Simple steps to staying mentally healthy in these trying pandemic times


The white flag campaign is intended to help people in dire need during this pandemic. — Filepic

Like most nations, we have experienced several nationwide movement restriction orders over the last 15 months due to Covid-19.

Such preventive measures are needed to ensure population health safety.

However, with such actions, many unhealthy lingering or associated issues are now slowly coming to light.

Some of the problems may revolve around the loss of income and livelihood, and degradation of the quality of life, be it reported or undocumented.

Indeed, living in times of uncertainty has induced fear and anxiety among Malaysians and has immensely affected the population’s psychological health.

Under the current circumstances, worrying is understandable.

Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives to effectively cope with uncertainties other than worrying about what the future holds.

Build a social network

One of the most effective and recommended coping mechanisms is to seek positive social support.

Seeking social support means being around friends, families and other individuals in times of crisis to acquire a broader perspective about any adverse events one is experiencing.

Multiple studies have highlighted that positive social support plays a significant role in enhancing resilience, a vital psychological component that helps prevent the development of psychological and health complications.

Seeking social support encompasses a wide variety of channels based on our needs and situations; it helps affirm one’s worth, share positive regards and validate one’s feelings.

Moreover, it makes it easier for individuals to obtain information or advice that might help them go through hardships by resource sharing, either via non-material or financial means.

The first method, which is most straightforward and accessible is to have quality conversation or consultation with family members and friends.

Such communication can occur via social media platforms, video calling or face-to-face interactions (taking into account physical distancing).

Through simple interactions like these, stronger bonds and meaningful relationships can be built and will act as a reminder that you are never alone.

As the saying goes, ”no man is an island”.

Help is available

The second way of seeking social support is by reaching out to non-profit organisations (NGOs) and communities.

Amidst the pandemic, Malaysians started the white flag campaign, whereby those who needed assistance would fly a white flag or cloth outside their home to let others know which households were facing extreme difficulties.

Good samaritans would then reach out to them and offer help.

As a result of such a supportive collective and embracing community, we have seen the movement garner massive attention and direct the necessary resources such as daily essentials and food aid to lessen the burden of struggling families.

Such an approach signifies that Malaysians are ever-ready to aid people in need.

Additionally, there are plenty of free mental health assistance and resources available such as Befrienders Malaysia, an emotional support helpline.

These facilities help people reduce anxiety and not be overwhelmed when problems arise.

Spending time on meaningful activities or hobbies, such as learning a new skill, is also another coping strategy that can help deal with negative feelings during this pandemic.

There is a hobby out there for everyone, and you only have to choose one that is enjoyable.

It is essential to bring positive energy and excitement to what might seem to be a monotonous life so step out of your comfort zone and incorporate positivity into your life!

Sticking to a regular sleep schedule can do wonders for your mental health. — AFPSticking to a regular sleep schedule can do wonders for your mental health. — AFP

Sleep and food

There is plenty of evidence that making these said changes helps people take their minds off stress-inducing thoughts and live in the present moment, which helps boost your resilience to cope with pandemic stress effectively.

Nowadays, with the help of social media, it is relatively easy to connect with people who share similar interests or hobbies.

This will benefit people who are cooped up at home with minimal human interaction by gradually bringing back interpersonal skills through networking and increasing a sense of belonging in one’s community.

Besides the practical coping mechanisms that an individual and/or organisations can utilise in times of distress, another more self-focused strategy one could use is prioritising physical health.

Keeping our physical health in check carries over into other aspects of our lives. Without good health, we will face difficulties in sustaining everything else well.

There are three main areas that we should focus on to ensure good health.

The first is to cultivate good sleeping habits as sleep is linked to many brain functions such as concentration and cognitive mechanisms, which are vital components of how we view ourselves and assess our experiences and the world.

A good night’s sleep acts as a mood regulator to provide us with a clearer mind so that we can think more rationally and perceive what’s happening around us with a clear vision.

To maintain good quality of sleep and prevent sleep-related disorders such as insomnia, practice a consistent sleep schedule.

Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time daily.

It is also crucial to ensure your bedroom is dark because melatonin (the sleep hormone) is better produced in such an environment and contributes to deep-sleep conditions.

It is known fact that what we eat matters so try to eat a healthy and balanced diet as it nurtures our body with essentials of micro and macronutrients to keep the immune system healthy.

Despite frequent reminders to incorporate fruits and vegetables into our daily diet, many fail to see its importance.

Fruits and vegetables are the primary source of multivitamins, which can help support our body functions and prevent us from getting afflicted with many diseases.

We all face the daily challenges of a modern world, and now we are living with additional burdens through this pandemic.

Hence, there are more reasons to be equipped with the above methods at all times.

Remember that no one is on this journey alone; together, we can ride past Covid-19.

Randeeep Singh Sidhu is manager of marketing and communication, Perdana University, and Dr Sangeeta Kaur is a senior lecturer in epidemiology and public health at the Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine. This article is courtesy of Perdana University, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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