STAY SANE, BE BALANCED.
(Why Physical Lockdown doesn’t have to be PsychoSocial Lockdown! The best part is right at the end of the article)
Malaysia is in the third phase of the Covid-19 Partial Lockdown measures under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (more on this here).
The newspapers have reported that one of the many outcomes from this almost six weeks of partial lockdown is psychological distress. Here’s a report from Free Malaysia Today, dated April 29.
My article shares some of my personal reflections of staying sane by being balanced. My perspective comes from having learned counselling psychology at a master’s level. And teaching it for a decade. My perspective includes having had my share of intrapersonal conflicts, as well as interpersonal ones.
So how does one Stay Sane amidst all the gloom and doom of Covid-19, and its economic, and psycho-social ramifications?
I think the key to staying sane is by seeking to be balanced as much as one possibly can.
What do I mean by that?
I’ve observed that when I am introspecting too much, with the attendant physical behaviors of sitting around, and lounging around, and not getting physical activity into the mix, I am more susceptible to negative thoughts.
I also observed that when my surroundings, including furniture layout, remain in the same places day in and day out, I get muffled in my thinking. When I am in the same location within the house, doing the same things, especially introspecting, I tend to quite quickly spiral downwards in my mental health.
Then I noticed that whenever I did something different, or did the same thing in a different way, or rearranged not only the external artifacts, but also the internal ones, that both my internal and external worlds shifted for the better.
I became more sane.
So now I consciously do the following to ensure I have balance.
- I control whatever I have control over. I can control my diet, and my movement in and around the house. Jessie and I do breakfast outside the house and take in the lovely atmosphere of living close to a forest reserve. The “local” inhabitants drop by from time to time. They can be pests, but largely keeping to themselves. I can control my schedule a fair bit. So I am more deliberate at how I schedule my Zoom meetings. I use Post-it notes to brighten up my work routine. I literally change my study room furniture layout every other week or so. And I feel that much brighter. That much more sane. Here I am balancing my thoughts that are all internal, with physical activity that are external.
- I call family and friends. Too much time with your own thoughts can’t really get you going. Motivation levels can drop after a while of solo inner thinking and inner talking. That’s when I pick up the phone and call a friend. Or initiate an instant Zoom. Recently, the IAC in Asia initiated a “Path to Mastery” program to help IAC professional coaches to upskill and acquire upgraded credentials. I realized that the one on one practice sessions on coaching really helped me. My motivation levels picked up considerably, and I have become more consistent and developed the momentum to keep moving towards my goals.
- Silent inner talk is good and insufficient if you want to stay sane. Inner talk needs balancing with actually verbalizing your goals, and your action plans. It’s quite a dynamic. When you hear yourself speak your goals, and what you need to do to move towards the direction of your goals, there’s a lift in your gut! Or a lift in your spirit. I do a lot of verbalizing of God’s Word. And I personalize God’s Word in my life and that of my family and friends. It’s a form of meditation and prayer. And it does supercharge your internal batteries to live life with more energy and purpose.
- Being balanced is also about talking the spotlight off you, and onto others. The spouse, children, parents, friends, neighbors, community, and just others around you. People around me can always give me a new perspective. And that helps keep me sane. I need the balance of perspectives external to me.
- Instead of typing on your laptop keyboard, strike a balance by writing. Write on notepads, and post-its. Write on whiteboards and to do lists.
- Balance online reading with the good old-fashioned hardcopy book. And then, make allowance to interact with what you read. Write in the margins. Use highlighters. These simple tricks sparks your synapses to be more creative and innovative.
- Finally, the SECRET! Being Balanced is about Renewal. Renewal is about a Virtuous Cycle. It’s about continously doing the same things, in a new way! It’s about Structure and Spontaneity. It’s about Order and Ordered Chaos. It’s about Control and Controlled Out-of-Control. It’s about Simplicity and Sophistication. It’s about Striving Hard to Rest Easy. It’s about being Comfortable with Uncertainty. It’s about being Modern and Post-Modern. Formal and Post-Formal Thinking!
It’s about recharging yourself to be Fresh (Balanced!). Freshness of mind, of speech and behavior produces a burst of all the feel-good hormones:
Stay Sane, Be Balanced!
Franklin Morais is a Writer, Speaker, Academic in Counseling & Organizational Psychology, Professional Coach, Certified Facilitator, and Certified Trainer (HRDF Malaysia). He loves LIGHT! He enjoys meaningful conversations, so drop him a note at email@example.com, if you want one!