askST@NLB: How do I cope with being retrenched or working from home due to Covid-19?

Brahm Centre founder Angie Chew (right) with ST journalist Joyce Teo during an askST@NLB session.
Brahm Centre founder Angie Chew (right) with ST journalist Joyce Teo during an askST@NLB session.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Fears over job security have been mounting as Singapore faces a deep recession, but practising mindfulness can help people paranoid about getting retrenched, said mindfulness expert and trainer Angie Chew.

"We only get laid off once, but we can worry a trillion times in our mind," said Associate Professor Angie Chew, founder of mental wellness charity Brahm Centre.

She and Straits Times senior health correspondent Joyce Teo discussed how people can cope with the stress of these trying times induced by the Covid-19 pandemic in the latest edition of the askST @ NLB talk, which was streamed on Friday (Sept 25) on ST's Facebook page.

And if one has been laid off, accept that it has happened, Prof Chew said. "Start focusing on the present moment."

This involves weighing one's options, which may include considering a new career, or taking a break and pursuing hobbies and interests that one did not have time for when busy working.

Prof Chew said: "It is a pause in our life that we can use as an opportunity to redefine what are we going to do with the rest of our tomorrows in life. Many of us who are in our 40s or 50s may have fewer tomorrows than yesterdays. So, are we going to worry ourselves sick and waste the tomorrows?"

Some people may also feel - mistakenly so - that their value has fallen when asked to take a new job with lower pay, she added.

"We have to live with ourselves 24/7. If we don't think well of ourselves, we can become our worst enemy to live with... That's what mindfulness is about - having that awareness of how we judge ourselves, and then to start putting some of these negative judgments aside," said Prof Chew.

If you are feeling depressed, she added, it is important to avoid hanging out with other people who are also depressed. But do not stay at home and do nothing either.

Instead, spend time with friends who are more positive, and do things such as going for a walk outdoors and enjoying nature.

Prof Chew also addressed questions from readers, including one on how to deal with frustrating siblings while working from home.

 
 
 

She suggested that those who feel this way can try and observe their siblings and find positive qualities they can focus on, instead of dwelling on negative opinions about them.

They should also try to accept that they have to work from home, and sit down with their siblings to discuss how they feel about one another and try to find a compromise.

Another reader asked how people could cope with anxiety about getting infected when encountering a large group of people outdoors.

Prof Chew said the first step is to notice the thoughts going on in your mind, and recognise that illnesses and disease are part of life.

"(Tell yourself) I will take as much precautions as I can... and if I do get Covid-19, there's an incredibly good healthcare system in place. So it's not to fear it to the extent that you can't even enjoy life any more," she said.

AskST @ NLB is a collaboration between ST and the National Library Board.

Those who missed the live stream can find a recording here. Past askST @ NLB sessions can be found there as well.

Those feeling troubled during this pandemic can turn to resources on mental wellness from ProQuest Central, a database subscribed to by the National Library Board. Find them at str.sg/proquest, using the keywords "resilience during Covid-19", "staying positive during Covid" and "mental health during Covid". A myLibraryID is required to access this database.

If you do not have a myLibraryID, you can go to account.nlb.gov.sg and sign up for one using your SingPass or NRIC/FIN.

SUGGESTED TITLES TO READ

- World: Life after lockdown: Will our social habits be changed forever? (Asia News Monitor, 2020)

- Steps for healthy relationships during crisis and quarantine (Psychology Today, 2020)

In the next askST @ NLB talk on Oct 30, ST manpower correspondent Joanna Seow talks about what to do if you are unemployed, and how to prepare for the next opportunity. Submit your questions here.