Is conditional MCO the end of cabin fever?

A month ago, the health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah is optimistic about containing the COVID-19 cases. However, he warned that Malaysia may not be able to cope with any exponential spike in infections. Hospital staff from the Health Ministry of Malaysia can be seen taking a break after Covid-19 screenings for Kampung Baru Residents on April 7th, 2020.

On May 1st, Putrajaya announced that the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia is coming to a fourth phase. The government is shifting to the implementation of a conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) where most businesses are allowed to reopen. This is a decision made jointly by the government with the health ministry to lessen the impact on the Malaysian economy. The prime minister reported that the nation was losing around RM2.4bil daily during MCO, with estimated total losses of RM63bil

However, MCO has not only impacted our economy but all aspects of our lives. There was reportedly an increase of mental health issues which are also seen in medical professionals. For instance, a doctor was fined for driving out to ease his panic attack. This is a global phenomenon, as countries worldwide are in similar lockdown measures to limit exposure to the coronavirus. 

Editor’s Note: *Extras below will be more about how to cope as students*

Cabin Fever and Affordable Mental Healthcare

Being indoors for a prolonged period can have an impact on one’s mental health. One might face struggles to be productive and have a sleeping schedule. Feelings of irritability, helplessness, loss of interest and ability to focus can arise as well.  These symptoms among many others can be related to cabin fever. It is an experience of a person or a group when they are in a confined space for a prolonged period. It is not a psychological disorder or disease, but it can bring significant distress to a person. The severity and occurrence of cabin fever differ depending on personality and living conditions. Regardless, everyone is prone to it.

The pain and struggle of cabin fever. Image source: CNN

There are many ways to overcome feelings associated with cabin fever. These can be efforts in maintaining our lifestyle as well as interpersonal connections.

  • Keep a daily agenda.

Having plans to read a book or watch a show can help with staying mentally active. This would also give you something to look forward to and keep you motivated. 

  • Have a regular daily routine and schedule.

Treating this period like an indefinite holiday can have a negative impact. Instead, keep yourself occupied with regular routines such as exercising. This would help in gaining a sense of normalcy. 

  • Allocate places in your living space for specific purposes.

This would help improve focus.

  • Re-decorate your living space for a fresher feeling. 

These changes can be small, such as moving a table fan to a different place in your room.

  • Have regular exposures to air and sunlight from balconies and windows. 

This could help lessen the feelings of containment and suffocation. Being active when exposed to sunrise and sunset contribute to the maintenance of a regular body clock too. 

  • Keep in touch with your friends and family through calls and messages.

Maintaining a social distance does not mean that we need to be emotionally distant. Checking in on others can make you feel less isolated, as it can act as a reminder that you are not alone in this situation. 

  • Allocate time and space for yourself.

 If you are staying with someone else, try maintaining a balance between being alone and with them. 

  • Put effort towards coming to terms with the situation we are in right now. 

We do not know when it will end, so this might be how things will be for a while. This learning process is different for each person, and each day differs too. 

  • Practice self-compassion 

Be kind to yourself and celebrate each small step towards your goals. Do not be too harsh on yourself if you are not meeting your own standards of productivity that you used to have. Circumstances are different from what it used to be. 

  • Use this time to explore new hobbies, interests, or even a way of life. 

This offers a good opportunity for self-discovery. What better time to experiment this than now? You never know how much you’d enjoy it until you try!

A New Peculiar Start

The academic year is coming to an end and exams are starting soon. If you are facing some emotional difficulties with your coursework, feel free to consult your personal tutor or lecturer. This time of the semester is difficult on its own, so being physically away from the university as we are used to can put an additional toll on us. If you are facing emotional difficulties, do note that counselling sessions with the wellbeing and learning department are still available.

Feel free to email them at wellbeingandlearning@nottingham.edu.my for a session. They also have an emergency number that is available 24 hours (019-2660691 – Mr Vasu). 

If you feel like you need to talk to someone, there are organizations that offer a range of mental health support at a subsidized price. These services can be given by volunteers, counsellors, or clinical psychologists depending on its type. For counselling and psychotherapy, mental health professionals undergo specialized training to cater to different individuals. Do note that you can opt for a session even if you do not have a mental disorder.

These organizations also provide services from trainee counsellors and clinical psychologists. They are master’s degree candidates for clinical psychologists or counselling that are fulfilling their training hours. Sessions by them are supervised and comparatively lower in price. 

Listed below is a list of various sources available for relatively affordable mental health support that is available in this period of time. For this article, rates will only be specified for trainees. Do refer their respective websites for information regarding sessions with accredited clinical psychologists and registered counsellors.

Online Mental Health Services

Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA)
Monday to Friday, 9 am-5 pm via Zoom
Free during MCO for trainees (RM50 each session post-MCO), psychologists and counsellors available with the reduced price.
Whatsapp 017-6133039 for inquires

SOLS Health
Monday to Friday, 9 am – 6 pm via Google Hangout
RM50 per session for trainees
Email navigaide@sols247.org  or Whatsapp 018-6640247 for inquires

Serene Psychological Services 
Via Zoom
RM50 per session for trainees
Call or Whatapp 018-777 2242, or email serenepsychology@gmail.com for inquiries
Website: https://serene.com.my/appointment/

WeCare Allied Health Center
Via Google Hangout
RM70 per session for trainees
Whatsapp 013-815828 or email info@wecare.my for inquires

Centre For Psychological and Counselling Services by HELP University
Via Zoom
RM30 per session with trainees
Register at https://www.cpcs-helpuni.com/appointment

Life Line Association Malaysia
Email Support (Emotional Support, not a REPLACEMENT for counselling or psychotherapy)
Free of charge, mandarin as the main language
Counselling@lifeline.org.my

Malaysian Invisible Illness Association (MIIA)
Replies within 3 days
Free of charge, multiple languages available from a list of professionals
Refer to list for more info: 

Emotional Support Hotlines

Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA)
Monday – Friday, 10am- 5pm
Appointment Basis, free 30-minute emotional support session
Link for registration: click here

Life Line Association Malaysia
Via Zoom/Wechat
Mandarin, Appointment basis, free 45-minute emotional support session
More information: Click here

If you are facing some difficulties with domestic violence, do not hesitate to reach out to these contacts for assistance:

Women’s Aid Organisation 
Domestic abuse hotline: 03-79563488

Talian Kasih by the Malaysian Women, Family and Community Development Ministry
Hotline: 15999
WhatsApp 019-261599

If you are in an urgent situation and you feel like harming yourself, do contact these 24-hour crisis hotlines:

Talian Kasih by the Malaysian Women, Family and Community Development Ministry
Hotline: 15999
WhatsApp 019-261599

Befrienders KL
Skype username: BefKL Skype 1
Call: 03-76272929

Humans are highly social and intelligent beings. Restrictions on socializing with friends and other people are difficult but crucial for public health. However, getting used to the ‘new normal’ is important. Regardless of the MCO, we should maintain a social distance around others until a solution appears.  Aside from our physical health, we should also take good care of our mental health. As the full aftermath of the pandemic is still unclear, we can only be vigilant to our surroundings and adapt accordingly.

References
News Strait Times
Malay Mail
CNN
The Star: 1 | 2

Written by Wyn Wang

"They say that great minds think alike, but also fools seldom differ"

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