Mental Wellness During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many individuals to be in a heightened state of fear and anxiety. This may result in people reacting negatively and making poor decisions that they otherwise would have not. Prolonged worry of being infected/dying, losing our job, losing loved ones, and paying loans can affect our mental health. We could even develop anxiety disorder or depression if we do not recognize the symptoms of these mental health issues.

Read more about the Impact on Mental Health and Relationship below.

People experience depression in many different ways, but perhaps the most prominent sign is a low or sad mood.

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Other typical signs of depression include lethargy, trouble with sleeping or early awakening, feeling constantly tired, pessimistic thoughts, difficulty thinking straight or making decisions change in appetite, or loss in interest.

There are different types of depressive reactions ranging from mild mood fluctuations or ‘the blues’ to clinical depression. At the severe end of the scale, people often experience more marked physical symptoms and it seems likely that this is related to biochemical changes in the brain.

A major depressive episode can be distinguished from the ‘normal’ depression by its severity, persistence, duration, and the presence of characteristic symptoms (e.g., sleep disturbances).

The most common symptoms of a major depressive episode are:
  • Markedly depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment
  • Reduces self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Bleak and pessimistic views of the future
  • Ideas or acts of self-harm or suicide
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Disturbed appetite
  • Decreased libido
  • Reduced energy leading to fatigue and diminished activity
  • Reduced concentration and attention

The depressed mood is relatively constant from one day to the next, although the mood may vary somewhat during the course of the day. A pattern is usually present in which mood becomes better as the day progresses. These symptoms should also persist at least 2 weeks for a diagnosis of depression. Thankfully depression can be treated through medication, psychotherapy, or counselling. If you are experiencing these symptoms, the first step is to see a counsellor or psychologist. Talk about your concerns. This is a start to addressing mental health needs.

Click here to read more about Anxiety and Worry

The pandemic also has a profound impact on all relationships including married couples.

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A local Chinese daily reported that there was a spike in divorce cases following the COVID-19 outbreak. The prolonged time that married couples were stuck at home was said to be the major contributing factor.

Problems with communication struggles over household chores, differences in parenting styles, and clashes in values are some issues that may surface during this period of time.

In relationships, couples have shared space and personal spaces. With the personal space, this helps the individual to maintain their sense of self and identity and meet their own wants and needs. This is also part of self-care.

However, with the greater emphasis on staying home to curb the spread of the virus, this can lead to the erosion of each person’s personal space and the shared space grows. Without the privacy, time, and opportunity to be alone in his or her personal space, the individual may feel more frustrated as his or her own wants and needs are not met. These negative feelings may be projected on the partner which can lead to conflict.

Innate in many people, there is a desire to share life together with a partner, though not 24/7.

Dr. John Lim

Tiding Through COVID-19

To tide through this period of uncertainty, we must first recognize that there is a correlation in our thoughts, our emotions, and our behavior.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Model

First, our thoughts can be biased depending on our values, experiences, and beliefs. These thoughts can be unhelpful and when you examine them, you may realize that they do not hold up.

Examples of Unhelpful Thoughts
  • Over-generalization – Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever.
  • Disqualifying the positive – Coming up with reasons why positive events do not count.
  • Jumping to the conclusion – Making negative interpretations without actual evidence.
  • Catastrophizing – Predicting the worst from the beginning.

Next, we need to recognize what we do can change how we feel and our thoughts towards it. This is the most crucial step in improving our mental well-being. This can be achieved by developing positive coping behaviors.

Read more about how you can tide through COVID-19 below.

Accept, normalize, and neutralize the negative feeling that we have accumulated.

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We must understand that these are normal feelings and responses when a threat is present. Tell yourself that it is okay to feel negative but not act entirely on it.

On the contrary, if we are preoccupied with negative emotions, we could enter into a spiral of rumination. Rumination is the tendency to keep thinking, replaying, or obsessing over negative emotional situations and experiences (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991). You can end up feeling worse and it can be detrimental to your mental and physical wellbeing.

Positive Attitude Change

Develop a positive attitude change.

These include expressing gratitude and having a sense of humor. Research by Dr. Fredrickson established that the positive emotions we experience broaden our mindset. The more we broaden the mindset we have, the more we build our resources and change who we are. We can become more resilient, more resourceful, and connected with others.

At work, team leaders who show appreciation and encourage a climate of gratitude can create positive energy in their teams. One practical and tangible way to do so is to lead by example, where they can encourage team members to give each other support and express positive feedback for projects and tasks well-done. Not only does this improve communication within the team, but it also boosts the well-being of the encourager. 

To kickstart this habit of expressing gratitude, we can write down one thing that we are grateful for at the end of each day. It may be something seemingly small, such as being grateful for the extra time saved from a commute as the train arrived earlier than usual or the familiar view out your window, but doing so forces your mind to focus on the positive aspects of the day. 

