Every day I wake up and check my phone, wander to the bathroom and brush my teeth and stare in the mirror. Another day of working from home.
I’m tired. I believe many of us are. Some of us may be feeling isolated in our little cocoons, others may be stressed by having to deal with too many people crammed into a small space that isn’t just a home any more — it is an office, a classroom and it’s all getting a bit much.
As of Aug 26, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed and verified that there are 112 cases of locally transmitted COVID-19 infection and 4 imported cases. Ever since the heightened alert last month, Singapore’s daily new infection rates have hovered around 100.
The good news is that so far, 79% of Singapore’s total population have completed the full regimen — received both doses or one dose for recovered individuals.
But I’m tired.
That’s why this post by r/fragile_ego on Reddit resonated with what I have been feeling for the past 2 weeks — perhaps for even longer than that.
Last Saturday, I was out with a close friend at one of our usual makan haunts. And even though we were happy, being finally able to dine out again, I realised that the new normal had shifted once more.
We’re already used to having to use our tokens or phones to tap into a mall, then scanning the QR code for checking in at the restaurant (can’t tap if you’re scanning for a family group). Now, there’s something new: We also need to show our vaccinated status on TraceTogether before entering an air-conditioned eatery.
Not just us, the waitress also looked a little unsure on what to do while ushering us into the restaurant. “Refresh please! Must show me status ah!”
Being mentally tired is the new black. Like most of the redditors on the post commented, we had to adapt and be seen to be adapting well. All these nitty gritty stuff are at the back of our minds, like a computer’s RAM, controlling and predicting our next action.
In actual fact, are we okay? Or are we just suffering silently about our frustrations and brushing it off as part and parcel of the new normal?
Don’t sweat the small stuff, we’re often told. But what happens when more of this nitty gritty stuff piles up and adds on to the list of mini-stresses we need to bear subconsciously?
Home is where the frustration is
Since Covid-19 started, the first rule in my home is that we have to sanitise all our personal items. This is enforced stringently by my mother. It’s not a norm for most of my friends’ homes and I believe they secretly feel a bit annoyed by the subtle scent of Dettol lingering on their clothes whenever they come over to my place. Believe me, I’m not a fan of smelling like a neighbourhood clinic either.
At least they don’t get to smell it on me so often, because with Covid restrictions, we are staying at home now more than ever. I know of some friends who haven’t stepped out of their homes for weeks!
Being stuck at home can be frustrating at times, as there is more bickering among family members. After a while, no matter how well-intentioned it is, it can get a bit much to listen to my mum remind me for the upteenth time to sanitize my phone and airpods. This can lead to a lot of pent up negativity and no place for those frustrations to go.
And these small annoyances can lead to bigger stresses. For example, lunch. In the office, I can head out alone or with some colleagues for a quick bite and recharge, but working at home means having to decide on food with my family, which can end up being a stressful affair! We’ve had so many conversations spiral into raised voices over what to eat that nowadays we just cook something simple for lunch.
I know I’m not alone in this, Singaporeans have been trying to find ways to relieve the stresses of living together for longer periods since the pandemic started. Last year, there were more cases of family violence reported during the circuit breaker.
I will always love my family — as many of us do! — but emotions do get pent up and it’s tiring for everyone. It’s important for us to acknowledge these emotions and talk about them with our loved ones in our own ways; there is no one-size fits all solution, but talking helps.
So that even if an argument breaks out, it is easier to deescalate the situation.
Masking our feelings everywhere we go
Wearing masks is already part of our new normal. And while the authorities take a no-nonsense approach to those who violate this rule, I’m glad to see many Singaporeans take this as a chance to show kindness to others. For example, contribute.sg collects and distributes masks to needy households in Singapore on top of its current campaign to appreciate delivery riders.
Recently, I was told by my gym that I would need to wear a mask while working out. That makes it really uncomfortable and reduces the amount of exercise I could do comfortably.
As anyone who has gone on a brisk walk can tell you, it gets hot and sweaty under the mask, and results in itchy skin and more breakouts (goodbye better complexion!).
It does get annoying to hear that this isn’t how all gyms operate, but I still do appreciate the efforts to keep us safe.
This has also really made me appreciate our frontliners even more. They have to wear masks (sometimes more than one!) for extended periods of time, and it’s not for an optional lifestyle past-time either.
Lose some, gain some
Thanks to Covid, I have lost touch with some friends — friendships that have lasted through thick and thin for over a decade. I have been forced to scale down my inner circle, literally choosing one over another to fit the 2-pax guidelines at times (thank goodness fully vaccinated people can meet in a group of five now).
But those that I’ve kept close, we have bonded even more than before Covid. We even started a common interest that has generated more conversation topics for us.
Other than friendships, I’ve had to give up some activities that I used to enjoy. Due to the safe management measures, I don’t stay at cafes for long nowadays. In the past, I would stay in a cafe for an entire afternoon.
Now, I think about other cafe-goers who are escaping being cooped up at home just like me. And I would tell myself “time’s up”, and vacate the premises to let others have a chance to enjoy that same respite.
Don’t participate in the Suffering Olympics
“You think you are suffering? Oh please, my situation is much worse than yours.”
I’m sure many of us might have heard that while talking to friends.
Recently, I was chatting with a friend on a Zoom call when her mum suddenly jumped into the conversation. She was at the neighbourhood market when she had to go to the toilet. But due to the Covid barriers stretched around the place, she had to make a long detour just to get to the washroom. Luckily, she made it just in time.
She understood the rationale behind all the barricades but she was just frustrated that the washroom was right in front of her yet she had to literally run around the building to get to it.
It might sound mundane and even a little amusing in hindsight, but throughout the video call, I could sense her frustration through the screen.
The “suffering olympics” ranks everyone’s level of suffering and decides, based on the ranking, who has a right to express their feelings and who does not. It’s not healthy to compare our sufferings, and it tends to reduce empathy when our negative experiences get “judged” in this way.
When someone shares what they are going through, we should stop and listen, instead of waiting to find a moment to chime in with a “oh, but that’s nothing compared to…”
How to deal with with nitty gritty of the new normal
We’ve come a long way since the early days of Covid. And in the 18 months or so that we’ve been battling the pandemic, people’s livelihoods have been affected and some lives have been changed irrevocably.
While not all of our Covid experiences are as dramatic, the pandemic has touched all of us in one way or another.
As u/fragile_ego says: “It’s the small niggling daily inconveniences that can wear you out. I’m sorry if I didn’t express it well enough. I don’t mean to diminish people who are experiencing worse things.
“At the same time, I reject the idea that you’re not in pain if someone else is going through worse. It’s a Singaporean tactic, invalidating people: ‘other places are worse, so you can’t complain, and we don’t have to improve.’”
The solution to dealing with this is simple, but it needs for us to act on it.
Find ways to destress. Don’t just think about them, do them: Go to parks and nature reserves, work out or find a physical activity that gets you out of your comfort zone. Find comfort in good books. Talk to friends or enjoy your solitude.
My advice? Speak to the people around you. It’s okay to vent, especially if it is in the safety of a reassuring online community. Who knows, the person you are talking to might be feeling the same sentiments as you. When they do, listen with empathy. You might even find some comfort and companionship there.