MANILA, Philippines – News about COVID-19 has been dominating the headlines since the Department of Health (DOH) reported its first case in the country. While the number of people who have recovered may give us a slight relief, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed seeing how this public health crisis no longer just threatens our physical health but also our emotional and mental well-being.
If you’ve been feeling increasingly restless, you’re not alone. Jane Timmons-Mitchell, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine said that it’s normal to feel anxious when something is “well-publicized and is something new and potentially dangerous.” But we don’t have to worry, there’s a lot of things we can do to protect our mental health even when we’re at home.
Here are five ways.
For parents, create a routine for your children
At a time where there are so many uncertainties, we need to make an effort to manage our fears. This is especially crucial for parents whose children need guidance on how to handle or react to a stressful situation. Parents need to be creative in making sure their children feel safe. One way to do this is by creating a routine. Studies said that having a structure at home can help children cope better and feel more secure.
“Studies in resiliency during traumatic events encourage keeping a routine to your day. Unstructured time can create boredom, spikes in anxiety or depression, which can lead to unhealthy patterns of coping,” said Deborah Serani, PsyD, professor of psychology at Adelphi University.
A tip shared by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) when it comes to creating a routine is to include children in the planning. They’re more likely to follow the schedule if they help make it.
Extend compassion and kindness online
Once you’ve started being compassionate to yourself for not being able to “make the most” out of your time, start extending it toward others. According to the “helper” therapy principle, helping others has strong and immediate mental health benefits.
There are many things you can do to extend help from home. One of which is sending donations online to organizations dedicated to assisting the most vulnerable.
Another way to spread positivity is to share good news online and show your gratefulness to the frontliners working tirelessly to save people’s lives.
Know that it’s okay not to be productive
If you entered the quarantine period thinking you finally have time for your passion projects but ended up procrastinating, that’s completely understandable.
“It’s tough enough to be productive in the best of times let alone when we’re in a global crisis,” said Chris Bailey, a productivity consultant. “The idea that we have so much time available during the day now is fantastic, but these days it’s the opposite of luxury. We’re home because we have to be home, and we have much less attention because we’re living through so much.”
It’s difficult to be productive when you’re anxious about so many things. During a global pandemic, sometimes, the best thing you can do is do absolutely nothing. If you need to take some time off to ease up mental pressure, then go for it. This ensures that once the situation gets better and we’re (somewhat) back to normal, we will be as productive as before because we didn’t force it.
It’s physical distancing, not social distancing
In a press briefing by the World Health Organization (WHO) last March 20, they urged the public to use the term physical distancing because they want people to remain connected.
“Find ways through the Internet and through different social media to remain connected because your mental health going through this is just as important as your physical health,” said Dr. Maria Kerkhove, WHO epidemiologist.
Keeping in touch with our loved ones helps create a sense of normality by allowing us to talk about our feelings and relieve stress.
Have a credible source of information
The WHO has labeled this widespread misinformation about COVID-19 as an “infodemic”. And they said that it’s likely to last as long as the virus. Critical thinking during a crisis helps reduce mental clutter, an important part of keeping our sanity in check.
Experts advise that staying updated is no longer enough, you also need to make sure that you have a credible source of information such as the Department of Health (DOH), National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), and verified news websites. Make it a habit to fact-check all the posts you share on your social media account as well, as it can cause unnecessary anxiety and confusion to other people.
Realizing the importance of having a strong and reliable internet and to keep families connected amid the public health crisis, PLDT Home rolled out a free speed boost for all its Fibr subscribers in Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Kalinga, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and Tarlac. This means that the minimum speed for each area will be at 25Mbps until April 30.
Having a good internet connection also helps us keep some sense of normalcy in our lives. It can make working from home feel normal by avoiding the stress that comes with lags when we’re transferring files or communicating with our colleagues. This, in turn, makes us efficient and allows us to have ample time to do other things that make us feel relaxed such as playing video games or watching our favorite Netflix shows.
Keep your bills up-to-date
A lot of companies have implemented bill holidays or payment extensions to ease up the financial burdens of households during the enhanced community quarantine. One of them is PLDT Home. They’ve stretched the payment period and suspended the disconnection of overdue accounts of all their postpaid customers until April 30, 2020.
They will also implement a 6-month installment payment program for the outstanding monthly bills of all its postpaid subscribers on May 1. This means that PLDT Home customers can settle their unpaid balances as of April 30 in 6 equal monthly payments with 0% interest and no penalties.
“We hope that through this payment program, we will help keep you connected whether you are at home, the office or elsewhere after the enhanced community quarantine period. As one community, we will get through these challenging times together,” said PLDT Chairman and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan.
To avoid stressing about your monthly bills, check them through your mobile app and create a budget. Settle bills that you can already pay. You may not be able to pay all your dues at once but at least you can prioritize those that you can afford and want to tick off your list of payables for next month.
Now more than ever, we need to take some time to give our minds a rest. With the extension of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country, it’s important to start prioritizing our mental health as much as our physical body.
Whenever you feel yourself spiraling, try to remember that we’re all in this together. Health experts around the world are working to save us from this pandemic. Lastly, people react differently to stress so don’t compare. The golden rule is to always be gentle to yourself and others. – Rappler.com