Shield your sanity: Protecting ourselves, so that we can protect them

Shield your sanity: Protecting ourselves, so that we can protect them

As the pre-flight safety briefing goes, look to secure your own safety, before tending to those of your family. If you are unable to do so, you jeopardise your ability to help them. The same principles apply to your mental health.

No one wakes up in the morning thinking that they are going to hurt their family. Yet, the number of domestic violence cases during this global lockdown has spiked. 

The Straits Times reports that calls to the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) helpline in February 2020, have increased by 33 percent compared to 2019. In March 2020, calls related to emotional and psychological distress, violence and abuse, was up by 35 percent; to 619 enquiries.

In times of crisis, it may feel like you are losing your sense of control or power. Having to juggle the needs and demands of family members, in spite of increasingly limited resources.

The forced constraint, the isolation, it all adds up. Managing the transition and that of your family members, can affect your personal mental health.

School, tuition, CCAs, and hobbies, innocuous and pedestrian activities that we never gave much thought to. Only when they are gone, do we realise that we needed them as much as our kids did. Providing us with moments of respite and rest.

You have now become the master chef, housekeeper, finance manager, school teacher on top of your usual role at work.

Some of us do not have access to the help from extended family that we had previously. Some of us are anxious about the stability of our jobs in this unpredictable climate. Some of us are concerned about our ability to financially support our families.

We are also navigating new territory in our relationship with our children. We have never had to be as involved in their learning or spend as much time with them as we do now. This may also have strained our parent-child relationship or it may not have turned out the way that you had expected.

Managing these stressors poorly will impact how we respond and react to the people around us – particularly our children. When we are fighting off pressures from every front, it could lead to an extended period of frustration, anxiety and uncertainty.

If left unchecked, that one harsh word, that one outburst, that one hand raised in a moment of fury, can spiral into something more serious and harmful. It can happen to the best of us.

To help protect our mental health during this circuit breaker, here are some things that we can do:

Balance what you read 

Do not overdose on articles regarding Covid-19. Ensure that you get information from reputable sources. Spend 5 to 10 minutes a day and nothing more. Instead, try spending more time reading positive and encouraging articles. Avoid breeding unnecessary anxiety. Replace it with positive perspectives and feel-good pieces.

Hakuna Matata time 

Schedule ME-time. Exercise, paint, dance, bake, cook, do a crossword puzzle, play a game, watch a Netflix show. Do something for yourself for 30 minutes each day. It’s your “no worries” moment for the day. 

Communicate with your children 

If they do something to frustrate you, chances are they were unaware of how or why it did. When we blow our top off at them, they are often unable to separate the anger from the teaching point. Wait till you have cooled off, sit down and share with them what made you frustrated in a neutral way. Ask them how they felt about it. 

This may not necessarily have to be verbal. Perhaps have a family diary book where anyone can write honest feelings. A journal where they can write or draw what they think happened which made you frustrated. Ease the tension and then help them recognise the specific actions that caused them to affect you. 

Connect with people 

Humans are social creatures. Connect with the outside world so that you feel less trapped on an isolation island. Video call your friends and family and share your worries and concerns. Know that you are not alone in what you are going through.

Control what you can

Avoid overindulging in things that makes you lose control – Binging on Netflix, alcohol, or even social media. Too much of anything is good for nothing.

Check yourself 

Emotions are subtle. We may not even realise we are feeling them until we look at ourselves in the mirror or we see how others are reacting to us. When our emotions get the better of us, they can sometimes spillover to the people in close proximity to us, affecting them in ways we do not plan. 

Our frustration with work or our spouses can sometimes lead to a raise in our voices or a switch to a negative tone when speaking to our children. Other times, it makes us more irritable that when our children do things that are not a big deal, we react as though it is. It is important that before we react or respond to any situation, we check our emotions to ensure that we are responding rationally and our response matches the gravity of the situation.

Ask for help

The reality is, being in any type of lockdown affects us all in ways that we may not have realised. Some of us are able to handle it and move on much quicker than others. The truth is, you do not have to manage all of this on your own. 

Sometimes the bravest thing that we can do for ourselves and our family is to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength and resourcefulness. When we are able to recognise that we need support from others, we become an example to our children, that they too can reach out for help whenever they need it.

It is only when we can manage ourselves first, that we can then be the support our family needs during this time.

If you find yourself needing support for any reason, below is a helpline that you can reach out to. You are not alone in this. We at High Achievers stand with you in this time of crisis.

National Care Hotline: +65 6202 6868

Should you need any assistance be it for mental well-being, stress over finances or marital or family tensions, you may call this hotline. It links you to specialised and trained professionals who will be there to listen and support you with any of your concerns.

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