How I’m navigating the latest 2021 (soft) lockdown in Singapore differently

A few weeks ago, we launched into a soft lockdown.

Despite our border control measures, policing the wearing of masks, and a vaccination program, community cases increased again. Ironically, in the wake of being complimented by global bodies for our COVID-19 resilience.

We groaned collectively. I felt myself slump, inside.

I went through the motions of taking care of myself and realistically appraising the conditions, and decided to write this reflection on growing up emotionally and what I’m doing differently this time.

You might benefit from this because COVID-19 is rearing its ugly head in waves, currently in countries that seemed to have a grip on it. And then as yet other countries enjoy respite from it, and as the masks are coming off, we don’t know what will happen next.

Allowing myself to panic

Yes, you read that right. A part of taking care of myself is not denying what’s going on.

So there is a part of me that benefits from panicking. Because I’m trying to get to the heart of what happens in the worst case scenario. I’m also slightly gratified by getting caught up momentarily in collective panic.

But this happens within limits. I gave myself two hours; turns out 15 minutes was all I needed and then I got bored of it.

This tiny gift bought me back sanity and wise planning.

Planning for the worst

After looking into my metaphorical crystal ball to take in Apocalypse, I could then reset my brain by grounding myself and doing bouts of deep breathing.

Then I started assessing the real threats.

As I read about how people started hoarding toilet paper and food— an evolutionary impulse to stay in-control— I looked at our food system here and as always, had zero worries.

Health-wise, I’m waiting to be vaccinated; but I have been building up my immunity over the years.

The biggest problem I foresee is the economic impact locally, with businesses closing down. And then, a global one if more waves hit. As I see it, alot of these are out of my control.

What’s within my control, is taking care of my career and that of my network’s.

And then, taking care of the local businesses, especially those who do not have the resources to go digital. So often, I visit these establishments, and also toot their food online.

I then created a Lockdown Plan, in the event we lockdown fully. With all these time from not dining out freed up, I might end up worrying, the way the human brain does.

So I’ve planned for things to do in different areas of my life. Because the time will pass anyway, I’d rather make the best use of it.

Not applying Cognitive Photoshop

Yes, I’m good at entertaining myself, I’m a veritable introvert, and I have a beautiful home with a lush balcony.

Yes, I have resources and a lot to be grateful for.

And yes, the mental fitness of my immediate family is a lot higher compared to a year ago, thanks to the dedication we’ve put in.

But that doesn’t mean I should write off all the dread.

The pandemic’s dragged on for more than a year; we are all tired.

Singapore has plenty for me to explore still, and I love doing that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the option of hopping on a plane. That freedom has been curtailed, and much as that’s a First World Problem, it is not a competition as to who’s suffering more or has the least resources to cushion.

In the same way, I’ve stopped feeling bad that I dread not sitting somewhere to sip on my triple espresso and nibble on a croissant aux amande.

Last lockdown was the first time since I’ve been in my mother’s womb that I hadn’t dined out at least once a week. Typically, I pop into at least 6 establishments a week.

As I looked at all the afternoon teas, breakfasts, walks, hikes, classes and gatherings in my calendar evanescing into thin air, it felt crappy. I want to admit that was the biggest pain I felt.

This year, I’m refusing to be shackled by the guilt of having First World Problems.

Instead, I’m acknowledging that the only reason I have these First World Problems is because I’ve worked hard and smart to design my life this way, and that others have paved my way.

A rude awakening, a shock to the system

Sometimes there’s nothing like a shock to the system— that splash of icy water on your face— to wake you up away from your bubble.

We’ve had 32 COVID-19 casualties over here since the start; more often than not, it feels like we’re in a bit of a bubble. Life has for the most part, gone on pretty normally for some time. With government grants from deep reserves, plenty has been cushioned.

Sometimes it feels like we’re in an alternate reality as to what’s happening elsewhere.

But I remember last year, when I received a text that one of my previous clients had died from COVID-19. She was my first client with learning disabilities; prior to that, I was scared of working with this population, and she was my teacher in ways she never knew. That brought me back to earth, and burst that bubble for a bit.

This year, I am receiving news about close family friends in India having COVID-19. Most of them have recovered, but when you live in that bubble and can be desensitised, it’s sobering as you pray for the best outcomes for the people you care about.

And as this new lockdown brings me back to earth, it also takes me away from my personal preoccupations, and to look at the bigger picture on how I want to live my life.

It’s fuelled in me a new zest to make the best of my days.

Or at least, it’s how I’m deciding I want to make this lockdown count.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”— Kafka On The Shore, Haruki Murakami.

If you’re reading this

If you’re read till the end of this piece, whether or not you’re going through a lockdown, here are some reflection prompts you could use through any difficult times:

  1. What emotions have you been suppressing?
  2. What would it take for you to acknowledge them?
  3. What can you do to take the best care of yourself, right now?
  4. What are the areas you can control, and can you take ten minutes to carve a plan?
  5. What resources or resilience do you have, that you are for having? How can you reframe this?
  6. How can you make this difficult time count?
  7. Who do you want to become, when you get to the other side?

If you’d like further help to improve your mindset ready for whatever may be coming your way, known or unknown, why not come along to our next online workshop series.