Feeling worried and anxious during the MCO? Here’s how to stay calm


  • Living
  • Tuesday, 24 Mar 2020

Taking the time to disconnect from your devices and recharge is vital for your mental wellbeing. Photo: AFP

Living in a multi-generational household, Eleda Zaaba and her family have had to make many adjustments to their lifestyle due to the movement control order (MCO) enforced last Wednesday.

And it has been tough, admitted the mother of an active three-year-old from Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur.

“There is a lot of adjustment, mentally and habitually, as we’re so used to going out everyday, ” said Eleda, 28, a public relations consultant.

“Both my parents are in their 60s and we’re extremely worried about them getting infected, ” she added.

Since the MCO was implemented, Malaysians have been urged to stay at home as much as possible as the country fights to curb the spread of Covid-19.

However, being confined to the house and not being able to engage in one's normal daily routine can cause stress and anxiety. People are also worried about contracting the virus, as well as job security and the country’s economy and he it could impact them.

PR consultant Eleda (left) with her husband Adib Azhari and son Elyas. Photo: Eleda ZaabaPR consultant Eleda (left) with her husband Adib Azhari and son Elyas. Photo: Eleda Zaaba

Although Eleda's family feels that the MCO is the right thing to do, they can’t help being anxious about what’s to come.

“For example, we feel a recession is imminent and some of us might get retrenched – especially those who work for a small or medium-sized company. This will affect our household income, ” she added.

That aside, getting through each day safely is another issue, notably when it comes to food.

“We’re very concerned about getting exposed to the virus when getting daily necessities such as food and groceries. For the first few days, we ordered a lot from (a food delivery service) to minimise outside contact.

“But we realised that it’s not cost-effective in the long run to rely on that, hence, we decided to cook more at home. Since we have been cooking a lot, we’re very anxious when we go out to get groceries, knowing that there is a risk of getting infected at the supermarket. Even though they sanitise the trolley, the risk is still there, ” she said.

Lai says she may feel restless and anxious at home if the movement control order is prolonged. Photo: Cheetara Lai Lai says she may feel restless and anxious at home if the movement control order is prolonged. Photo: Cheetara LaiEleda said according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, a study revealed that the Covid-19 virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on hard surfaces like stainless steel and plastic for two to three days.

“Upon reading that, we have grown to be more anxious than before. How can we be sure that the items that we choose are virus-free? The thought of having to sanitise all our grocery items is nerve-wracking, and we hope there is a safer way to get our necessities, ” she said.

Meanwhile, Cheetara Lai, 25, has kept herself occupied with work, exercise, cooking and cleaning this past week.

“So far, I don’t think I feel restless or anxious. My parents are home with me too, so I feel quite safe knowing that we’re doing this stay-at-home practice together. But if this prolongs, I think I would feel a little bit restless, ” said Lai, a public relations executive from Petaling Jaya.

Clinical psychologist Prof Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon emphasised self-care during these trying times in order to be productive, reduce stress and also be able to fulfill our work and family commitments.

“I would like to point out that it’s important to recoup and reconnect with yourself. If you're working from home, you're probably pushing to get work done while also dealing with the needs of your family, parents and such. Productivity can be an issue, but so is self-care, ” he said.

“If you don't stop to take care of yourself, you're also going to lose the ability to care for others, to do your work and to function generally, leading to stress and burn out, ” he added.

It's important to keep stress in check and put things in perspective during the MCO and Covid-19 situation. Photo: 123rfIt's important to keep stress in check and put things in perspective during the MCO and Covid-19 situation. Photo: 123rf

Here are some tips offered by Prof Ng and the American Psychological Association on how to cope with anxiety and stress:

1. Keep your immunity strong

First things first: Make sure you get enough sleep, nutrition, exercise and hydration.

2. Keep stress in check

If you take care of yourself, you'll find that your work performance improves and you relate better with other people, indirectly contributing to a healthier social environment. A high level of responsibility creates a lot of stress and can take away your awareness towards personal wellbeing, causing one to fall into a stress trap.

Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normalcy  and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. Photo:TNSMaintaining social networks can foster a sense of normalcy and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. Photo:TNS

3. Take the time to disconnect and recharge

With 24/7 connectivity, it's very difficult to shut off. When we're made to shut off, we go into the FOMO (fear of missing out) state, where anxiety about the lack of information and connectivity clouds our minds into feeling as if we're out of control and causes stress.

So given this partial lockdown, there's a need to unplug and recharge. Exercising our awareness towards our own feelings, thoughts and being allows us to get in touch with how we are actually feeling, and then do something about it.

4. Keep things in perspective

Remind yourself that most people who contract Covid-19 will only experience mild symptoms. Take extra care of people who may be more vulnerable to the virus, such as senior citizens and those with underlying health conditions.

5. Get the facts

Verify information that you receive from family, friends or social media with reputable sources of information.

6. Say hello

Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. You can do so by talking on the phone, texting or chatting on social media platforms.

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