Ever since the pandemic affected the fabric of our daily lives, Singaporeans have found ways to navigate through moments of uncertainty.
Taking it a day at a time is a good approach, but as we are closing in on the 2-year mark, the stress that many have swept under the rug may finally be rearing its ugly head.
Contrary to what society thinks, many young Singaporeans are not stressing over their missed trips to Thailand or South Korea, but rather how stagnant they feel in a world where life is seemingly put on hold because of Covid-19.
4 young Singaporeans share how they’ve learned to care for their mental health as they go through the motions.
Before the pandemic, working from home (WFH) seemed like a fanciful dream. Not having to commute or get up early are luxuries our pre-pandemic selves would only dream of.
But for Bernard Ong, WFH hasn’t been that breezy. Having recently joined a firm as a business consultant during ‘Circuit Breaker’, he feels that he hasn’t had a proper break since his first day.
Everyone has the assumption that since you are at home, it means you have time to work. So work tends to stretch past working hours till late at night.
As the lines between home and office become blurred, the 31-year-old finds it difficult to rest and find personal space.
As somebody who finds his room as a haven, I find that over time even my own space is no longer a comfort zone as it has transformed into an office.
Bernard started to catch himself becoming more irritable as his emotions grew unstable with various bouts of anger and anxiety.
“It all stems from times when I do not have my personal space to recharge and have to push my mental capacity to handle additional clients,” he points out.
However, in an attempt to adjust to the new normal, he made a conscious decision to protect his space and draw a line between his clients and himself, “I will insist on working to a certain hour and then refuse to take up more meetings or calls after a certain time.”
By separating work and personal time while he’s at home, it has given him more time to focus on his well-being and mental health. During this time, he’d indulge in a few drinks and play his favourite video games.
Image courtesy of Bernard Ong
While we owe a level of responsibility to our employers, Bernard reminds us that, “It’s always important to focus on your mental well-being first, even if it means you must take a firm stand.”
With the Covid-19 situation constantly evolving, routines are being thrown off-kilter.
Between her jam-packed work schedule as a content strategist and the regular gym classes she attends to destress, Chloe Chew has had to reshuffle her day-to-day activities substantially when the first Phase 2 Heightened Alert (P2HA) was announced.
Since working out at the gym was an escape, the 22-year-old admitted to feeling a sense of hopelessness when they had to halt for a month. It was to the point where she started dreaming of her clients and grinding her teeth when sleeping.
“I find comfort in the gym as my safe space, whether it’s F45 or spin classes. Having that routine taken away from me was something I struggled to deal with.
“Going out was not really an option either as Covid-19 cases were at an all-time high,” she says.
Unable to fill that gap with a routine that wouldn’t bother her neighbours, Chloe resorted to online shopping and goal planning to destress. She also decided to give herself something to look forward to.
“I bought so much activewear that my boyfriend would scold me for it. It was something that I’d look at while I waited for the gyms to reopen. And when they did, I went for classes every day of the first week,” Chloe shared.
Image courtesy of Chloe Chew
Even though it was not ideal, P2HA gave her the chance to discern what truly mattered in life—her mental health.
Having had the support from her loved ones, she suggests that others surround themselves with people who make life better.
“This is so that they’ll keep you grounded in a time when it’s easier to succumb to the negativity,” she relates.
As countries do their best to limit cross-border movements during the pandemic, border restrictions have seen relationships undergo a test of strength unlike any other.
While it’s never easy, long-distance relationships (LDR) have become even harder for couples living in different countries because they don’t know when they can see each other again.
Lyn Goh, a sales & marketing manager in a Singaporean firm, hasn’t met her Australian boyfriend for over a year due to tightening border controls.
Although they were already expecting to be in an LDR as her boyfriend has to complete his masters in Australia, they weren’t prepared to go 2 years without seeing each other physically.
“It has caused doubts and unhappiness, to the point where we sometimes question if we should continue the relationship or end it,” the 31-year-old expresses.
“I feel sad when I go out and see couples hanging out in malls while I’m doing everything by myself. The heart feels heavy. Like I would go to bed at night or wake up in the morning feeling like something is missing.”
Although they do what they can, video calling one another twice a day and constantly reassuring each other, Lyn finds comfort in the small pleasures of life.
She’d fill her free time by going through the Netflix catalogue, treating herself to good food, and taking long walks alone. And most importantly, seeking comfort from her closest friends.
Image courtesy of Lyn Goh
Even though she’d be the first one to tell you that it hasn’t been ideal, she reminds us that, “It’s okay not to be okay sometimes, and it’s okay to admit if you need help. There’s no wrong or right in the situation we are in. Just do what you think is best for you.”
While we’re aware of the importance of mental health, taking the first step to take care of it may not come easy for some.
Hoping to reduce the stigma towards mental health issues, Sabrina Ooi, co-founder of Calm Collective Asia, has been speaking up about them via online Zoom talks.
In her time as a volunteer, she came across young adults struggling with mental health conditions.
Social isolation, job-hunting struggles, and difficulty in adapting to a virtual working environment are just some of the issues that have been weighing on them.
“A lot of youths are struggling with enforced closeness with their families, especially those who aren’t on good terms with their family members and have to lean on their friends for support,” the 30-year-old shares.
Image courtesy of Sabrina Ooi
“We’ve also received notes from university students and young professionals who have moved back to Singapore because of Covid-19.
“They are apart from their usual support system overseas and are now struggling to adjust to living with their families.”
While she continues her good work with Calm Collective Asia, she pleads with the youth to seek help if they struggle to cope and offers different avenues to do so.
“There is affordable help available—you can get free/subsidised counselling from community services like SAMH, Silver Ribbon (Singapore), AWARE, or see a psychologist/psychiatrist through the local medical system,” she shares.
Just like when you have a fever, you should make it a point to seek professional advice when you’re dealing with immense stress. Though the remedies won’t work as quickly, it’s a step in the right direction.
Adjusting to the new normal is an individual journey. No matter how long or quickly it takes, it’s something that you should do at your own pace.
Although the idea of abandoning what we know can be daunting, it is a necessary hurdle we have to overcome to progress.
Learning to navigate this new territory doesn’t have to lie on your shoulders solely.
Speak about it, express what’s on your mind. And although not everything can be solved by talking, getting it off your chest and hearing new perspectives can help you make better decisions.
If you or anyone you know needs emotional support, call the Samaritans of Singapore’s 24-hour hotline at 1800 221 4444 or send a Facebook message to SOS Care Text.
You can also support fellow youths’ mental well-being by joining The Youth Mental Well-being Network, where you can make a difference in the area of mental health.
This post was brought to you in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth (MCCY), in support of #SGTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Lyn Goh, Bernard Ong, and Sabrina Ooi.
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