Feeling frustrated, deflated and a tad joyless following news of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases here in Singapore? Join the choir. For the past year, many Singaporeans alongside the global community have coped with pandemic-related uncertainty, stress and burnout. First came the anxiety about finding a vaccine, then re-entering the world post-Circuit Breaker. Now with Singapore’s Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures in place until mid-June, this sense of déjà vu (not to mention scenes of supermarket hoarding in the community), has brought up mixed-feelings about the state of the present—and ever-changing future.
Vogue Singapore speaks to clinical psychologist Dr Annabelle Chow of Annabelle Psychology on what it takes to stay positive and keep from languishing in this time.
What is the psychological impact of going into social isolation once again?
Repeated bouts of isolation or social distancing can cause stress and anxieties about health, finances and wellbeing to intensify. Common signs of stress and anxiety include feeling irritable and on edge, having an impending sense of doom or danger, feeling stressed about being stressed, experiencing physiological symptoms such as increased heart rate, perspiration, muscle tension, and difficulties concentrating and sleeping.
What are some common feelings we may experience during what feels like Circuit Breaker 2.0?
Other overwhelming feelings that may arise are frustration, intense exhaustion and the disappointment of going through a second round of social distancing.
Name the best ways to cultivate good mental health habits while in social isolation.
Create a work schedule that is within your control. Check-in with yourself and reassess your workload to ensure work from home productivity. Allocate some time with your colleagues to socialise through the various online platforms. Remember to be kind to yourself—focus on what you can control and go easy on your expectations—it’s a trying time for everyone.
How can we keep from ‘languishing’? What are the healthiest coping tools?
Give yourself scheduled ‘time-off’ every now and then—take a break and engage in self-care that best suits your needs. Practise some mid-day mindfulness activities such as breathing exercises or participate in mindful writing—such as journaling.
Share the crisis hotlines for those who don’t have the financial access to a therapist or counsellor.
Online peer support groups and helplines are a few other lifelines that one can turn to. Healthcare or frontline workers can also reach out to online telehealth consultations.
You are not alone. For mental health support in Singapore, visit the Singapore Association for Mental Health. If you or a loved one are at-risk of suicide, please call the Samaritans of Singapore for 24/7 support: 1800-221 4444. For youths in need of support, chat online with a counsellor at eC2.