COVID-19 appeared to have started in late 2019, and what seemed like a minor outbreak soon spread into a full-blown global pandemic. Not long after that, the number of cases spiked up all over the world. Death tolls kept rising in tandem. While the whole world was going through the chaos COVID-19 brought on, the time off allowed me to discover something else. When the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the Movement Control Order (MCO) on 18 March 2020 which would last for a fortnight, the entire country was in some sort of panic as we didn’t know what we were supposed to look forward to. And yet, through all the chaos that ensued, this period of inactivity gave something precious back to us. The time to lean back, relax, reflect and recuperate.
Unpredictable Life Under MCO And Its Subsequent Extension
Chaos almost broke out in the country as many people started panic buying essential goods as the initial instructions were somewhat vague. Initially, the rules were unclear and there were no clear guidelines. In order to reduce the chances of the virus spreading, an MCO directive was imposed by the government which prohibited inter-state travel and if they wanted to, they had to get permission from the police. This brought on more chaos because a lot of people were already back in their hometown and the first term school holiday was about to start. Hundreds thronged their local police stations to obtain inter-state travel permission, to the extent that the government had to retract the order. In addition, there weren’t clear guidelines on how people should travel to work. It took more clarification from the government before the panic subsided.
When the number of COVID-19 cases kept increasing after the initial two weeks of MCO, the government extended the order for another fortnight. This was when a lot of people began to feel depressed since the hunt for and hold on to work has become unpredictable. When the MCO stretched past the two weeks, some employees fell into depression. Making ends meet wasn’t easy because most of them had to take a pay cut as most non-essential businesses came to a standstill and some had even been laid off.
Staying Indoors, Not An Easy Feat
Whilst the MCO proved to be a blessing for the introvert in me, I can’t say it was the same for extroverts. Staying 24/7 indoors was not an easy task, particularly for those so used to being out and about. Some of them felt claustrophobic, confined at home with no means of even going out for a walk.
For those whose jobs have been a means of escape from toxic families or toxic environments, MCO has proven to be a living hell. Malaysia saw a spike in numbers in terms of domestic abuse as more people were forced to stay indoors, aggravating stress and conflicts. Extroverts also feel cooped up as they weren’t able to go out during the MCO.
Whilst the world went through a massive transformation, others went through a self-discovery journey of their own. During the MCO in Malaysia, I saw a lot of posts on social media platforms, where people were getting back into gardening, cooking, meditation and many other hobbies. I loved seeing this shift in humans. I personally feel that COVID-19 is a blessing in a way. It has forced us to slow down and take time off for ourselves. We have been running on a hamster wheel for far too long that we forgot how to take time to indulge in the simple pleasures of life.
COVID-19 Forces Humans To Slow Down
People took simple pleasures like dining out for granted. The MCO helped us to understand how important it was to strike a balance between work and personal life. Staying at home was inevitable and we were compelled, in a way, to develop new habits and take on a hobby to keep us occupied.
Personally, I felt so good. The MCO forced everything and everyone to slow down. And I enjoyed this slow-paced life. I could finally hear the birds chirping, the air also felt so much fresher. It also gave me the opportunity to slow down and take the break I was craving for. Yes, I still couldn’t hit the beach and bask in the sea breeze and enjoy the sunsets. But, I still have the break that I wanted, just not the way I imagined it. Among the many things I’ve learned during this period has been to make use of any opportunity presented to me, because nothing is certain in life.
The MCO brought me back to 2017, a time when I experienced growth both mentally and personally. This was the exact moment I was disconnecting myself from family, friends and social media to begin my self-discovery journey.
When the MCO was implemented, I had all the time in the world in my hand. I did things I felt like doing but didn’t have the time nor motivation some six months ago. It felt really good to just sit in the porch and read a book or an e-book on my tablet facing my mini garden. The feeling was so peaceful.
Road To Self-Discovery At The Time Of MCO
With COVID-19 taking over the world leaving me at home 24/7, I could go back to journaling. When I hit rock bottom back in 2017, it was journalling that helped me out of my depressed state of mind. I used my journal as a way to vent my emotions because I knew I can only be who I am and how I feel about myself.
