences, present concerns or other uncontrollable factors”.

“So, it would be unfair for anyone to think they’re a failure or an embarrassment if they have some ups and downs in their mental health. Understanding this is vital so that people will see mental health in the same light as physical health: it’s something that needs to be nurtured and strengthened, and if something goes wrong, to provide some TLC (tender loving care) to help bring it back to where it needs to be,” she advises.

“Only after having that understanding can one employ strategies for better mental health,” she adds. “For example, individuals who have issues with anxiety may benefit from relaxation and breathing techniques, while those who feel isolated or lonely during the pandemic can open up to their family and close friends for help or a listening ear,” says Anum Sofea. “Those who feel that they may need more help can also reach out to mental health professionals such as counsellors, psychologists or psychiatrists.”

Return to normalcy

People may find it difficult to change their routine from working at home back to working in the office again, and this can cause significant stress, says clinical psychologist Anum Sofea. Photo: Anum Sofea Muhamad FadzliPeople may find it difficult to change their routine from working at home back to working in the office again, and this can cause significant stress, says clinical psychologist Anum Sofea. Photo: Anum Sofea Muhamad FadzliDuring the pandemic, as life returns to some semblance of “normalcy”, we can foresee some challenges that people may face in transitioning, she says.

“Changes in work-life balance can be difficult to adjust to for some. People may find it difficult to change their routine from working at home back to working in the office again, and this can cause significant stress,” she adds.

For example, those who may have become nocturnal and usually work at night after the children have gone to bed because of fewer distractions may find it difficult to adjust to a nine to five routine again.

“We’ve had cases of people telling us that going back to work at the office feels awkward and anxiety-inducing because they haven’t seen or spoken to people – in this case, their co-workers – in person, for a very long period of time. Then, there is the nagging uncertainty and worry about health and safety from the Covid-19 coronavirus now that businesses are reopening, people are returning to workplaces, and children to school,” says Anum Sofea.

“People who have lost their livelihood during the pandemic may struggle with the pressure of finding a stable job and get depressed if they’re unable to,” she says.

In all these cases, a good social support is important.

“Talking about it – whether at work or at home – and discussing concerns and possible strategies will be helpful,” says Anum Sofea.

“But this support shouldn’t just be from friends or co-workers. Organisational-and-community level support is also helpful. This means having open discussions at work, a policy pertaining to mental health support or even online forums or discussions on social media to help reconnect people and ease the feeling of burden and stress. All this will help those who are struggling and unable to find help during the transition period,” she advises.

Self-care is essential

“Everyone needs to take care of their mental health as well as physical well-being. Often, people look after their physical health by exercising and eating well, but they forget to take care of their mental health,” she says.

“Seek mental health help if you need to. You can also get face-to face or online interventions to equip yourself with the strength needed to care for your loved ones,” she adds.

For more info, visit: ThriveWell

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