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A Doctor’s Take on Mental Wellness at Home

Dr Morrison Loh

Dr Morrison Loh is currently the Clinical Director at Raffles Health Insurance. Prior to this appointment, Dr Loh was the Deputy Physician Leader and oversaw daily operations of five primary care clinics and a regional clinical center in the Central Business District. In addition to practicing as a physician, he also facilitated clinical teachings and supervised conditional doctors.

MoneyFM 89.3

To listen to Dr Loh’s full interview about the Circuit Breaker period, Mental Health and our #StayHome Smartphone Photography Contest with Claressa Monteiro on Money FM 89.3 Health Suites, you can catch the podcast here.

As a nation, we are battling the spread of Covid-19. With the circuit breaker measures in place, we each do our part in this fight by practicing social distancing and staying at home. Although the importance of staying home and minimizing contact with others is clear to the majority of us, being at home 24/7 is a very new experience, and comes with its own set of challenges.

Why do many of us feel stressed out or even frustrated when staying home full-time?

In our daily lives, we play multiple roles at work, in the community and at home. By staying and working from home full-time, these roles are all collapsed into one. We need to be a parent, caregiver, employee or student, all at the same time. This can be very taxing to do, especially without additional support. It is very natural for emotional stress to build up as we carry out all our tasks in the same space. To add on to that, there are many things about Covid-19 that are unknown to us, as it is a novel virus. This can add on to background anxiety and compound the stress that we feel. However, I believe that we are a resilient nation. We can adapt and work together to get through this period.

Dr Loh:

Some people have also mentioned feeling guilt over their frustrations. Why is this so?

The guilt could come from the fact that their frustrations stem from their loved ones. We are all only human, and it is difficult to govern how we feel. The emotions that arise within us are often beyond our control. However, we do have a say about how we react to these emotions. New experiences can always be trying, but there are support channels both national and personal that you can reach out to if you need someone to talk to. These avenues to release your tension and stress are vital, because guilt and frustration can be a vicious cycle that is not healthy for you, or those around you.

Dr Loh:

What are some things we do that actually feed our anxiety and worry?

Covid-19 is a novel virus. We have a natural tendency to want to find out everything we can about something unknown, because it is less scary if we can understand it. Finding out facts and data can indeed alleviate some of our worries. However, because there is an overwhelming amount of unverified data on the internet, this can backfire and cause unnecessary fear and anxiety.

Dr Loh:

What can we do to keep the #stayhome blues away?

Tip 1: Stay connected and maintain your social networks

Stay Connected

Even though we are physically distant, that does not mean we need to be disconnected. We have many different ways to stay in contact with our loved ones and friends, from video-calls, messages, emails to social media. Maintaining our social interactions is important for us, especially if we are living alone, to have avenues for communication and support.

Dr Loh:

Try these activities out with your friends!

  1. Schedule a group exercise session together over a video-call
  2. Hangout with friends to chat online
  3. Set-up a support group to share any struggles or strategies
  4. Have a Netflix party together!

Tip 2: Keep to a regular routine

Schedule

Daily rhythms are important for our mental wellbeing. By keeping to our usual routines, we restore some semblance of normalcy and order to our daily lives. Try your best to wake up and go to sleep at fixed times and stick to your usual work schedule as far as possible. It can be easy for boundaries to blur while working from home, and this could lead to burnout. Set time limits to your working hours and tasks to avoid being overwhelmed, and be sure to give yourself time to unwind.

Dr Loh:

Some things you can do:

  1. Engage in “boundary-crossing” activities such as getting ready for work in the morning as per usual, to switch your mind to “work-mode” and vice versa
  2. Assign one person to start morning greetings at an appropriate time to kick-off the workday routine
  3. Log off from work after working hours and focus on other activities instead

Tip 3: Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing

Music

Pay attention to your own needs and feelings, and give yourself space to unwind. This is especially important during times of stress. Exercising regularly and eating healthily can also give you a mental boost. Now might also be the time to pick up something you’ve always wanted to do or learn some new skills that you are interested in as a hobby. Try to keep everything in perspective to have a healthy body and mind.

Dr Loh:

Try these activities at home:

  1. Stay fit and flatten the (tummy) curve with simple 10-20 minute online exercise classes
  2. Find your inner artist with drawing or painting courses
  3. Learn how to prepare some healthy snacks for munching at your home office
  4. Stimulate your brain cells with free online courses – even from Harvard!

Tip 4: Minimize exposure to news about Covid-19 that causes you to feel anxious

Overwhelming News

With so much information about Covid-19 going around on the internet, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. If you experience anxiety or worries from the constant bombardment of media, try to take a step back and only check for updates once or twice a day. For example, in the morning and evening after your meals. Seek information only from trusted sources, such as local and global health authorities, to ensure that you have the right information to act upon.

Dr Loh:

Here are some other methods you can adopt:

  1. Do not follow every media channel. Choose one or two official channels to subscribe to
  2. Avoid forwarding any Covid-19 myths or news that has not been verified
  3. Ask a friend or colleague to share relevant information privately if you feel overwhelmed

Tip 5: Find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories

Amidst all the bad news, sharing simple stories of hope and kindness go a long way. Spreading positivity around not only uplifts our mood, but inspires others to do the same. All of us are needed in this long war against Covid-19, and many have shown their compassion and empathy in these difficult times. For example, free meals were very kindly provided to our staff at Raffles Hospital, which saved them time from going out to buy food, and allowed some much needed rest during their short breaks.

Dr Loh:

Share some of these uplifting stories as well:

Tip 6: Protect yourself and be supportive to others

One Call Away

Assisting others in their time of need can have a positive psychological effect on both parties. Although we might not all be able to help out physically, checking up on our friends through a phone call or lending a listening ear to someone in need might be just the thing they need. Remember, staying home and practicing social distancing protects everyone in the community, especially those who are more vulnerable. Together, we will overcome this!

Dr Loh:

Do not hesitate to reach out if you need someone to talk to!

  1. National Care Hotline: 6202 6868
  2. SOS (Samaritans of Singapore): 1800 221 4444
  3. Touch Line: 1800 377 2252

Download and Share: 6 Tips for Mental Wellbeing at Home

Stay Safe and Healthy Everyone!

For more health tips and updates on Covid-19, Follow us on Facebook or Instagram

From 9 April to 11 May, join in our #StayHome Smartphone Photography Contest for your chance to win up to $4500 worth of prizes! Check out this blog post updated daily with our very own photographs if you’re in need of some inspiration!

Let’s all #StayHomeForSG together! Click here for details about the contest: #StayHome Smartphone Photography Contest

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