Journaling was the easiest and cheapest way for me to reflect on my thoughts and behaviour. But I am no longer where I was three years ago, so why would I need to journal? Well, journalling isn’t just to vent about things that aren’t going right. One can also journal, just to ‘talk’ about the things that are happening around them.
1.1 Gratitude Journal
I started journalling back in May 2020. I promised myself to find at least one thing that I could be grateful for. Initially, it wasn’t easy. But as time passed, it came to me with ease. And I realised, the more grateful I am, the easier it is to see the beauty in things. This helped me enjoy my day even if there was nothing BIG happening. I still got out of bed looking forward to what I’ll see or experience that day.
1.2 Full Moon Journal
I also started keeping another journal, I call this my Full Moon Journal. This journal only comes out every full moon. I sit on my porch floor, basking in the full moon and pen down whatever I am feeling at that particular moment.
The feeling of sitting on the cool tiles, looking at the moon studded in a dark sky provides a euphoric feeling. There’s a sense of peace that blankets my soul, that always makes me feel at ease. I have always had an affinity to the moon itself. Something I think we don’t realise is that regardless of what phase it is in, the moon is always complete.
Journalling has helped me so much to keep track of my thoughts. I make it a point to go back to my previous journal entries to see how far I have come and which areas I should improve on personally.
2. Make Time For Self-Care
With the MCO in place, I had more time to indulge in self-care. I made it a routine to light scented candles every evening without fail. The ambience when I walk into my room after a few hours is truly an experience on its own.
My favourite candle is from a homegrown brand CandleNuts by Nadia. A candle melt is a single candle wax that you will have to melt using an aromatherapy burner and a tealight candle. The scent throw is a lot better than a candle in the jar because there’s nothing to contain it. They have a wide range of candle melts to choose from.
I also light up these candle melts whenever I take a shower. Once the candle is lit and the lights are turned off, the bathroom has a spa-like ambience. My favourite scents from Candlenuts by Nadia are:
Apart from lighting up candles to wind down, I also indulged in homemade and store-bought face masks in a tube. One of my favourite recipes is mixing two tablespoons of gram flour, with half a teaspoon of turmeric and one tablespoon of yoghurt. Mix it until you have a smooth paste, then apply it on your face and neck avoiding your eye area. Let it dry for 15 minutes, and then dampen it a bit and scrub off in clockwise motions. Lastly, wash off completely and pat with a clean towel. Don’t forget to use a toner to close off the open pores. This simple mask helps brighten up the face.
3. MCO Paves The Path Back To Nature
Gardening has always been an important part of my life since I was a toddler. The earliest recollection that fueled my affinity to plants was my maternal grandmother preparing a pot of plant for me to take home whenever I visited her. My mother also has green fingers so you can say that it runs in the family.
Gardening is also a way for me to ground myself. I love the feeling of mixing the soil and putting the plant in a pot. Finally, I had seven days to myself where I could spend time in the garden thanks to the MCO.
During the MCO period, my favourite gardenia plant flowered in abundance. I was so excited to see a new flower blooming and it became my morning mission to look for new buds.
Towards the end of May 2020, it started raining quite frequently. Since I couldn’t hit the beach or go to the waterfalls, I drenched myself in the rain. I felt like my five-year-old self again. This made me realise how much we tend to forget the simple joys in life.
Every evening when I sit at my balcony (a habit I formed during the MCO period), beautiful sunsets grace me. There’s something beautiful about sunsets compared to sunrises. I love how the hues of the sky blend into one another creating a masterpiece.
Back To Crafting During MCO
I made metal charm bookmarks when I was in my college days to generate some extra income. With MCO in force, I went back to the crafting board. The feeling of holding the pliers and putting so much love into my craft fed my creative fire even more.
I also started making sun-catchers. I thought this is the best time to embrace and craft something like this on my own. Surprisingly enough, I got my first order from a close friend. You can go to my Instagram account to get a glimpse of my crafts and love for books.
The more I spent time alone, doing the things I love to do, the more I realised how much I have been neglecting myself. This MCO has given me the opportunity to take the time off and just enjoy the simple pleasures of life. It takes only 21 days to cultivate new habits. I just hope once everything goes back to the normal pace, I’d still be able to find the time to enjoy these simple pleasures in life.
This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.