ISOLATION, financial insecurity and job loss.
These were some of the main reasons for distress among people who used the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) telehealth services.
As such, with activities and businesses resuming now, MMHA president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj says this would naturally lead to better mental health in general for all.
“However, the pace of recovery for those involved may vary depending on the sector.
“The new normal also means that people are more in control of their lives now.
“Having more control and less uncertainty will naturally lead to better mental health,” he says.
But the pandemic, being an unpredictable time, has certainly left some to struggle with the current changes now that activities are resuming.
“There are people fearful of meeting others, refusing travel and keeping to themselves for fear of contracting the illness.
“Let’s not forget that many others whose preexisting conditions, even if well controlled, became compromised as a result of the pandemic,” he points out.
These people were already struggling with mental health conditions like generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression and may have become more obsessed with precautions and afraid of being in contact with others .
“Returning to normal may not be easy for everyone and we must recognise that some people want to take things at their own pace.
“After all, we have never had something like the Covid-19 pandemic and there are still questions left unanswered.
“Life can never be like the old days again and we cannot completely let our guard down,” he adds.
More importantly, Dr Mohanraj urges the public to focus on what we can control.
“We can certainly decide on where we go, how to protect ourselves and our mental health.
“If you are exposed to too much negative news, then it is good to switch off and focus on the positive things in life.
“These could be connecting with people who matter in our lives and being grateful for what we have,” he advises.
Setting a routine to adapt to the new normal will also help very much.
“This could be returning to office or continuing to work from home or even adjusting to a hybrid model of work.
“It is also important not to rush into things simply because things have opened up.
“Participating in activities that we are comfortable with and withdrawing from others that might cause anxious moments, is perfectly acceptable,” Dr Mohanraj assures.
Otherwise, we may feel overwhelmed, and this may affect our mental health.
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“Similarly having patience with others and staying flexible will also help,” he says.
Ultimately, he believes everybody has experienced a range of emotions over the last year, and this transition will be different for everyone.
“It is best to focus on what we are comfortable with and what will be best for our mental health,” Dr Mohanraj prescribes.
To ensure our mental health does not deteriorate, clinical psychologist Dr Joel Low says the best way is just be honest with ourselves.
“Ask yourself if you’re okay.
“Being honest with yourself about how well you’re coping.
“If you’re struggling, it would then allow you to acknowledge that there is something amiss, which would then almost be like giving yourself the permission to get help from someone,” he advises.
Another important suggestion is to practise self-care as much as we can, like working out and eating a healthy diet.
“But do supplement that with emotional and psychological boosts as well.
“Connect with loved ones, engage in activities that you love and enjoy, pursuing a hobby or something that you’ve always wanted to do, or maybe even start a new adventure.
“All these are great ways to make sure that your resource tank stays full as much as possible,” Dr Low adds.
There will be times when we will encounter difficult situations, and to this, he urges the public to soldier on.
“Many times when we encounter challenges, it’s hard to see how we would get out of that situation.
“But if you hang in there, and keep chugging along, you’ll see the end eventually, at some point,” he says, adding that help is always available out there.