Feelings of burnout, uncertainty, dullness and lack of drive, mixed with the political unrest in Malaysia. We’re almost reaching 2 years of the pandemic and being in and out of lockdown, people are feeling exhausted. So, the term “pandemic fatigue” was born. The New York Times coined it “languishing” where we still had energy but just felt somewhat aimless, stagnant and empty and sort of in-between.
According to psychologists, it’s important to name your emotions. When we’re able to articulate what we’re feeling, it gives us something familiar to grasp during an unfamiliar experience. We will also be able to increase well-being and reduce suffering.
The rakyat has endured long and hard with many hashtags trending in the past year like #lawan, #kerajaangagal and #benderaputih to indicate the inadequacy of the current government to handle the pandemic. Frustrations of record-breaking cases after a long hard year of lockdown and achieving 0 cases makes us feel like that was all in vain. Suicide cases are rising and people are really suffering. It’s hard to read the news these days.
Whilst every individual faces different challenges at various degrees, we should not discount the fact we are all still going through something hard, unfamiliar. Every feeling and experience is valid.
So, what can we do about it?
Just like during an emergency airplane landing, we are told to first take care of our own well-being before helping others, the same applies to our mental health. There are many people suffering in Malaysia but before we can help them, we need to make sure we take care of ourselves first.
1. Adjust goals and expectations
Perhaps when we first started lockdown, we had a list of things we wanted to achieve and be productive. When we do this, we set ourselves up for disappointment when we are unable to meet them.
Start with small wins and stay active, work and hobbies that keep you energized with a manageable difficulty. This helps us cope better and to skip the things that are stressing us out. We also get to rediscover some enthusiasm and joys that we’ve been missing all these while.
2. Practice Self-Care and Uninterrupted Time
When we all went into lockdown, the line between work and personal time was blurred. Many people reported working longer hours. People also felt like they were expected to be more productive and work more since there were expectations that we were more available. This leads to burnout and fatigue.
We should prioritize self-care, especially with sleep and exercise. Insufficient sleep is very common now as people have revenge bedtime procrastination. Sticking to a sleep routine helps regulate our stress and energy levels better, helping us sustain through the day.
Chronic stress can kill brain cells and affect memory, focus and learning. Therefore, it’s important to take time-off and unwind. Find small activities to spend our time and protect that time. Setting some structure between day and evening might help prevent overworking and to dedicate time for other activities.
3. People in Your Home
Some of us might be living with our family or roommates, and being cooped up in the same place for too long might drive some of us insane. Try putting some boundaries in place be it setting up separate physical space or even making verbal arrangements for some alone time. This will also help foster better relationships with them rather than driving each other up the walls.
4. Reach out for help
Lastly, but most importantly, getting professional help. There are many resources and therapists that can have virtual sessions that will be beneficial. Whether or not you have mental health issues, speaking to a therapist should be a norm to enable us skills and tools to be a better human being. Even more so during this unique time with its specific set of challenges.
Here’s a helpful short list of affordable therapy in Malaysia which you can find more from a Malaysian clinical psychologist:
- Seed Connections- RM50 (trainee)
- Serene Psychological Services- RM60 (trainee)
- SOLS Health (only for B40 individuals)- RM50 (trainee)
- CPCS, Help University- FOC for HELP students or RM30 (trainee)
- MMHA- RM50 (trainee)
- Psycle Consultancy- RM30 (trainee)
Here are also some crisis helplines in Malaysia (as of March 2021) from the same source above (English/Bahasa Melayu):
- Talian Kasih – 15999
- Befrienders KL (24/7)- 03-79568145
- MMHA- 03-27806803
- AWAM- 03-78770224
- WAO- 03-79563488