The streets of Phnom Penh has seen less traffic while air quality has improved tremendously as more people decide to stay at home in light of the continuing spread of Covid-19.
While Cambodia has recorded just over 100 coronavirus cases, people are still fearful of catching the disease, with many showing signs of stress as they watch the news to see what new measures will be put in place to tackle the growing menace.
News from around the world doesn’t help either with thousands of deaths and new infections being recorded in Asia and Europe each day.
Add this to the need for social distancing, wearing masks, using sanitisers, avoiding crowds and staying home, even ordering food instead of meeting friends for dinner and drinks. After a while, all of these can add to one’s stress levels.
Cambodia Association for Counsellors and Psychologists president Hoeur Sethul says people should practice healthy living even while indoors, as doing so will contribute to slowing down the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
As staying home is far from routine, Sethul says people are talking more about suffering from “boredom” and “anxiety”. Most people in this situation want to know more about techniques to stay calm down and cut off their stresses while staying indoors.
“Staying home for long periods may also cause stress, depression, and other psycho-social issues because of the change in our routine activities.
“This may also bring about undue pressure and depression. Avoiding hanging out with groups of friends, not visiting entertainment venues such as night clubs, bars, restaurants, or listening to live music may create additional anxiety.
“Staying house-bound can be overwhelming for some and cause an outburst of emotions in people of all ages if they do not improve their mental health,” he says.
Sethul, who has a Master of Arts in Counselling (Psychology) from De La Salle University in the Philippines, says social distancing means to keep away from social activities, especially those that involve crowds of people.
It’s best, he says, to maintain a distance of between two to three metres from others.
“Social distancing causes problems for some as people are social beings and find it difficult to disconnect from society for long.
“Feelings of sadness, anger, and confusion are common during self-isolation and quarantine. In some people, such a disconnect may cause serious mental issues as well,” Sethul says.
Besides experiencing stress, Sethul says people may suffer financial difficulties as well. And this may cause many issues which only further burdens the mental stress one already has due to social distancing.
“While people may lose the opportunity to earn money, their basic needs such as food, clothes, and accommodation needs to be met daily. Some people cannot manage their finance while others will face financial difficulties,” Sethul says.
To deal with the crisis, there are some effective ways for people to start new daily routines.
“Unicef experts describe several methods to help overcome stress. They include maintaining our sleeping habits and communicating with our loved ones through social media, such as Skype, Facebook, Telegram, Instagram and other apps instead.
“Also, it’s a good time to pick up the reading habit, play indoor sports, cook, do some gardening at home, confide in those we trust to talk about our inner feelings, and learn new things like yoga and meditation,” Sethul says.
He says connecting with neighbours in groups of three or less will alert us to stay connected with them long after the virus has been eradicated.
“Thirdly, take a break from office work and plant some crops if you have a little land. Grow some vegetables and fruits with family members,” he says.
Sethul says such activities also brings benefits as we can sell the produce to our neighbours or consumers, who are using online apps to buy items they need while in self-isolation.
“I also encourage adults to continue enjoying the same things at home. For instance, they can listen to music, dance, and have fun with their families at home.
“Learning how to cook and have dinner with relatives is a much better way than going out. For those who love travelling, explore a new place to go while being confined to the home.
“So once things are back to normal, they can take a break and go off on their trips or go hiking or camping,” Sethul says.
He also proposes that people should change their eating habits and go for healthy foods which will strengthen their immune system. Besides, a healthy diet also contributes to a healthy mind, he says.
“Eating vegetables that are rich in vitamins and nutrition makes our body stronger. We should eat beef as it is a good source of protein. However, we need to balance our diet by eating less meat and more vegetables,” he says.
He says to ease mental stress, a bowl of food should consist of at least 50 per cent of vegetables, 25 per cent meat, and 25 per cent. In addition to that, we should drink more water to keep ourselves hydrated.
Sethul also says that the crisis is not bad at all, as it presents an opportunity to reconnect with our parents and other relatives whom we almost forget to care for in our daily grind to make ends meet.