My Don'ts In The Time Of Corona Lockdown

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Three weeks ago, I finally went out of the house after almost eight weeks of voluntary confinement due to the Corona Virus. That was eight weeks of not going out of the flat at all. Whilst many people expressed how much they missed the outside world, I was genuinely happy being inside the house. Probably because I am part introvert. If I didn't have to go to work, I would have preferred to stay at home for the rest of this pandemic.

Whilst in lockdown, I have more opportunities to reflect on life. Yes, living in the time of Corona Virus is strange and there are a lot of things that are sacrificed. I hear some people complaining about how inconvenient it is for them not to be able to do the things that they would normally do otherwise. As for myself, the only thing that I am really disappointed about is the fact that I am unsure as to when I am able to go home and visit my parents again. I was meant to go home at the end of April (as a surprise), however the Philippines banned all travels at the very early stage of the pandemic. Things happen for a reason for sure, and I am praying that my parents will remain healthy until I see them again.

Of course, a lot of lessons are also learned during this pandemic. Staying at home 24/7 has not been so easy for some, but it comes so natural for myself and J. Nothing much has changed except for the fact that we can't go out. Well, we can really for essentials but we choose not to. Staying at home really doesn't mean that we stop doing the things that we love doing. It has been so easy for us to find ways to entertain ourselves and yes, to continue living the life we have always lived- although modified. I have been happy staying at home and this is because I:

1. Don't Stop Moving
- It has been so tempting to just sit around and do nothing whilst on lockdown, but I know that this would not benefit me in any way at all. Luckily, I have been following a few workouts on youtube for quite a while now so I motivated myself to continue doing those exercises on a daily basis. In addition to that, we have a few gym equipment in the flat which has been really helpful. We live in a flat with no garden or balcony, so we make use of whatever space we have to ensure that we don't stop moving. As I am not keen on running outside at the moment, I use the stairs to do my cardio exercises and also Fitness Blender's "Fat Burning Cardio Workout". Other workout videos I follow are: Vicky Justiz (for abs), Chichi Health Fitness (abs and lower body workout), Bright Side (abs) and Love Sweat Fitness (for arms). Exercise, no matter how light (it can mean just walking inside the house), has helped me maintain my physical and mental health during the lockdown.

2. Don't Stop Learning
- Just like the rest of the world, I learned how to bake a banana cake during the lockdown. I have always wanted to learn how to bake, but because I am quite impatient when it comes to following precise baking instructions, I never really took it seriously. Until of course the lockdown. I have baked a couple of successful banana breads since and I am keen to continue baking more, so watch this space.

I also found a free online course via Coursera, The Science of Well-being which was developed by Yale University. This course talks about how we can increase our happiness and how we can create more productive habits. I really enjoyed the course, so if you are interested, just check it out.

The highlight of my "Learning in the Time of Corona" was teaching my weakest subjects to a couple of smart kids. I volunteered to help a couple of my friends with home-schooling, but did not expect that the little humans would ask me to teach them the subjects that were not really my cup of tea when I was in school- geography and history. It appeared that I had so much more to learn about these subjects. I am grateful for Ethan (10 year-old) and Poppy (5 year-old) for giving me the opportunity to teach and learn at the same time.

Currently, I am busy learning about my job and the people I work with so perhaps when I am more settled, I will find more courses online.

3. Don't Stop Caring
- Posting anything on social media during this pandemic has been quite tricky for me. I am conscious of what many people are going through right now and therefore, I have been very careful on what I share on facebook and instagram. I refrained from posting any food or material things until I have done my part in helping those who were and still are in need of help. It goes without saying that "charity begins at home". It was my brother's idea to give a little help to our distant relatives first and foremost. My family distributed relief goods to at least 25 families. It may not be a lot, but I'm sure every little helps. Also, I donated two weeks of my lunch allowance to "Meals for the NHS" and my weekly coffee allowance to "Fashion for Frontliners". Every now again, I leave a little something for our cleaner just to say thank you for what they do. Most importantly, now more than ever before, I make sure that I stay in touch with my family and friends.

4. Don't Stop Living
- Being in lockdown doesn't mean I also have to stop living. Whilst I am unable to have brunch or afternoon tea with my friends, I ensure that every now and again, I indulge myself with things that I would otherwise do outside our home. Besides, I have always associated living my life with being at home, so the lockdown doesn't really make a lot of difference to me, even if it means I can't go out to eat at restaurants or cafes. This is because life to me, is more than those things. It is spending time with my loved ones most of all- be it physically or virtually. This is one thing that I have been consistently doing during this lockdown. 

Honestly though, living a life for me means being grateful for everything that I have, caring for the people I love, helping those who are in need (in any way I can), being sensitive to what other people are going through and being kind to everyone that I come across with. 

