Putting Yourself First in a Pandemic | Belo Medical Group

Why Putting Yourself First is Important in the Middle of a Pandemic

By Ysabel Vitangcol on August 9, 2020

When I welcomed the new year with my family eight months ago, I had high hopes for 2020. Little did we know that a global health crisis was afoot, waiting to claim the lives of over 720,000 people (and counting). Several months have passed, and the world (myself included) has, against all odds, managed to cobble together a false sense of normalcy. We call this time “the new normal,” but if we’re being honest, these circumstances are far from mundane. In simple terms: it’s a mess, and it’s overwhelming to begin to fathom.

Absorbing all this information on social media is taxing. Though a great many of us have the privilege of being quarantined safely at home, it’s all an illusion: on the outside, bad things are happening and will continue to happen. For the most part, you’re able to filter out the noise—but at some point, the dam has to give way, and the water has to go somewhere. As someone who’s bottled in their feelings for far too long, the proverbial dam is at its breaking point. And I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

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Health organizations have reported that a second pandemic may well be underway: a mental health pandemic, that is. The stresses brought about by COVID-19 (and the ensuing quarantine period) have caused an unprecedented spike in mental health issues all over the world. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can arise from:

  • Loss of livelihood or sense of stability as a consequence of the pandemic
  • Difficulty managing intrusive thoughts (i.e. exposure to political issues surrounding the pandemic, fear of having COVID-19 or giving it to a family member)
  • Difficulty adjusting due to new routines (i.e. working from home, getting used to being around family 24/7)
  • Inability to access support systems and sources of fulfillment that are outside the home (i.e. being with friends, outdoor activities)
  • and more.

It starts with physical symptoms: trouble sleeping, lethargy, tired eyes from constant screen exposure. Then, worry and anxiety set in, giving way to feelings of hopelessness about your own situation or of others. When will MECQ end? Will I still get to keep my job? How long until things truly get back to normal? The whole world is asking these questions, but no one has definite answers. And that uncertainty can chip away at your mental health, causing you to find difficulty fulfilling your many roles in life. When you let too much of the outside in, you lose your inner peace, which could cause you to act negatively around the ones you love (whom you are most likely quarantined with right now).

You may also feel guilt in knowing that you have privileges others don’t. You might not feel that your issues are valid, especially as others seem to have it much worse. But trust us—they are. And you deserve to be cared for by you, so that you can better care for others.

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You don’t have to force yourself to “think positive” or anything like that. All it takes is a few small, but good habits, to get your mental health on the right track.

  • Take regular breaks from the news. While it’s important to stay updated about the pandemic, spending excessive amounts of time reading the news can take a serious toll on your mental health. To get only the essential news, you can join the Telegram group PH Coronavirus Updates.
  • Use your free time mindfully. Have you ever wasted away a perfectly good Saturday just mindlessly scrolling through your phone? Try to stop and think about what you truly want to do with your day. It could be as simple as a shower! Living more mindfully will allow you to truly enjoy your weekends. No more “What?! It’s Sunday already?”
  • And speaking of mindfully, learn to meditate. Thousands of people have taken up meditation in quarantine to center themselves and find an oasis of peace in their mind. Don’t worry—you don’t have to touch your thumb to your index finger and hum “ommm” if that’s not your thing. Meditation, really, is just about being in the moment. A good place to start is the Headspace app, which has a great free version. Perfect for beginners.
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  • Be aware of what your body needs. Sometimes, we feel stressed because our body needs something without us realizing it. Maybe it’s been hours since we’ve had a glass of water. Or maybe our muscles feel tight, and it’s causing an unpleasant workday. Pause and pretend you’re a Sim (no, really). What “Need Bars” need addressing? Is it hunger? Comfort? Hygiene? Energy? Then, as you work on each need, imagine that bar slowly filling up.
  • Use this time to fall in love again with a hobby you’ve stopped doing. Work is work, and we all lose track of the things that used to bring us joy. Did you used to play the ukulele, just for fun? Maybe it’s time to pick the little guy up again. Have your plants succumbed to neglect? Look up an online store and be that plantita you used to be in 2017. Time to get back together with our ex…hobbies! Hobbies.
  • Reach out to your support system. This pandemic makes it feel like it’s every man for himself, but we need each other’s support now more than ever. Never feel weak for needing to cry on someone’s shoulder (albeit via FaceTime) or having to take a day off work just to regroup. It’s okay. Really, it is. Communicate with loved ones who will support you and help you figure out your next steps.
  • Show yourself you still care about yourself. Personally, a good skincare routine can help anyone feel saner. It’s the best way to signal that you love yourself. If you’ve run out of good skincare, The Belo Shop has plenty of options for every skin type.

And remember, there’s no rush towards feeling better. Take as many steps as you need to, and remember that your mental health journey is different from others’. Surround yourself with those who care, because that definitely helps, but the person who should be kindest to you right now is yourself. Only then will you have the capacity to help others get through these trying times. We’re rooting for you, always!

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