Life in a pandemic has been nothing short of challenging. Like many around the world, we’ve collectively adapted to new measures, experienced quarantine and even dealt with major Stay Home blues—an experience we’re all too familiar with! Words like “circuit breaker” or “stay home” are bound to bring up memories or feelings of isolation, boredom or even a lack of motivation.
Like you, we’ve had our fair share of quarantine blues, so we figured we’d share some of our personal and relatable experiences so you feel less alone in these trying times. Taking care of your mental well-being is something we feel strongly about, so we’ll also include how we personally overcome difficult moments. After all, we have to look out for each other, especially in times like this!
Finding time to relax
Staying home could be an opportunity to get to know yourself better. Often, we’re faced with bustling and stressful surroundings, so being home could be one of the rare chances where you get to relax by yourself and in the comfort of your own home—away from hectic environments. Spending your weekends at home also means you have more free time to relax.
Cheryl: I actually baked my first cake during circuit breaker last year! It was a (decent) banana cake. As someone who enjoys experimenting with food, staying home also allows more time for that—there is a sense of delight in eating the food you make yourself; it comes from knowing what exactly you're feeding your body with, and the fact that you prepared the food yourself. I cook my own meals way more often now.
I also seek ways to keep that creative output going—as a creative, it is easy to get stuck during this stay-home period. However, it is also this very stuckness that pushes me to work that creative mind further.
Dhya: I spent most of the circuit breaker re-watching my favourite movies or true crime documentaries. I had just graduated and needed an outlet to wind down, so I stayed socially connected through video chats with my friends or having online game nights! Staying home means I get to enjoy playing my favourite vinyl records for hours or cleaning my room. Since I’m always home, I find that it’s the perfect time to take the pressure off, channel my energy into creating art and doing something purposeful like online activist work.
Elaine: I like spending my free time by working out, going out on nature walks, hiking and finding new recipes to cook. I also love watching my favourite netflix show, Ozark—it’s too good! Painting is the most relaxing activity for me as I get to immerse myself in my music and in the subject of the painting. If I'm too lazy to clean up after, then being out in nature is a great option. I have a newfound appreciation for Singapore’s nature now that I’ve explored more of our local sights.
Pei Wen: In my free time, I would take a nap, usually with the air-con on if the weather gets too hot. If I’m on my laptop, I would surf Netflix or Disney+ and watch movies or dramas, depending on my mood. Otherwise, I would be on my phone, catching up on my favourite variety shows like Running Man or watching videos of my favourite celebrities. If I have to make my own meals, I would refer to Youtube tutorials on preparing easy-to-follow recipes. Sometimes, I would be on Discord, chatting with friends while exercising or playing games together—one of the games we’re currently hooked on is Stumble Guys!
After a stressful day, I find that taking a long shower and tucking myself to sleep helps to shut down my mind so that it can go into rest and recovery mode. During the golden hour, looking out my window and at the sky is pretty relaxing because I get to watch the sunset and admire nature—doing so makes me realise that there is a beautiful world outside my window. If I’m feeling more active, I’ll take a walk downstairs at my park connector or do some yoga moves on my mat.
Creating the right home environment
Staying home also means working from home, and the lines between your work and personal life can become blurred. For some, this new arrangement might feel rigid and frustrating, so try changing your work from home experience by creating a welcoming and nurturing environment for yourself. More importantly, know when to detach yourself from work when you need to!
Elaine: I brighten my workspace with artwork that I’m inspired by and I like having everything on my desk organised. Having a notebook with me gives me the freedom to doodle or sketch whenever I want and helps me brainstorm. To keep my work and personal lives separate, I make sure that work chats are on mute after working hours. This helps me to take my mind off work and plan out what I want to do after. When creating a peaceful and inviting work atmosphere, I use noise-cancelling headphones and put on a good playlist!
Dhya: Working from home means I have to learn how to draw the line between work and personal spaces. To do this, I strictly keep my work in one designated area and avoid moving about in my house when I get my work done. I try to manage my breaks carefully as well, so that I can work efficiently without getting distracted by the random urge to sit in bed or relax. I find that working from home can be very productive once you create the right surroundings for yourself and maintain it.
