WE cannot deny that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lifestyles to a certain degree. To start with, we have to practise social distancing with friends, family and strangers.

Some of us work from home and do not have much interaction with colleagues. Others are unable to visit their hometowns and spend time with loved ones, while many others have lost their jobs and have to search for a new source of income.

“There has been a huge change in the way people live their lives and support themselves through this adversity,” said Aishah Diyana Baharudin, a clinical psychologist who is attached to Mentem Psychological Services.

“Adapting to these changes is not an easy task for some and it can bring a certain amount of stress, anxiety and depression.”

Mental health counsellor Sindusha Darshini Kanna Dasan and clinical psychologists Helenna Maria Hisham Hashim agree with Aishah.

“Some will feel isolated and lonely because they are unable to meet with family, friends or loved ones,” said Sindhusha.

“Some will find it difficult to sleep, while others will sleep too much. In terms of physical symptoms, some might experience increased heart rate, gut issues, fatigue and other uneasy sensations,” she added.

Sindusha believes one way to control feelings of anxiety is to get news on the pandemic from trustworthy sites.

“You should also limit the frequency of looking for updates,” she said.

“If you begin to feel overwhelmed with information on the pandemic, then it is time to take a break from the news and come back to it when you are ready. You should not be overly obsessed with updates.”

Aishah, who has been a clinical psychologist for the last two years, said: “News updates are not supposed to create stress for you.”

“You should use the news updates to create a better situation for you and your loved ones. The updates should be improving the quality of your life.”

Physical exercise

Helenna said engaging in a simple exercise routine will help you manage anxiety and depression rather efficiently.

“Exercise helps you to regulate your sleep and improve your self-esteem.”

Her other suggestion is to use deep breathing exercises to decrease your anxiety and talk to someone you trust about your concerns.

“Writing a journal, drawing and colouring will also help to reduce stress.“

“Sometimes a brisk walk or even watering a plant could help you de-stress. You need time to take care of and pamper yourself. A simple task such as doing your skincare routine could improve your outlook.”

Aishah believes that you should maintain a routine in your new norm so you can gain a sense of control.

“Humans are creatures of habit and we need a routine in our lives,” she said.

“We need to focus on what we can control. The best way is to create a routine in your new lifestyle.”

New structures

“Before the pandemic and lockdown, we had some structure in our lives. For example, you go to your workplace every morning,” said Helenna.

“When this task is removed and you are required to stay at home, some people will feel some kind of uncertainty. Therefore, you need to create a certain routine in your new lifestyle to create a sense of more certainty in your life. Routine is important.”

That lonely feeling

Sindusha believes that having to maintain social distancing from loved ones and friends may make some people feel lonely.

“But you can still keep in touch with your loved ones and friends through creative ways,” she said.

“We still have the option of using modern technology such as video conferencing tools to talk with our friends and loved ones. We just have to find creative ways to stay connected, so we do not have to feel isolated all the time.”

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