Covid-19 Exclusives: Becoming A Saner Person during the MCO


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ON JUNE 10 Malaysia entered the recovery phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO); and though the world has started to acclimatise to the “new normal”, most of us are still grappling with the enormity of Covid-19’s effects.

Fears of a global economic crisis and job losses are compounded by the extended periods of social isolation. During the lockdown, 50% of respondents in a survey conducted by the think tank, The Centre, reported experiencing varying levels of negative mental well-being, with 22% saying they were going through severe or extremely severe anxiety.

Women and those below the age of 35 also reported higher levels of negative emotions, with up to 26% of women saying they experienced severe and extremely severe depression, anxiety and stress. Interestingly, people living in low-cost housing also reported more extreme signs of all three conditions.1

Now more than ever, we are prone to overthinking and worrying about the uncertainties that lie ahead.

Ways to Combat Quarantine Fatigue

Taking charge in the kitchen

Cooking and baking have been the activity of choice for most people during the MCO. Sure, there are practical reasons for them: you need to eat and having to order food delivery for every meal would no doubt burn a gigantic hole in your wallet. But beyond that, the simple task of putting ingredients together occupies our time and makes us feel productive.

Home cooking is an excellent opportunity to practice new recipes or to indulge in comforting old favourites; and despite the quarantine order, the urge to stay connected with one another is stronger than ever. Malaysians are seen uploading their meal creations on social media; not only do they generate positive contents, it also helps cultivate a sense of community and provide a slice of normalcy.

Express yourself

Tapping into one’s creative side can do a world of good. Local entertainer and graphic designer Kenn Loh busies himself with designing, creating music and writing rhymes during the MCO. “I think, to a certain degree, we are all anxious beings. Whenever I experience bouts of anxiety, I try to deflect it by keeping myself occupied.” Dancing is a favourite pastime of his, Loh says. “It’s a form of exercise that keeps my mind sharp.”


“Now with Covid-19, our body’s immunity is our last line of defense.”

Loh has also been trying to stay on top of his game. So far, he has managed to complete four songs, as well as some personal projects that he had been meaning to get done for years. There are also plans to get his monthly rap battles and some b-boy (breakdancing) events started again once the lockdown is over.

“Isolation, for long periods, can do a number on you, mentally. But to get yourself out of the rut, remember to always set a goal. The bigger and more adventurous it is, the better. Remember to also enjoy the process and to not get too overwhelmed by the results,” he says. “Finding an outlet for self-expression can be very liberating. It helps you to better process your emotions and ideas in a constructive manner, and to get a better picture of what your goals are.”

Getting and staying fit

Most of us have developed a relatively effective daily routine during the lockdown, but does this also include exercising? Pre-MCO, we’d come home after a long day’s work to a piping hot meal before hitting the sack soon after, most times, with our phones in hand.

Mary Tang’s latest art series “Fungus 2020” was inspired by the MCO and mushrooms.

But more Malaysians are realising the benefits of exercising; a good workout helps to release mood-boosting chemicals like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, instantly making us feel better. “Now with Covid-19, our body’s immunity is our last line of defense,” says local entrepreneur Chew Chung Meng, who has recently started a Stay-At-Home Workout class on Facebook to motivate and coach netizens to be healthier and fitter. “The idea is to do a full-body workout from the comforts of your home, without the need for exercising equipment.”

When he is not coaching, Chew occupies his time attending free seminars, online business events and catching up on his reading. He is also hard at work producing video content for his personal projects, as well as lending a helping hand at a learning centre to create educational materials for youths.

Green fingers

Spending time outdoors has been known to accelerate one’s physical and mental healing; and so gardening can be a very therapeutic activity to pass the time with. Working with your hands, especially through repetitive activity, can offer a sense of calm and makes one more mindful.

Painting helps too. Penang-born-and-bred artist Mary Tang’s latest art series “Fungus 2020” was inspired by the MCO and mushrooms. The idea took root, she says, when she chanced on the saying “I’m so bored, I’m growing mushrooms” on social media. Tang started on the project and completed the series within a month. “I spent about four to six hours daily researching, sketching and painting,” she says, adding that it helps to do something repeatedly for at least 15 minutes a day. “I paint and crochet; both these activities help keep me busy and focused on what is happening in front of me. I find that craft projects act as an antidote, they consume our attention, leaving little room for anxiety to take over.”

Caffeine-addicted SEO Specialist by day and sleep-deprived writer by night, Illa tries to create content that connects with the audience.

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