“When will there be a vaccine?” is a question on the lips of many Sri Lankans these days as the second wave of COVID-19 seems to be upon us. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that a vaccine will ready any time soon. The current restrictions imposed by the government (and one's own prudent reluctance to venture outside) may make things difficult, but a vaccine is not the only solution to improving your quality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing that this is a difficult situation and adjusting to it is the best way to ensure your mental wellbeing. And no - you don’t need expensive food and other luxuries you might not have in order to be happy. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you adjust to staying at home again.
The world will not go back to normal next week even if there is a vaccine found tomorrow. While that doesn’t mean that things will be devastatingly depressing, it does mean that you need to accept the reality of the situation. Things ARE difficult right now and it is OK to acknowledge that. In fact, it’s healthier to understand the reality of the situation without trying to convince yourself that things are better than ever. Do not fall into the trap of toxic positivity - ignore people who imply there’s something wrong with you if you’re unable to remain happy in the middle of a pandemic.
Read more about toxic positivity here https://www.citizen.lk/news/75506
List out your priorities
On a difficult day or week or month, it might help to just make sure you complete the most essential tasks you need to complete and do nothing else. Work, look after your children and buy groceries. It’s OK if you have difficult days - just focus on the basics when you feel down.
Maintain social interactions virtually
Video call your friends. Research has shown that face to face interaction is important for wellbeing, so schedule a few calls every week and catch up. Watch a movie together from your own homes. Join a virtual book club. Schedule time for your children to talk to their friends online (with your supervision).
Schedule some ‘alone time’
Social distancing can become difficult because you don’t get to see your friends in person but it can be equally difficult to be stuck at home with family members. Try and spend some time by yourself - you don’t need a separate room. A long bath while listening to some music you like or a chair in a corner of the room where you like to read a book - you know what you like to do and what resources you have at your home. Remember - it doesn’t have to be perfect to work.
Establish a routine
Try getting dressed for work - even if it’s in front of your computer and no one can see you. Studies have shown that this simple act can provide a sense of stability amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic. Alternatively, you might decide you prefer working in your pyjamas and realize that perhaps working from home is not so bad at all.
Setting a routine for your children is also important - a daily routine for studies will help ground them. Find ways to keep them occupied. Your 7 year old might find it reassuring to work on a project regarding the pandemic such as ‘what we can do to stay safe and happy’. Your teenager might like to start an online course.
Engage in something you enjoy during the weekend.
Do you usually go out dancing? Why not put on some music and dance at home? Poetry slams are more your thing? Call a few friends and host a ‘virtual slam’. It’s not perfect, but you might even find some things you enjoy even better than going out.
Schedule some family time every week.
Make something, play a board game or watch a movie. You could make anything - a new shoe rack or some food. You might find that some hot roti or a parippu vadai is as nice as a stale meal you would usually buy. Find easy, cheap recipes to make at home.
Develop a new skill or start a new hobby
Always wanted to learn how to paint? Find an online course. Maybe you can improve your typing skills or learn some of the basics of accounting. It’s important to find things you like to do and keep doing them regularly.
Exercise can help you improve your mood and also help boost your immunity - an important thing to have in a pandemic! Even 5-10 minutes of exercise at the start can help. As you go along, you can work upto an optimal amount of time. Please be sure to prevent injuries and be sure to talk to your doctor before engaging in strenuous exercise.
Reflect on your mental wellbeing
How are you really feeling? It’s OK to feel upset or angry or frustrated - the main thing to do is to accept those feelings and think about how you can make yourself feel better. If things get bad, do reach out to a friend or family member. There are many resources you can access online and over the phone. Try starting “the Science of Wellbeing” course by Professor Laurie Santos.
Here are a few services you can reach if you feel your mental health is not too great
CCC hotline (24/7) - 1333
Shanthi Maargam (8am - 10pm) - 0717639898
Sumithrayo (9am - 8pm) - 011 2696666/ 2683555/2692909
Being stuck at home can be difficult, stressful and frustrating. One list or even ten lists will not magically make every issue disappear, but adjusting to life during the pandemic is the best way to improve your quality of life as you stay at home.