Pei Wen: Making my bed, tidying up the desk and sweeping the floor helps me to create a clean and conducive environment to work in and improves my productivity within the space. I won’t admit to having the perfect work/life balance but I try to make it a habit to exercise after work—even if it means doing simple home workouts on a mat! As for dividing my areas, I work mostly in my bedroom as all the cables and stationery are on my desk. I try to organise my desk by placing all necessary work-related items like my notebook, hard disk and pens on my right, and non-work related items on my left. At times, if the bedroom feels too warm and stuffy, working in the living room helps to switch up my working environment.
Having a well-ventilated and bright room is important. By opening the windows with the curtains drawn, you allow a good amount of sunlight in. To block out outdoor noise or distractions, keep the room door closed and have a good background playlist. I mostly stick to instrumental music for a peaceful and inviting atmosphere. I also use an air purifier or a reed diffuser as it helps to make the room smell nice and fresh which makes me feel refreshed and motivated.
Cheryl: I believe in the need for separating our workspace from our resting space, even more so now that we have to WFH—I work in the living room and at the same spot, never in my bedroom. This draws a clear line mentally—my brain would not associate the bedroom with work, hence I "protect" my downtime and resting space, both physically and mentally. Same goes for work - this space distinction ensures I maintain my work productivity which is definitely important too.
To me, WFH is never about cozying up in bed with your laptop. It meant only what it says - working at home instead of your usual workplace.
It’s okay to feel that way
Most of us may feel terribly down about being stuck at home for long periods. There were probably moments where we wanted to switch off or times where we have felt disconnected from the world. We’re here to remind you that it’s okay to have those low moments. Difficult days don't always have to be lonely either—we’ve all had them.
Pei Wen: The most difficult thing about staying home was feeling trapped; being unable to go out or have social interaction with friends. It led to negative and unwanted energy like frustration and restlessness. When lockdown and WFH first happened last year, it felt really strange and uncomfortable, as though the world paused. It wasn’t easy adapting to the drastic change. I believe everyone went through a lot of struggles but at the end of the day, I felt there was some good born out of it too. Looking back, I feel thankful that the lockdown taught me some personal life lessons.
I learned how to depend on myself more and to find ways to make do of the situation. It was a healthy growing process and I got some rest that was much needed. Personally, I found it heartwarming how workaholics have slowed down and taken the time to treasure their loved ones, especially older parents. I think they’ve learnt to appreciate life now more than ever! WFH feels like the norm now and I believe we can all find its silver lining. The most important thing is to have discipline and to know when to draw the line between work and play.
Elaine: When the WFH period began last year, I found it really hard to adjust because I tended to procrastinate a lot and it made me less productive. Since the rest of my family was also working from home, we had problems communicating with our colleagues, especially through video calls. There were times where our scheduled online meetings would clash and it would annoy other family members as there would be different background voices in our calls. It was also frustrating to work with a slow internet connection!
Dhya: Circuit breaker was a difficult time for me as my final semester of university was cut short. Graduating in the middle of circuit breaker and being stuck at home meant I couldn’t celebrate it with friends and I had the added pressure of finding a job in the midst of a pandemic. Nevertheless, I counted my blessings and I realised that the stay-home period actually made my family grow a lot closer: we spent the entire Ramadan (Islamic fasting month) in 2020 together, which was something we had never done before. You start to realise the kind of things you would usually miss out on if everyone were to be out and doing their own activities. I have to admit I’m still a little bummed I had to miss out on my plans for a graduation trip, but I hope travelling restrictions will ease in the next year or so.
Cheryl: I see a collective sadness which is only natural not just with the lifestyle changes that we have to adapt to, but also with the grief experienced by the ones who were affected by COVID first-hand. I didn't feel sad, but uninspired and somewhat trapped. How I wish I was in a bigger country where there are mountains and seas we could travel to domestically. I can't be the only one who feels this way - hiking the increasingly crowded Bukit Timah Hill is not as enjoyable as I want it to be. Man, I have started curating a list of places to visit for my next Korea trip.