5. Don't Stop Believing
- Just like any other challenge, this too shall pass. I believe that one day soon, we will be able to see and hug our family and friends once again. But until then, we must stay positive. Above all, we must stay safe.

My love and prayers to one and all.  Please take care.


How I Coped With My Mother's COVID-19 Scare

Friday, 1 May 2020

On April 16, my mother was rushed to the hospital due to a 3-day history of fever, cough and body malaise. Although it could have been just a common flu, these days it will always be more than that. She was immediately put under the PUM category (Persons Under Monitoring). A chest x-ray was performed which confirmed Pneumonia. Everything happened so quickly, we didn't even have enough time to think about logistics. My sister-in-law brought my mother to the Rural Health Unit to be assessed initially, but then she was referred to the hospital straight away. My sister-in-law accompanied my mother to the hospital and never went home until my mother was discharged 13 days later. 

We immediately asked my father and my niece to self-isolate. Whilst it would have been easy for me to ask publicly (via social media) for prayer warriors to pray for my mother's fast recovery, I chose to keep this ordeal privately on this occasion. Knowing how misinformed and judgemental some people are in our town, I didn't want my mother's situation to cause alarm to the public. And worse, I didn't want ignorant people to discriminate my family. This is why I chose to go through this very unsettling and worrying experience silently.

It was indeed two weeks of utmost fear and uncertainty. I have always believed that this virus is real since the beginning, however it became even more real when it unfortunately became too close to home. My anxiety was heightened, I couldn't focus on anything else. I couldn't sleep for two weeks. Guilt penetrated my heart once more. I haven't seen my mother in five years and it hurt so much. 

Thinking of how suspected COVID-19 patients are being managed here, I am thankful that in the Philippines, patients are not left on their own until they are confirmed positive. This somehow gave me reassurance. My sister-in-law was allowed to stay with my mother whilst awaiting for her swab result. You see, my mother and my sister-in-law do not have a perfect relationship, but historically, they have always been there for each other in sickness and in health. My sister-in-law has always taken our place (my brother and I) in looking after our parents. And for that, I am beyond grateful. I know I can never repay her. 

On the 17th of April, a swab sample was taken from my mother. She reported to me that she was feeling better. She was apparently being treated with intravenous antibiotics and some medications for her cough. Her repeat Chest X-ray was clear. This gave me so much hope.

Whilst my mother was making a steady progress, I was getting more and more frustrated because the result of her swab was taking so long. I was beginning to worry about their mental health. But it was just me worrying of course. My mother and sister-in-law are mentally and emotionally strong, and although my mother can be quite a pain sometimes, my sister-in-law has learned how to turn every annoying situation into some sort of an entertainment. So, they were okay. Well, sort of.

Then another bad news broke. As I was beginning to feel less anxious about my mother's condition, I received a text from my first cousin, who I treat like a brother. He has not been well for over a week. He had classic symptoms of COVID-19- fever, chills, body malaise, cough and difficulty of breathing, so he was taken to the hospital. I felt  what hundreds of thousands of people whose loved ones were taken to the hospital alone must have felt during this horrible time. It was totally heartbreaking. 

The last two weeks, I prayed so hard for my mother's and my cousin's COVID-19 tests to be negative, and for both of them to be discharged home safely. I privately asked my religious friends to help me pray for their fast recovery. I read the Bible for the first time in a very long time. I read self-help books. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne helped me change the way I think about the whole situation. I started creating positive pictures in my head- both my mother and my cousin home and well. The law of attraction doesn't work overnight, but I was determined.  I tried to think only positive thoughts. It was hard, but I tried. I tried my very best to fight my anxiety. I claimed their recovery. Thirteen days later, my mother's test came back negative. The day after, my cousin's test also came back negative.

Things could have been worse, hence I am beyond thankful to the Lord for the gift of healing. Of course this unforgettable experience has taught me a lot of lessons that surely will affect my decision-making in the future. No more excuses is all I can say for now.

And if there is one other thing that this whole ordeal has positively done in my life,  it's the fact that it made my family closer and stronger than ever before. For the first time ever, we created a family group chat. The different time zones allowed us to keep the chat room going 24 hours a day. We sent funny messages, photos, and  we teased each other to lift our spirits up. I watched the world clock like crazy. I didn't sleep until I have spoken to both my parents. I called both of them twice a day, everyday. For the first time in what it felt like forever, I said I love you to my father and he said I love you back. It's not as if we don't love each other, it's just that we are not used to saying it to each other. I cried when that happened. 

The thing is, my mother and my cousin were not the only ones I was worried about. I was worried about my sister-in-law who was on her own caring for my mother. I was worried about my father, who is diabetic and was alone in the house. I was worried about my niece, who was also alone in the other house most nights. My anxiety was very real. I felt so helpless.

