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 Chew, founder of mental wellness charity Brahm Centre.
Prof Chew and Straits Times senior health correspondent Joyce Teo discussed how people can cope with the stress of these trying times brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, in the latest edition of the askST@NLB talk which was live-streamed last Friday on The Straits Times' Facebook page.
Prof Chew said that if you have been laid off, accept that it has happened. "Start focusing on the present moment," she added.
This involves weighing your options, which may include considering a new career, or taking a break to pursue hobbies and interests that you did not have time for when you were 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 less 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. 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 and enjoying nature.
Suggested titles for reading
•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, Straits Times manpower correspondent Joanna Seow talks about what to do if you are unemployed and how to prepare for the next opportunity. Submit your questions at str.sg/askstOCT
Prof Chew also addressed questions from readers, including one on how to cope with anxiety about getting infected when encountering a large group of people outdoors.
She said the first step is to take note of the thoughts going on in your mind, and recognise that illnesses and disease are a 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 The Straits Times and the National Library Board.
Those who missed the live stream can find a recording on str.sg/askstnlb. 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, go to account.nlb.gov.sg and sign up for one using your SingPass or NRIC/FIN.