Is Online Shopping The Best Therapy? An Expert Tells Us How To Mentally Cope With Covid-19

Staying calm is essential, amid all the fear and worries the whole world is currently being put through during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, it’s a lot easier said than done. Who wouldn’t panic when the country goes on a Movement Control Order that interrupts our daily routine and restricts our activity? This is the time we should stay strong and calm, but how?

We spoke to Jade Goh, Director of Clinical Services at The Mind Faculty, a private mental health clinic based in KL, on how can we be mentally steady to fight anxiety, and how resulting to online shopping may or may not be the best solution for you.

What are the most important things we can do in order to stay calm and deal with this chaotic moment?

The chaos and anxiety surrounding the coronavirus pandemic stems from the uncertainty about its impact: how is it going to unfold, who will be affected, when will we find a cure? In order to address this, we can focus on the things that we know and that we can control.

Firstly, we need to remember that our essential services are still available. We still have access to food, water, shelter and health services. Secondly, we can take practical steps to keep our loved ones safe such as social distancing and washing our hands regularly. This can help to alleviate feelings of helplessness, and give you a sense of control in this uncertain times. We are all in this together. If we each do our part, we can flatten the curve. Lead by example: do the right thing and trust in your community to do the same.

how we can mentally prepare ourselves during a crisis like this?

Ask yourself not how you are going to get through this but why you want to get through this. Who are you keeping safe for? Are there any unrealised dreams that you may have? Our motivations give our actions meaning and context. We’re not just staying at home to stop the spread of the virus; we are keeping ourselves, our loved ones and our community safe.

What can we do to rejuvenate our minds during this partial lockdown or “stay-at-home” time?

#1 Have a routine. It may be tempting to pass the days in your pyjamas, refreshing your newsfeed but this can take a toll on your mental health. Wake up at a reasonable time. Have regular meals. Give yourself a sense of normalcy.
#2 Stick to your normal working hours. If you work from home, set the firm boundary between work life and home life otherwise you can feel ‘trapped’ in the office. Set boundaries with your new colleagues (formerly known as your family members) about when they can and can’t disturb you. Avoid working from bed.
#3 Set yourself micro-lifts during the day. Micro-lifts are small tasks that ‘lift’ us up and give us a sense of achievement and fulfillment. For example, stopping by your favourite coffee shop on the way to work to pick up a latte. When are staying at home, there are less opportunities to experience micro-lifts and the cumulative effect of this can be detrimental to your mental health. Make time for micro-lifts such as facetiming a friend, reading a chapter of your book, stretching for 15 minutes at your desk.
#4 Move your body everyday. This can help with both feelings of restlessness and of lethargy.

“Our motivations give our actions meaning and context. We’re not just staying at home to stop the spread of the virus; we are keeping ourselves, our loved ones and our community safe.”

A lot of online shops and brands are taking the opportunity to attract more sales by offering special promotions. What types of purchasing behaviour can we expect from Malaysians?

Panic buying. This can drive up prices and take essential goods (such as face masks) out of the hands of people who need them the most as such as our healthcare workers.

Shopping makes people happy and calms people down, according to Journal of Consumer Psychology. What is your take on online retail therapy during social distancing? Does it promise the same gratifications as shopping physically in stores?

Online giants such as Amazon and ASOS have proven that consumers have found online retail therapy as, if not more, gratifying than brick and mortar stores. In light of the Movement Order, this is a great time for us to support local businesses whether they sell books (Lit Books), design novelty pins (Pantun) or deliver hot chicken burgers (The Fowl Boys).

How can we stop ourselves from impulsive buying during this period?

Unlike a physical store, you can leave items in a virtual cart overnight. Give yourself a cooling off period. If you still feel the same way about that Sims 4 Expansion pack in 24 hours, press ‘Check Out’.

What are your tips for those who are still trying to accept this new reality and work with it?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we need to remember that we are all in this together. This is a difficult time whether you are an employer or an employee. Be kind. Align your words and your actions. Do the right thing by each other as we navigate this new reality.

In your opinion, how will this whole critical situation shape our minds for other crises in the future?

Adversity doesn’t build character, it shows it. This is an opportunity to find out what type of person you want to be – e.g., will you be kind, will you shop responsibly?

“This is a difficult time whether you are an employer or an employee. Be kind. Align your words and your actions. Do the right thing by each other as we navigate this new reality.”

If you wish to speak to a professional regarding issues you’re facing, check out The Mind Faculty which offers online and walk in services. Alternatively, you can also contact the Counselling Psychology Unit (housed under Ministry of Health) and Befrienders KL if you need someone professional to lend you an ear.