Six ways OFWs can have sound mental health during the pandemic
Maintaining sound mental health is essential for everyone. Unfortunately, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are vulnerable to mental health issues due to the global pandemic crisis. Several factors may confront our unsung heroes’ mental and emotional well-being—separation from their loved ones, job loss, health and vaccination problems, financial struggles, visa problems, and other extraordinary challenges.
We’ve heard stories of OFWs who wanted to go back to the Philippines but could not afford to do so due to travel restrictions. We’ve witnessed our friends and co-workers who suffered from stress, anxieties, and other emotional disturbances while being quarantined for weeks.
It’s a devastating experience to receive news that our loved ones in the Philippines passed away due to the Covid-19. As OFWs, it’s even challenging when we cannot just go home because of travel restrictions.
No wonder some have committed suicide due to stressful situations, thinking such action is the only way to end pain and suffering. Understanding mental health response to Covid-19 is necessary for OFWs. The challenge is always how to be resilient during this pandemic crisis. It’s hard to keep sanity if our mental health is suffering.
Let me share with you some strategies to fortify your mental health against potential unwanted stress and depression.
- Accept reality and learn to adapt to some changes.
Whether we like it or not, Covid-19 is so cruel that it has changed our lifestyle and even torn families apart. In his book Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson emphasized the importance of accepting reality and learning to adapt to some changes so we can move forward.
Unfortunately, we live in a situation where someone has moved our cheese that requires becoming flexible and adaptable to the new norm. For instance, we need to adapt to a new culture of social distancing, remote learning of our children, work-from-home environment, etc.
The only way to become resilient and bounce back through the adversities brought by this pandemic is to accept and be flexible.
- Always remember that self-care management is essential for OFWs.
OFWs are the breadwinners of the family. Therefore, they need to take care of themselves since their loved ones back home are depending on them. You cannot support your families if you get sick.
Let me give you an illustration. When you’re on board an airplane, you will hear an instruction to put on the oxygen mask first if you’re traveling with children.
The purpose of this is so you can assist your children or any passenger next to you when you already have the oxygen mask. Self-care management is non-negotiable for OFWs to avoid becoming a burden to their loved ones.
Some examples of taking care of your health are eating a proper diet, having indoor exercise, getting enough sleep, take a break if you need to, and drinking plenty of water. It would be best if you also avoid unhealthy habits like alcohol and drugs. Start taking action by developing good habits.
- Connect with your loved ones regularly online.
It is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared, or upset during this crisis. We may not be able to visit our loved ones in the Philippines during this pandemic, but it doesn’t mean we have no means to connect with them.
Do not allow the Covid-19 to ruin your mental health by becoming pessimistic. If you and your spouse are both working in the same place as OFWs, encouraging one another may not be a big challenge. But if your spouse is not with you and there’s no Filipino community in your area, this can be a challenging experience. So, call your loved ones online. Covid-19 is a perfect opportunity to reach out to our family members and friends.
You may have hundreds of friends on Facebook. Still, it would be great to select a few close friends and relatives to share your burdens and aspirations with them during these challenging times. Talking to people you trust can also help.
- Be a part of the community and reach out to people.
If you want to improve your well-being as an OFW, do not isolate yourself from the community. Keep yourself busy by joining in some charity works and getting involved with any activities that will help you grow as an individual.
Take advantage of joining in some informative and inspiring webinars that will help you to grow professionally. Avoid watching the news that is mostly negative and contributes to your stress and worries.
You may also join in some online worship services to help connect with God and connect with others while working abroad. Being a part of an online community will help you to be more connected. Moreover, it will give you a new direction and the feeling of being productive despite challenges during this pandemic crisis.
- Seek mental health support.
Due to too much pressure and suffering, you may be feeling that you’re no longer in control of the situation. Look for some signs you may need mental health support.
For instance, you may suffer sleepless nights, loss of appetite, chronic stress and anxieties, lack of energy to continue doing your routine, and feeling of inadequacy and failure of hope.
If you ever experienced this, talk to your close friends or family members. You may also need to reach out to your spiritual adviser and chaplain for support. For severe mental and emotional cases, never hesitate to consult with competent counselors and therapists to assist you during these difficult times.
- Cultivate a deeper relationship with God.
The last approach to improving your emotional and mental well-being as an OFW is to enhance your spiritual journey. If you have a deep personal relationship with God, you’ll be able to handle those challenges brought by the Covid-19.
To give you comfort and encouragement, start reading the Bible daily like God’s promises of protection and care. Developing the habit of prayer and reading the Bible will help you create a positive outlook in life.
Truth be told, this pandemic crisis can also be a great opportunity not just to improve your mental health but to reconnect and cultivate a deeper relationship with God.
Jun Amparo, Ph.D., is the author of two inspirational books on personal finance and marriage. He is a nominee for Huwarang OFW 2019 organized by the 700 Club Asia. Presently, he is working as a university counselor and instructor at Asia-Pacific International University in Thailand. He is also a founder of www.richlyblessedtoday.com