Mental Health Maintenance in Repeated Lockdowns

Until tightened restrictions took effect over the past weekend, many in Singapore were just regaining their sense of hope and ability to thrive. Since the end of December, we were blessed with near-normal lives that allowed us to dine in at restaurants, gather with family and friends in groups as big as 8, and return to working in offices. With new safety measures in place through at least the next month, concerns about ability to cope are bound to shroud the minds of many. In order to maintain mental health as we enter another lockdown, we can aim to achieve a balance in 3 key dichotomies.

Virtual World and Real World

We cannot deny the internet’s multitude of wonderful functions; it keeps us connected with others, it is a rich sea of information and learning resources; it provides us with vicarious experiences we are otherwise unable to access, and much more. However, excessive or maladaptive device usage can contribute to feelings of isolation, derealization, lower self-esteem, anxiety, and unhealthy misconceptions stemmed from misinformation. Be mindful about how much time you spend on devices, and what need you are trying to fulfill by being on your device. Make time to regularly engage in real world activities like going for a walk outside, preparing an enjoyable meal, or doing some arts and crafts. If you have difficulty feeling connected with real life activities, try to incorporate mindfulness to enhance your level of engagement.

Individual and Social Activities

Loneliness and feeling stifled living in close quarters with others are difficult, yet common experiences in lockdowns. Opportunities to socialize with people of your choice can ward off feelings of loneliness, boredom, and provide a refreshing change of social scenery for those who live with others. While it may not be advisable to meet in person, we can still arrange time to regularly socialize with friends and family virtually. If you get bored of simple video calls, get creative by asking each other to participate in online games, quizzes, simultaneous movie streaming, playlist collaborations, or learn a new skill together through an instructional video. For those who live with others, it is important to draw boundaries to retain your sense of autonomy and individuality. Safeguard your “me time” by letting those you live with know you won’t be available at that time.

Productivity and Rest

People tend to bounce between extremes of productivity and rest during lockdowns. Sometimes, work bleeds into what is meant to be our personal time off, causing disturbance to sleep routines, impairing our ability to engage and enjoy personal activities, and preventing us from feeling sufficiently recharged. All of these can quickly lead to lower work performance and burnout. On the other extreme, some abandon all duties and fall into a state of stagnation. We may feel frozen when overwhelmed by so many limitations around what we do and how we do it. Motivation can also wither away when usual sources of accountability are no longer present. Maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting regular work hours for yourself. Consider having accountability partners for both work and your personal time. This way, you can encourage each other to remain consistent with starting/ending work on time, and have meaningful engagement with time spent either working or resting.

As difficult as this period may be, we must remind and accredit ourselves for persevering through the lockdown last year. Let this fuel a sense of hope that we can withstand another one. Give thanks to yourself for every effort exerted to maintain your physical and mental wellbeing, and have self-compassion on the days when those efforts fall short.

SACAC Counselling wishes for everyone to stay safe through this trying time. If you have difficulty coping, please reach out for professional help.

Written by:
Michelle Chak 
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

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