Revitalise your mind and self
It’s easy for routines to become repetitive when you’re stuck at home. Prevent that boredom by adding a little colour into your life and changing the way you approach your usual chores, perhaps by finding something to look forward to everyday. When you start taking care of yourself mentally and physically, you’ll immediately start to notice the changes in your mood and mindset! Plus, indulging in self-care can be much more beneficial than spending hours mindlessly scrolling through Netflix.
Dhya: Usually, I’ll start my day with a positive mindset and a clear plan. I keep to the routine of having my morning tea, eating the right foods and getting the right amount of rest and sleep. Being at home means I don’t have to look nice or dressy but I like feeling good about myself, so I take care of my appearance regardless. I always make an effort to smell good or apply my daily skincare routine since it improves my mood and confidence. On days when I feel less great about myself, I play some upbeat music, paint my nails and put on my favourite hoodie for comfort—sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.
Keeping up a balanced diet plays a major part in how I feel as well, as my body naturally responds to what I consume. I try to eat home-made meals as much as possible while learning cooking or baking tips from my mum. Staying hydrated and avoiding junk food have really impacted my overall mood and body too: I’m less lethargic now and I’ve noticed that my skin feels healthier!
To keep my mental health in check, I’ve been mindful of the hours I spend online and take breaks to have some alone time—away from the noise of the world around me. It’s good to consider the amount of hours you spend on social media and how much of it you consume within a day. The internet could be the main source of connecting with others in a stay home situation but it could also be draining to spend your entire day staring at a screen. When it gets overwhelming or exhausting, putting your phone aside and taking the time to appreciate your surroundings can make you feel more grounded and in the moment.
Elaine: I take care of myself by having a good night’s sleep, keeping myself active and eating a balanced diet. Whenever I feel low, I look for something that can help with my productivity—for me, it's coffee. Personally, I find that the most important thing anyone can do is to create a solid routine. Have your breakfast and take a shower even if you have nowhere to go! Build a plan around cleaning up or organising your home. Set a time to speak to your friends or drop them a text and check in with them. You’ll never know if they might be struggling too.
Pei Wen: Self-care to me means taking care of your body and mind and prioritizing yourself first. I restore my energy by taking naps, eating healthy fruits or açai and listening to good music or podcasts. I understand how hard it is to be cooped up at home, because I was at my worst when the lockdown happened. A word of advice would be to get connected with your family or a trusted friend.
It is also good to have some time alone to reflect and find your own source of energy and motivation. Try not to be pressured by society or the timeline that they expect from you. You can take as long as you want to recover or bounce back but the most important thing is to keep moving! If you feel down, avoid going through it alone and try to be accountable to someone by communicating actively with them. Staying connected is as easy as dropping someone a text or replying to group chats. Find a comfortable group of friends that share common interests with you and organise social gatherings online like playing games or hosting watch parties. As difficult as it may be, you may want to use this stay home period as an opportunity to open up about your problems to family members who live under the same roof as you, be it your parents, grandparents or siblings.
Cheryl: Staying home as a whole (not just WFH) healthily and effectively, requires strong self-discipline and awareness. The increased interactions with our family members might also be a huge headache to some of us, hence making it even more essential to have 'me time'. I believe it is important to set aside some tech-free time everyday to just be with ourselves. It could be as simple as having a snack at your dining area and just focusing on the eating. I personally spend time meditating using the singing bowl as well. For those of you who used to play a musical instrument, it's a good opportunity to pick it up again!
It's also the time to dance like nobody's watching (there really isn't anyway) - set up a nice light, play something chill or your all-time favourite hit and dance it all out in your room. My current go-to track is the freshly released "Nabi" by Peggy Gou featuring OHHYUK.
As Gou says, "When people hear ‘Nabi,’ they’ll hopefully feel the same sense of healing—that feeling that everything’s going to be OK..."
Have a listen (and dance)!
Like what Cheryl mentioned, dance it out—we've curated a music playlist that will hopefully bring your spirits up and get you grooving.
Take heart and stay safe!
Team Tocco Toscano