Quarantine Chronicles: Mental Health Check
I have to admit, I am not feeling very productive. Currently functioning at my everyday default setting, perfunctorily working but not going much above and beyond. I do not feel like finishing my conference paper (and to think the only section missing is my review of related literature, which I haven’t organized yet). Production has been halted (though not by my choice), and teaching…well, classes are suspended, but I do keep my Discord chat online to help problematic students accomplish their deliverables. Every night is a struggle for sleep (even if I’ve tucked myself in bed by 8PM).
Under any other circumstance, I would have loved this life: not needing to prepare so much for work, no need to style my hair, no need to wear pants, or prep my introverted self for physical interaction, or travel to work. I can do chores while listening to my students. Am also saving so much because husband and I have been rationing our food. (Plus, with Lazada and Shopee using only their skeletal forces, any impulse buys will not be happening during the quarantine.) Unfortunately, this is not a friggin’ staycation. Even if I want to distract myself, there are nights when I only get two hours of sleep, bothered by the situation the entire world is in.
Keeping ourselves healthy is very important. This is the time when our bodies must be in top shape. And you know what, that includes protecting our mental health. If we continue to lose sleep because of anxiety, that also makes our bodies vulnerable. So here, sharing with you guys some ways I distract myself.
- Cooking hacks
- Annoying our cats
- Regularly playing video games
- Installing meditation apps
- Actively seeking good news
- Doubling the workouts
Despite my online grocery runs, our pantry has limited variety. This is because online shopping portals like Landers and LazMart are also running low on stocks. So I make do with what we have, and I get to be creative with our Samsung Smart Oven.
I have been avoiding scary or sad shows, so I am either watching superhero series or comedies. Started The Big Bang Theory last week, and I’m actually kinda surprised that I’m now in the 10th season even though it’s been just a week.
Annoying our cats
Not sure if my cats are happy about us being home this long, but wow. I wish they knew how much of a stress relief they are for me and hubby.
Regularly playing video games
The level of interaction required when playing video games can really help distract from negative thoughts, especially when bosses are so difficult that it requires your full concentration. It also helps when developers go into fan service with the characters I ship. ^_^
A few years ago, my best friend Felix told me about an app called Buddhify. It isn’t free, but it still is the best guided meditation app I’ve ever used. In fact, Buddhify had been more successful in getting me to sleep than Lush’s Sleepy Lotion had ever been. I lost Buddhify when I replaced my old broken phone, and forgot about it. Tried those free meditation apps, and they weren’t as effective. Thank goodness, I didn’t have to pay for installing the app on a new phone. These days, it only costs $2.99. That’s pretty cheap, considering you really can’t put a price tag on your mental health.
Actively seeking good news
While I find it absurd when people try to block news of COVID-19 (guys, information is a form of defense and people have literally died due to ignorance), I try to really look for good news. Was a politician exhibiting good governance? I’d share that! Are regular people helping others out? I’d share that, too! Are schools turning their unused campuses into shelters for displaced health workers? Share those things! Did someone order extra meals for their Grab Riders? SHARE! SHARE! SHARE! These stories make me feel good. These make me believe that there’s hope for humanity. And this is good for our mental health.
Oh! And have you heard about my aunt’s balut turned accidental pet, Cobibe? A few news outlets picked up the story.
Doubling the workouts
Ever since my OB-GYN put me on Luprolex, then back to Visanne, losing weight and body fat had been a serious struggle. The problem with this quarantine also is that I could no longer walk around the class to check up on students, so one of my effortless forms of exercise disappeared.
The photo above was taken 14 weeks ago (as of this writing). I was around 124 lbs. Actually hit 126 lbs right before the quarantine. Am now down to 119 lbs, and husband is starting to notice that I am close to the shape I had when we first met (117 lbs). I was around 112 when we got married, and that is my weight goal. How I managed to lose weight when quarantine makes you stuff yourself silly?
I doubled my workout: one at 7:00 (three hours before breakfast), and at 14:00 or 15:00 (before lunch). Thing is, it’s not only weight loss that I’m after when I do this. To quote a paper by Drs. Sharma, Madaan, and Petty:
Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression. These improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain and by an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and, thus, on the physiologic reactivity to stress.
So yeah, I’m not ok. But it does feel that somehow, doubling my exercise (and keeping myself occupied) helped alleviate my anxiety. Hope some of these things could work for you, if you are in the same boat I am in.
Oh, and my cousin just PM’d me last night about her video in MC Family Studies. Dr. Malou Chavez is a licensed psychologist who advocates positive psychology. She covers most of what I’ve discussed here, and more.