Mixed Martial Arts

An introverted techie’s thoughts on staying mentally healthy in a pandemic

Victor Barreiro Jr.

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An introverted techie’s thoughts on staying mentally healthy in a pandemic
Here’s a list of things to keep the mind from becoming a mess of tears and anxiety in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic

As I write this, I’m currently on what is technically week 3 of my “Not going out of the house” adventure. A week before the Luzon-wide lockdown brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, I actually hadn’t left the house and was working from home for the most part.

I’ve managed to be mostly well-adjusted throughout all of this partly because I have something to do, but also because I have to cope – I know there will be fewer physically available mental health resources for me in the middle of a crisis of this scale if my mental well-being does take a dive, so I have to make do. 

In the pursuit of getting my thoughts out of my head and onto a computer, here’s a list of things I’ve done to keep my mind from becoming a blithering mess of tears and anxiety.

Control the variables

Before anything else, I had to take stock of how I was doing mentally and see if there were adjustments I had to make to keep myself going throughout the lockdown process. 

I suffer from mild depression and some anxiety issues, so I needed to make sure I had enough of my medications for my diabetes and mental health. As I live with my family, and none of us are sick, the only limitation is ensuring my mother doesn’t get ill while trying to restock groceries.

Of course, prepwork lessens anxiety as well, so having everything I needed, or as much of what I needed as was sensible, helped to lessen the fear of losing control of a bad situation.

Barring deviations here and there, I also knew I needed a definite routine, aside from my work-from-home arrangement. So I’ve adjusted my post- and pre-work schedule to compensate by getting some exercise time in, as well as leisure time.

Socialize remotely

As an introvert, one thing I’m generally okay with is being by myself so long as I know I don’t feel alone. 

This means that while I feel drained interfacing with people physically (or sometimes even via voice chat due to anxiety), knowing I have a support system in place lessens the mental burden of feeling like you’re the guy in I Am Legend significantly.  (LIST: Video conferencing apps to use for work meetings and online hangouts)

I’ve got a support group of online friends from around the world to talk to as a result. These are people I can talk to virtually, through Twitter conversations and Discord chats, about how our days are going so we can support each other. (READ: Keep calm and cope: How to stay mentally healthy during coronavirus crisis)

Sadly, this also means I don’t quite know how to help those who crave in-person social interaction on a grand scale. Sorry, folks.

FORGET YOUR WORRIES. Animal Crossing lets you set up camp on an idyllic island. Image from Nintendo.

Avoiding triggers

I make it a point to avoid watching media or playing video games that may unduly ratchet up my anxiety levels. In a pandemic, that means lessening my media consumption of things that may give me nightmares or otherwise remind me that I can’t really leave the house.

I’ve avoided watching shows or movies where a disease is trying to wipe people out. For one thing, 2011’s Contagion movie is out of the question, especially knowing its medical consultant recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Horror-thrillers where the protagonist is trapped in a given location, such as their apartment, are also not a good fit right now. (LIST: 4 programs that let you watch online videos remotely with your friends)

My tolerance is slightly better when it comes to video games, especially if the game is good, but sometimes, there’s a big difference in the increase of my anxiety levels when I compare playing a post-nuclear apocalyptic role-playing game like Fallout 4 as opposed to The Division 1 and The Division 2.

In The Division franchise, the impetus for the story is a deadly variant of the smallpox virus was released by a terrorist, eventually upending American society as a result.

That said, you can also just play something far removed from reality, like the idyllic island life simulation RPG Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Switch. I’m quite certain Tom Nook would like the attention.

BLOG IN APRIL! Blapril keeps me going in the middle of a pandemic. Image made by Belghast of https://aggronaut.com.

Having something to look forward to

Every morning (since the coronavirus lockdown began), I take stock of what I can look forward to as a way of keeping myself grounded. Sometimes, I’ll even put on “Tomorrow” from the Annie soundtrack, and I’ll check online to add one new thing to look forward to after the pandemic dies down.

This includes seeing my family in our house, or telling the people I care about I love them. I extend this stock-taking approach to include little things like new media releases and video game launches – Final Fantasy VII Remake is coming out on April 10, you know – just so there’s continuity in my thinking.

I urge everyone to find something new to look forward to in order to get by during this trying time. In my case, I was pleasantly surprised that I have a month-long writing adventure to take part in come April. 

I found out my game blogger friends announced they’re bumping up the yearly Blaugust blogging festival up to next month, tagging it as Blapril: A Dose of Internet Togetherness. It’s basically a month of challenging your thinking and writing muscles to get yourself into blogging about games or life and everything in between for a full month.

I look forward to it even if I never formally complete it, because it gets us, the participants, talking and interacting, even if we’re far apart from each other. Perhaps you’ll want to check it out yourself. The details are in the Blapril link.

It may not be that “spoonful of sugar” that makes the bitter medicine of a self-imposed quarantine go down in the most delightful way, but it could be that daily dose of emotional support from like-minded people that keeps you going like sunshine.

That’s something worth seeking and looking forward to every day. – Rappler.com

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.