Not everyone finds respite in staying at home during the movement control order (MCO). If you’re feeling low from the lack of social interactions, here are some tips to curb it from Kenny Lim, executive director of Befrienders KL.

By now, we’re closing into a week since the Malaysian government imposed a nationwide MCO. Even if you’re a hardcore introvert, cabin fever might have already settled in. Whether you’re living alone, have a few housemates, or are with family, you’ll probably face some form of a mental challenge. This is especially so when you’re constantly inundated by negative news from all over the world.

Kenny Lim is the executive director of the Befrienders KL. (Image credit: Xerxes Lee/ Augustman Malaysia)

We spoke to Kenny Lim, executive director of Befrienders KL on how to take care of our mental health during times like these. Even if you’re unaffected, keep other members of the family or your home in mind, especially if they’re prone to anxiety or depression. Lim offers some tips that may help you get through this with your sanity (hopefully) intact.

Maintain normality

“Try your best to continue living as per normal and carry on with your normal routine as much as you can. Wake up early and change into suitable attire (not pyjamas!), work at a designated work space or work station. Let the sun in and take a break when needed. “

Kenny Lim, Befrienders KL executive director

Most people shun routine and call it the enemy of time, but during times like these, a routine is the best way to maintain a sense of normalcy. Lim suggests waking up at your usual time and go about your usual routine, whether it’s exercising before work or showering and getting ready for your day at the office. Not all of us have a dedicated room for work, so it’s important that you do so and remain undisturbed during your “working hours”.

It’s also important to take small breaks in between so you don’t burn out from working. Among some ideas Lim has on what you can do during these breaks are:

  • Watch funny videos or memes.
  • Talk to someone through text/phone/video.
  • Meditate or do some deep breathing exercises.
  • Declutter – watch some Marie Kondo videos, or try this FlyLady technique.
  • Read a book or – if you’re feeling ambitious – write one.
  • Paint, draw, or doodle.
  • Take a nice shower.

Take care of your health and wellbeing

It is essential to take care of your diet and make sure you get adequate rest and quality sleep. You may think of sleeping in now so that you can work from home, but maintaining a proper sleep schedule is important in getting enough sleep.

Kenny Lim, Befrienders KL executive director

Hands up if you thought to yourself: “Yes! Now that I don’t have to drive to work, I can use that extra time to sleep in.”

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. It’s crucial that you maintain the same sleeping pattern you’ve had to ensure that your sleep cycle isn’t interrupted during this period of MCO.

Also, you shouldn’t throw your dieting efforts out the window. Skip the instant noodles and focus on eating a well-balanced diet, preferably with whole foods. You can do some online grocery shopping here too.

working from home apps
Try limiting your screen time. (Image credit: Unsplash)

Limit your screen time

It’s very tempting to spend time online if you are doing nothing else. Just be careful with how you are feeling while browsing through social media.

Kenny Lim, Befrienders KL executive director

We know you want to keep up with news on Covid-19 cases around the world, but you can’t deny that it’s been leaving you feeling drained. “There are so many posts about the current situation and this can evoke fear and anxiety,” said Lim. “Limit the time spent reading about this and only obtain information from trusted reliable sources such as Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM) and World Health Organisation (WHO).”

You know what that means – no relying on fake news sent over to your extended family group chat on Whatsapp. You should probably limit your screen time all the same;  indulging too much in social media can take a toll on your mental health.

Take some time to self-reflect

Some questions you can ask: What do you want to do after CMO is over? What do you want to change in your life? What do you want for your future? It helps to have some things to look forward to in the future, because it gives hope in this period of difficulties.

Kenny Lim, Befrienders KL executive director

There’s no better time than now to do some self-reflection – after all, there are no external factors to distract you. This is particularly helpful if you’re sharing the same house as someone you’re don’t necessarily get along with, whether it’s a family member or a friend.

“Ask yourself: what are the reasons for this? How do you feel about your relationship with this person? Would you want to improve it? If yes, how would you approach it?” suggests Lim.

Befrienders KL
Talk to family or friends on the phone if you feel lonely. (Image credit: Unsplash/ Taylor Grote)

If you’re living alone, stay connected

Staying on your own may create a sense of isolation. Remember to stay connected with your loved ones.

Kenny Lim, Befrienders KL executive director

Most of us probably aren’t used to working from home or staying at home for such long periods. Those who live alone may feel this especially more. Lim recommends chatting with friends by texting each other and calling or video-calling family members to keep in touch.

“Knowing that the people you care for are doing fine brings relief. It is also a good time to catch up with a long-lost friend or family member,” he continues.

Reach out for help

If you have someone that you can trust, talk to them and share your feelings and concerns with them. Otherwise you can call helplines such as the Befrienders KL, which offers emotional support for 24 hours.

Kenny Lim, Befrienders KL executive director

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, this period of self-isolation may be more difficult for you. It might even aggravate your condition, says Lim, hence it’s important you reach out for help if you need it.

Talk to someone you can trust – someone who knows of your condition. Share with them your feelings, concerns, or difficulties. If you don’t have anyone that fits the criteria, there are always 24-hour helplines including the Befrienders KL.

“Other ways of expressing your feelings include writing a journal or expressing it through art. Spending time with a pet helps too,” he advises.

“Do not deny their feelings, instead validate their feelings of fear and anxiety,” advises Kenny Lim on comforting depressed people. (Image credit: Xerxes Lee/ Augustman Malaysia)

Help others too

If you are living with someone who has depression, lending a listening ear is helpful most of the time including at a difficult time like this. Check on how they are coping.

Kenny Lim, Befrienders KL executive director

Living with someone who has depression can be challenging, but not impossible. It’s important that you lend your support to them during times like these, which may be more difficult for them to take in. Lim advises giving them time to talk about how they feel without interrupting or judging them.

“Do not deny their feelings, instead validate their feelings of fear and anxiety and any uncomfortable feelings that they may be experiencing,” he adds.

“If they are on medication, gently remind them to take their medicine on time. If they are worried about the COVID-19 situation and CMO, share verified information and encourage them to talk about it openly.”

Safeguard your mental health during our trying times. If you feel helpless and don’t have anyone to turn to, call the Befrienders KL helpline at +603-7956 8145.

(Hero image credit: Unsplash/ Fabrizio Verrecchia; Featured image credit: Xerxes Lee/ Augustman Malaysia)

PohNee Chin
Editor, Kuala Lumpur
Poh Nee is the editor and writes about travel and drinks. When she's not living out her holiday dreams via Google Earth and sipping on an Old Fashioned down at the local bars, you can find her snug at home bingeing on Netflix and mystery fiction. Reach out to Poh Nee via email at pohnee@lifestyleasia.com.