It’s sad to see the rising number of death cases in Malaysia, for an illness that can be prevented. My thoughts are with the families who had been robbed off their rights. The right to honour the lives of their loved ones with a proper goodbye. The COVID-19 situation in Malaysia hit the fan due to close contact with those infected, who were oblivious of their condition. To that, I would like to add that some are oblivious to the ferocity of the virus they might carry. At this point, it is suffice to say that COVID-19 is here to teach us a lesson in humanity. So Malaysians, how do we humanly rise above the COVID-19 situation?
Besides practising the obvious, i.e washing our hands with soap, self-quarantine if symptom is present, disclosing medical/travel/contact history, and social-distancing; it is also important to keep our mental health in check by focusing on the practices that we can control. No amount of blaming or shaming those who against their good judgement, had caused the virus to spread. This is not to say that they don’t have to be accountable for their actions, but this is to say that we are accountable to our own mental health during these trying times.
So please feel welcome to join me to shift our focus back to the most important person in this world: YOURSELF. I am inviting you, to focus on yourself to ensure that we spring back from this situation as a better, more resilient and a wiser version of ourselves. It is my belief that Malaysians have the smarts and the means to rise above this situation. Because, there is no other way than up.
For some clarity, let’s go through the possible negative outcomes of the COVID-19 situation.
NEGATIVE POSSIBILITY 1: SLOTH
As of Sunday, 22nd March 2020, Malaysians are at Day 5 of the Restricted Movement Order. We’ve been required to stay at home and advised to leave the house only for essentials. With minimised movement, comes maximised inactivity. How many of us have spent so much time these past few days scrolling on social media, under the guise of keeping up with the latest news on COVID-19?
Although the death toll is rising, we must remember we are still alive. We still have the opportunity to render affection to our loved ones. Have we checked on any friend or relative who lives by themselves? Are we enjoying memes on social media instead of laughing with our kids? Do TikTok videos entertain us more than moving our own bodies to some music?
Consuming endless content on social media during the Restricted Movement Order may well build the foundations of sloth. We must break free from inactivity before it becomes a habit. Be aware that time is the most expensive non-renewable resource. Get off that couch and be useful.
NEGATIVE POSSIBILITY 2: GLUTTONY
Malaysians are lucky, we have the resources to stock up our pantry. Be it in terms of monetary, or the freedom to shop for groceries in spite of the Restricted Movement Order. The problem arises when we are stuck at home with a pantry full of food and high-speed Internet. We become stuck to our screens, feeding our minds with junk content, feeding our mouths with junk food.
Eating unnecessary amounts of food and drinks, with high fat and sugar content will definitely pay its price. Be it an increase on the waistline or decrease in fitness due to reduced nutritional consumption. Worse, gluttony is the effect of all the subconscious stress-eating. And overeating is a tough cycle to break.
Being mindful of your consumption (both food and online content) trains you to care for yourself by being selective on the building blocks of your thoughts and your body. The right mental outlook is paramount in creating a nation that rises above the COVID-19 situation.
NEGATIVE POSSIBILITY 3: PARANOIA AND ANXIETY
By far the worst effect from the COVID-19 is how paranoid and anxious we’ve become. We witnessed panic buying, told to be in the confines of our homes, avoiding contact, taught to wash our hands as if we’ve never done it, calling one another racist – AS IF, we won’t live to see one another once the COVID-19 situation is through. Malaysians, our forefathers have faced worse enemies than viruses, and they rose above the situation.
The paranoia and anxiety we feel now is fed by no other than the screen in our hands. Maybe living without social media would not be so bad after all. Why not take a four-hour break from social media and see how that makes you feel.
Distracting yourself with cooking, baking, gardening is far more fulfilling than sharing incidents relating to COVID-19 on our phones. Give yourself a break. Be absent from social media for a while. Real friends would realise that you’ve been away. You can come back online feeling refreshed, energised, with less paranoia and anxiety.
Now, we will move on the possible positive outcomes from the COVID-19 situation.
POSITIVE POSSIBILITY 1: HEIGHTENED CLEANLINESS
Where once we had seen strewn pieces of tissues as harmless, now we know better. We experience a pandemic to educate us on the importance of thoroughly washing our hands and disposing our waste properly. These are things we thought technology would have had us covered. The onus is now on us to keep ourselves clean.
POSITIVE POSSIBILITY 2: HEIGHTENED APPRECIATION ON THE INTANGIBLE
With the Restricted Movement Order in effect, we appreciate the things we’ve taken for granted all along. How many of us are now getting acquainted with our balconies? Don’t we long to take a stroll at the park with our kids now? Did we appreciate the freedom we had before 18th March 2020?
Other than appreciating freedom better now, we also have developed a better sense of appreciation for the non-material. How good is our car now that we can’t drive it around with our family? Is the new handbag still stored in your closet? The wide selection of shoes you have for your two feet, with nowhere to go?
How about that smile you see on the face of your loved one when you video-called them? Having your kids just within your arm’s reach, exactly where they should be? If anything, you have everything you need right now and you are blessed.
POSITIVE POSSIBILITY 3: STRENGTHENED HUMANITY
As Malaysians, we are doing our part by staying put. We understand the pain of not being able to reach out and be close to all those in our hearts. We feel the heartbreak with each and every death due to COVID-19 reported. Our hearts skipped a beat with every picture of the frontliners sacrificing themselves for us. And no word can describe the crushed feeling in our hearts upon learning a baby infected with COVID-19. We are one with our heartfelt feelings in these dreary times.
Having experienced a pandemic as a nation shall bring us closer together. Raising above the COVID-19 situation as Malaysians is the path to a greater Malaysia. How we respond with the current situation determines how our nation is shaped tomorrow.
Until the Restricted Movement Order is lifted, feel the life and live.
Be with your family, notice the exact shade of dark brown of your spouse’s eyes. The shade of blue that circles the brim of your kids’ eyes.
Tend your garden, notice the exact shade of pink at dawn on your neighbour’s pink marigold (your neighbour’s, because you just got started with gardening, lol).
Journal your thoughts using paper and pen. Let your thoughts flow unrestricted, so that you can observe your emotions and learn to be in touch with yourself.
Get enough sleep each night. Be obsessed with self-care, eat right, exercise well – and notice how it affects your mood, your clarity in making decisions and your overall well-being.
Live with less and be happy where you are. Little did you realise that fancy restaurants, new clothes, new gadgets or vacation destinations is NOT needed to be happy. Home is where the heart is.
More importantly, know that when a situation squeezes us, we are left with the pulp to be discarded and the juice to be enjoyed. The choice is yours, to raise above the COVID-19 situation as better Malaysians.