Start new goals and work towards it.

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Is there anything you had always wanted to do but could not find time to do it?

This might be the best time to pick up a new skill or hobby.

We can achieve this by setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) goals.

Take small steps and celebrate each step of the way.

This allows us to take action where we can. It is the inaction that keeps us in a heightened emotional stage. 

For example, if you have always loved to build meaningful connections with people and help them, you can consider taking up a counselling course to learn counselling skills. Besides, learning a new skill could potentially lead us to new career opportunities after the crisis has ended.

As our existing routines are disrupted, we should establish new routines and abide by them.

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Research in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes discovered the benefits of established routines. These include reducing anxiety, lower elevated heart rates, and improving performance. 

We can start by creating a list of our daily tasks. If we live with our family members, we should also do this planning together with them. This will set healthy boundaries with them and create more personal space for yourself. 

We should also limit our time spent watching the news. With all of the coverage and some false information circulating, it can cause us to feel even more overwhelmed, confused, and anxious. This does not mean that we should not be informed. On the contrary, we should tune in to official sources. We can check in on what is happening and then disconnect so that it gives us time to relax. 

Avoid major life decisions such as ending a relationship, switching jobs, or moving house.

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In our current state of heightened emotions, our natural response is either fight or flight. Under such a state of mind, we could end up making impulsive and unhelpful choices that we otherwise would have not.

Self Care

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As mentioned earlier, negative feelings such as stress, anxiety, or distress can be accumulated over a prolonged period of time. Therefore, we should set aside time for a self-care routine such as practicing relaxation breathing and mindfulness exercises. By choosing to let go of the negative feelings we have been harboring inside can go a long way in taking care of our mental health.

Mindfulness can help set the tone for the day.

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment.

Harvard Health

Listen to this loving-kindness meditation by Dr. John.

Ways to Support Others During COVID-19

  • Schedule regular calls or chats with people especially those who are alone. (You can also schedule workout sessions together!)
  • Listen actively and empathically. If needed refer them to medical health professionals.
  • Understand that it is normal for an individual to express anxiety and fear and do not judge them.
What can you do next?

Innate in many people, there is a desire to share life together with a partner, though not 24/7. – Dr. John Lim

To tide through this period of uncertainty, we must first recognize there is a correlation in our thoughts, our emotions, and our behavior.

Learn how to support others better through Singapore Emergency Responder Academy’s Psychological First Aid Course. Click on this link for more information.

Past Events

[Event] Positive Habits for Greater Achievement

One of the features of Singapore Counselling Centre's Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is that we can schedule regular corporate talks for your staff. Recently, SCC conducted a talk on Positive Habits for Greater Achievement for this organisation.

[Event] Premarital Counselling at SCC

The Singapore Counselling Centre conducted another run of its premarital counselling programme for 5 couples yesterday evening. We create a safe and structured space for the couple to talk about key issues such as life goals, finances, personality traits and more.

[Event] Self-Care 101 and Preventing Burnout at a Primary School

The Singapore Counselling Centre was recently invited to conduct a talk on Self-Care 101 and Preventing Burnout for staff of a local primary school. It was a fruitful and fun 1.5-hour session as we explored the differences between stress and burn-out, and what we can do to exercise self-care.

[Event] Self-Care 101 and Preventing Burnout

SCC was invited to conduct a talk on Self-Care 101 and Preventing Burnout. Learn tips on how to care for yourself to enhance your effectiveness. We are glad that the attendees enjoyed the talk and learnt practicable tips on how to practice self-care.
Relationship Talk by Singapore Counselling Centre

[Event] Relationship Talk for Polytechnic Students

The Singapore Counselling Centre was recently engaged by a polytechnic to conduct a relationship talk for students.

[Event] Workplace Harassment Talk

The Singapore Counselling Centre is happy to have been engaged by an international bank to share more about Workplace Harassment with their staff.

[Feature] SCC on Channel NewsAsia Talking Point - Inside Road Rage

The Singapore Counselling Centre is proud to have been part of Channel NewsAsia's episode of Talking Point that explores road rage.

[Event] SCC at WSG's Community of Practice (COP) - Self-Care and Preventing Burnout

The Singapore Counselling Centre is proud to have been part of Workforce Singapore (WSG)'s Community of Practice (COP) in October 2018. This COP, titled Getting Ready for the Future of Work: Building Wellness into 21st Century Workforce put the focus on the mental wellness of our career practitioners, career coaches and guidance counsellors.

[Event] Grief Management Talk

The Singapore Counselling Centre was engaged to conduct a talk for a group of paracounsellors on the topic of grief management.