It is a grim journey for many, as you and I hit the middle of the year for 2020. 

The goals and aspirations we have set for the year have suffered from major setbacks as the pandemic known as COVID-19 has sent a shockwave throughout the world. To stop the spread of the Coronavirus illness, lockdown and movement control measures have been implemented in many countries. Businesses, schools, leisure activities are stopped as we all stay at home to help our frontliners to flatten the curve through social distancing. 

Tension in the air

Social distancing yet stay connected

On the eve of the implementation of the movement control order, I went back to the office to prepare for the MCO. Meetings were daylong as we discussed and put in place necessary arrangements to keep everyone in the space, both staff and members informed. Members are also seen coming into the workspace to pick up their personal belongings. The space was quiet with random conversations exchanged while keeping a careful distance between each other. The most talked-about topic was where to get grocery supplies as stocks were running out everywhere. The air was filled with tension and anxiety, and at that point, no one knew what MCO would have been like, or even how long it would have lasted (it is day 65 and counting as I write this – albeit a less restrictive form called CMCO).

A collective traumatic experience

Social distancing yet stay connected - feeling despair

This global pandemic, in short, has created a collective traumatic experience for just about everyone involved. As news started to reach about people losing their loved ones without being able to say their final goodbyes, employees losing their job due to retrenchment, entrepreneurs that had to close down their business which they had been working so hard on, frontliners working tirelessly and unable to go home to their love ones, parents working outstation and unable to go home to their children, students studying in the city, unable to travel home to their family, the stories have been endless and unceasing in nature.

Grieving the loss of “old normal”

Grieving the loss of our old normal

The basic human “freedom” to move about, to meet our loved ones and even simple human contact like handshake and hugs have been all but decimated or placed under extreme caution. 

As such, the whole collective world’s nervous system is activated. People are jumpy with emotions easily triggered by the simplest matter. How many of you feel “trapped” at home, alone and isolated during the MCO? How many of you have seen arguments and rage spark on the slightest matter?

Reaching out

Before you sink into further despair, take a deep breath because it is not my intention writing this article to drive you deeper into depression. How can we grow with and out of grief

The whole idea of social distancing is to isolate ourselves physically and not mentally! Here as some things to remember as we start to rebuild our social lives again:

1. Make the phone call or video call

Reaching out by video calls

When is the last time you make a phone call to your loved ones who are away from us? Pick up the phone, call and ask them how they are doing instead of just texting. Do you know that the rich sense of emotion from voice communication enables us to have a higher sense of connection with our loved ones? 

Other than a phone call, a video call is also a good option. Thanks to the advancement of technology, we can have a group call with different people that are physically away from each other. Can’t meet up for late-night “yum cha” session? Just video call and have your virtual session online. Miss your work-out buddies? Start a video call and work-out together!  

2. Give a “helping hand”, paying it forward

Reaching out

There are various ways available that you can help either through monetary means or by contributing your time and expertise. You can start by helping out your neighbourhood community. It can be something as simple as helping an elderly neighbour purchase their supplies. 

Wanting to help more? Thanks to Malaysian author Hanna Alkaf who made it much easier for us. She took the initiative to beat the gloominess shrouded by the pandemic and started her initiative to look for a platform to make it easier for people to donate or volunteer their services. Together with a group of volunteers, they brainstormed and created #kitajagakita website, a one-stop-shop for Malaysian civil society COVID-19 efforts. Check it out and see the help listed and you can also get involved by listing what you can help. 

Nothing beats a little kindness, to make the day of those who needed it.  

Social distancing yet stay connected

During the MCO period, the WORQ team made an effort to organise virtual meet-ups, daily virtual workouts to encourage us to keep an active lifestyle. We have also organised virtual members’ lunch, games night, knowledge bonfires to check up each other’s well being.

As I signed off and headed home on the eve of MCO, bidding my colleagues goodbye, our co-founders – Stephanie and Andrew were there as well. They waved goodbye to us, reminding us to take care of ourselves – nothing fancy but this is one of the moments that stays in my mind. 

Social distancing is one of the crucial things we need to do to keep our loved ones safe, let us, however, not make it an excuse to turn a cold shoulder to the people around us. You and I can still stay connected during trying times like this as we navigate through the new normal together. It’s the thought and genuine actions that counts.