The Department of Psychology at HELP University, Malaysia, brings you our ‘5 Keys Series’ providing five practical tips on five topics to help you stay mentally, emotionally and physically strong. Drawing on evidence-based psychology, you can be sure of getting 5-star quality insight and guidance from HELP University: the university of achievers.

The first of our ‘5 Keys Series’ is called “The 5 Keys to Good Mental Health during COVID-19”. Be sure to watch this space to get regular insights into the psychology of everyday living.

By Dr. LIANNE BRITTEN

Whether geography, work, COVID-19, or government policy separates us, to echo the words of Nelson Mandela, we are the ones who control OUR own lives within. Let’s not be “emotionally distant” when we are forced to be physically distant. Let’s make special ways to stay connected during the movement control order and social distancing.

Here are 5 Keys to putting this into practice…

1. Let’s read together Join with me in trying to find time during this crisis to pick up that book you have been “meaning to get to.” NOW is the time! Make a date with a friend, partner, family member or book club and get reading. As a lecturer, I have recently been reminded of the beauty of oral story telling. Read favourite excerpts from your book to each other. If you have visual impairment and are unable to read, there are many audiobooks available on multiple forums. During this health crisis, many libraries are offering e-books for free! So get yourself to an online library!

2. Let’s get acquainted with apps (we can include that ages-old form of communication, the phone call, to connect with elderly relatives). We do so much with our phones and apps, so really it’s no surprise there are so many ways to keep us close. To keep things fun, a Korean artist couple separated by 14 hours distance, are sending each other pictures of their day and blending them. See below for one way of BLENDING photographs of the hopefully HEALTHY food that separated friends and couples were eating. Check some out and play around there are many to choose from!

3. Let’s Get Creative Go “old school’, or use new technology, blend it, be that person… As a global traveller, I realise the cognitive dissonance that accompanies distance, both real and imagined. Today we have the ability to be at once in the same living room as your friends and loved ones while being half a world away. While we might be socially distancing from our neighbours and school buddies, the Internet has brought us many ways to be together. And don’t forget the OLD school approaches: paint, draw or make a card, write in it and SEND the card via the internet, or deliver it in person or by post when current crisis calms. Help yourself and loved ones overcome scaremongering through your acts of care-mongering. Make a card, express your care. These long-lasting eternal gifts will be beautiful and maybe the beginning of a new tradition which you can do every anniversary or special time in your friendship, relationship, or family. Make a card/letter box IN YOUR home and deposit them in there for a final reveal when you see your partner, friend or family!

4. Let’s add variety Variety IS the spice of life. MIX it up. Video calls can become static and dull. We say the same things, in the same place, and days that are the same seem to bleed slowly into weeks. Every so often, mix it up and add a different way to connect. Try some fun emoji video apps, do a “this was my day” video and share it. Or as mentioned in my first blog, do a TikTok video together across the miles. There are many apps to help bridge the distance and make your connection fun.

5. Let’s play together online With our phones having free apps, and many of us having gaming devices at home, some of us are already a part of the global gaming community. NOW, let’s make time to spend time with those we usually see in person, at work, or school and play a game together. We can also host a ‘cookout’ party online. How about a Jamie Oliver-inspired 15 minute meal (or 5-ingredient meal). Laugh over your mess ups and compare meals. Eat together over your virtual hangout. If you are on FaceBook, try WordBlizt. Whatever your favourites, the main thing to remember is getting together and having fun with family, friends, and other loved ones.

So, let’s stay connected while stuck inside… and let’s find creative ways to do so. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends, and feel free to leave a comment if you have any tips or ideas you’d like to share. We want to connect so don’t hesitate to tell us what worked and didn’t work from today’s five keys. Let’s add to this and build a TOP 10 from a KEY 5!

Questions? Reach out to Lianne at: HELP5keysblog@gmail.com