The situation only became easier because we also had help from other relatives. I have cousins in the Philippines who patiently checked up on my father and my niece everyday. They ran errands for my family. They were there for and with us every step of the way. It honestly would have been more difficult for us without their help. And for that, I will forever be indebted to them.

My mother and my cousin are both home now and are recovering well. We are indeed very blessed to have been gifted with their recovery. I am beyond grateful. I thank those who fervently prayed for their healing. I thank those who regularly checked up on me to make sure I was okay. I thank God for answering our prayers. I thank God for the gift of life. I thank God for everything.

One thing that I learned from this ordeal? In difficult times like this, all you need is your family - biological and/or chosen. And I thank God for mine- imperfect as we truly are, my family was all I needed to get through this.

Please stay safe. Things will get better soon. Godspeed.


On Why I Stay at Home and Believe in Social Distancing

Thursday, 2 April 2020

When the Corona Virus first hit the news in the middle of January,  I hoped that it would be contained in China. We continued to live a normal life. I was also pre-occupied with so many other things at that time, so I didn't pay so much attention to it. Until two cases were reported in the UK at the end of January. It was obvious that this virus was hitting home quicker than I anticipated. At the end of February, there were about 23 cases reported. We also saw a global spread of the virus to more than 20 countries. At this point, we thought that this was a pandemic although the World Health Organisation didn't declare this until the 11th of March.  As soon as March came, we saw a rapid rise in number of confirmed cases. We started to worry as the situation was obviously becoming worse. J has a background in research and he is good at it, so he has been doing reasonable amount of research on the progression of the virus from the moment we heard about it until now. 

An overnight trip to the hospital in the first week of March meant that we had to be extra cautious about the virus. We already knew that a high temperature and a new continuous dry cough were the classic symptoms of the virus, so we were vigilant.  J started working from home as early as the 4th of March, whilst I continued to go to work until the 18th of March. From late February to early March, we were already advised to wash our hands for 20 seconds and to keep at least a distance of 2 metres from the person next to us. I tried to practice social distancing as soon as the government advised this, however, living and working in Central London proved this difficult in the beginning. For a week, I lived in fear that someone might sneeze or cough at me in the crowded London streets. I wore my mask despite being advised not to as it doesn't apparently protect you from the virus. A rather arrogant man even shouted at me, saying that there is a 96% chance of me NOT getting the virus in London. People stared at me whilst I walked down the streets. I mean, who could have blamed me for wearing a mask? Despite the growing numbers of corona virus cases and the health advice from the government, I witnessed people sneezing and coughing openly in public. I saw people blowing their noses and keeping the tissue in their pockets. So for me, a little protection is better than no protection at all. In fact, as of this writing, the World Health Organisation is apparently reviewing their guidance on the public use of masks (BBC), so stay tuned.
Mask from Lekko via Amazon

Then came the lockdown and everyone was ordered to stay at home. This is the single, most important action the government has asked us to do. J has not been out of the house for almost a month, whilst I haven't been out for two weeks. Staying at home doesn't mean you can't go out of the house at all - not just yet anyway. The government has set restrictions as to what you can do when you get out of the house, and they must be of essential purposes- infrequent shopping for basic needs such as food and medicine, one form of exercise per day such as a run, walk or cycle- either alone or with a member of your household, any medical need to avoid risk of injury or harm, and travelling for work purposes but only if you cannot work from home (NHS UK). The government further advises that when you go out, you must keep a distance of 2 metres  or 6 ft away from the people next to you. You must not meet others, including your friends or family. This is for the reason that if infected, you still can spread the virus even if you don't have the symptoms.

The Public Health of England stated  that corona virus is spread when you have a close and contained contact with someone who is infected with the virus in more than 15 minutes within two metres distance. You are more likely to be infected by the virus if you come in contact with the droplets from coughs and sneezes of an infected person. This is the reason why I have always believed and practised social-distancing. This should be enough reason for other people to start believing and practising it, too.

Although I no longer consider myself as a frontliner, I care deeply for my healthcare colleagues who are out there day and night, going way above and beyond their duties to care for those who are sadly infected with this virus. I fear for their mental and physical health. Many of them are my friends, and some my family. I fear for the health and safety of the other frontliners who are working twice as hard in order for us to keep on living. The world will be lost without these essential people. So please help them, too.

As COVID 19 escalates exponentially, we have to do our part in combating the disease. Please protect yourself and others. Follow the advice of the World Health Organisation- wash your hands frequently, maintain social distancing, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing by  bending your elbow or using tissue and dispose of immediately, stay at home when you feel unwell.

In addition to this, keep yourself informed. Gather information from reliable sources such as WHO, DOH, Government websites and credible news agencies.

Most importantly, STAY AT HOME.


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