Minding our minds during COVID-19 | Daily News

Minding our minds during COVID-19

Lessons from Singapore’s Parkway Hospitals

Mental health remains among the leading causes of ill-health and disability, with nearly 450 million people suffering worldwide according to the World Health Organization. This number is expected to increase exponentially as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and its containment measures: anxiety, depression, stress and many other mental health consequences of the pandemic.

In an effort to shed more light on the topic, a webinar hosted by Parkway Cancer Centre Singapore led by the Principal Counsellor Tan Hui Ping of Allied Health at Parkway Cancer Centre was held recently.

While the scope for collaboration and dialogue is vast, Principal Counsellor Tan Hui Ping noted that one of the silver lining of the pandemic is the increased awareness on the importance of mental health thus reducing social stigma surrounding it.

“Just as we look after our physical health, we need to also look after our mental health,” said Tan Hui Ping. “COVID-19 affects each of us in some way or the other. It causes disruptions to our routines and normal structures of life. Our lifestyle and how we looked after ourselves changed. Because of these adjustments many of us struggled.”

She added that while COVID-19 is looked at as a physical health issue, it could affect one’s mental health as well, as the outbreak of this disease meant many adjustments, changes and challenges that one has to cope with over a prolonged period of time. The undue stress brought on by the many uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, ranging from meeting basic needs to jobs insecurity to social isolation to stressful domestic issues. “It is important to be aware or to notice when negativity pervades as this could be overwhelming and eventually affect your physical health.” She also shared tell-tale signs of how children could be affected mentally, what could parents watch out for and how to respond to their children.

“While our experiences of coping with COVID-19 differs, it is important to be vigilant of how these changes in our lives could affect us mentally,” she said. “Even if you have always been mentally strong, multiple challenges could push you beyond your ability to function normally and when that happens you need to consult a mental health expert or seek professional help.”She advised the participants that staying healthy is as important as looking after one’s mental wellbeing during the crisis. “I have patients who tell me that even though they are working from home they are sleeping later than usual. Keeping to our usual bedtime routine is very important to give our body enough time to rest,” she emphasized.

She advised the participants that as there are a lot of adjustments to make during this period, stressing over matters beyond their control or fearing of the unknown future will only bring about additional stress that is not worth it. “The best thing to do is live in the moment and take one day at a time. Check in with yourself on your mental state and emotions, and ask yourself how you are doing and feeling, and not forgetting to be kinder to yourself.”

Due to lockdown measures and quarantine laws in place, most employees would have to work from home which also meant that their home was their workplace and they were constantly online. “It’s very important to assign specific space for certain tasks. When you work from home, you tend to take your work all over your home and perhaps into your bedroom. So at the end of the day when you go to your bedroom to rest you are likely to find your files, laptops and even food which is not healthy. Unplug yourself, put in place healthy boundaries in your living space and go offline whenever you can.” She advised parents with young children to validate their fears without judgement or criticism. “Even if your intention is good and you want your son or daughter to be brave during the crisis, telling them to put on a brave front in turn makes children hesitant of talking to parents about their fears. Give them your attention, time and affection, despite the fact that there is a lot going on with you.”

The webinar concluded with a mindfulness session led by the Principal Counsellor. The conversation addressed the effectiveness of resources for treatment of mental health issues such as anxiety and stress, useful self-help techniques, how best to support our elderly in this pandemic etc. The conversation featured prominent Principal Counsellor from Singapore’s Parkway Cancer Centre. -SH