How are schools helping families through the pandemic?

30th July 2020 by Gracie Stewart 3 Min ReadFrom ensuring home-based learning matches the quality of education delivered in the classroom, to managing the financial impacts of the outbreak, SHINHE CHO, Digital Marketing Manager at International Community School Singapore, shares some of the ways the school is helping families through the pandemic.Tuition freezeSingapore is among the 10 most expensive countries in the world for an international education. So, it’s no great surprise that COVID-19 has brought about financial difficulties for many families. However, while school fees still need to be paid, there’s some good news for parents; many international schools are looking to freeze tuition fees for the 2020-21 academic year.At ICS Singapore, the Board of Directors has voted to freeze tuition at the current rate as a way to help support families during this difficult time. This means the current published fees will remain the same for the next school year.As a registered charity, ICS operates solely on tuition and donations. All profit is placed into financial reserves at the end of each school year to be reinvested directly into the school and children’s learning. The decision to not increase tuition for the upcoming  year means ICS will use its financial reserves to cover the difference between the originally planned 3% increase and the actual 0% increase in fees. Staff wearing masks, ready to welcome students backOnline learning hubSince the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown measures (including the Circuit Breaker here in Singapore), schools around the world have been rolling out online learning. This has allowed students to continue their studies without interruption. While home-based learning can’t substitute entirely for classroom learning, according to former Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, “it’s important that schools blend the two, so they can harness the best of both worlds in a modern education system”.As a result, ICS Singapore has introduced an Online Learning Hub to keep the community connected and engaged. The idea is to promote continuous learning whether at school or at home. The Online Learning Hub provides useful tips, resource recommendations, health and wellness advice, online learning expectations and more, and is a one-stop shop for students’ continuous learning. The school has also introduced an #OnlineLearningWins hashtag across its social media accounts as a way to promote positive home-based learning. Socially distanced desksNew health and safety protocolsThere’s plenty for children to look forward to when they return after the summer break; catching up with friends, for starters! However, not everything will remain the same. Schools wil be looking to introduce a “new normal”. This means finding ways to reopen without putting pupils, teachers and their families at risk.ICS has been working hard to get the campus ready to resume face-to-face learning on 12 August. The team says that they’re committed to providing the safest possible environment for children to learn in. To this end, they’ve implemented all of the protocols and procedures the Singapore government has mandated on campus. This includes evaluating changes in the following areas:Operations: How children access campus, the bus service, drop-off and pick-up, and use of the canteen, gym and playground.Scheduling: Safe distancing of students in hallways, staggered bell schedules, and altered recess and lunch times.Teaching and learning: Distanced desks in classrooms, equipment wiped down between classes, wearing masks, no mixing of small groups, and assigned seating and collaboration work.Social-emotional: Individual counselling available, and K-12 in-class presentations by counsellors about safe behaviours and safe classrooms.Find out more about ICS and contact the school at

6 ways to help out during COVID-19

9th June 2020 by Expat Living 3 Min ReadMillions of livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19 – and we’re not sure how long the situation may last. If you’re in position to help those in Singapore who are struggling in the pandemic, from small businesses to vulnerable communities, there are lots of options. Here are some ideas for starters – a small act can go a long way!#1 Shop onlineMost of our favourite stores may not have opened their doors yet, but we can still show our support by shopping online. Whether it’s your favourite furniture store or grocer, many companies have online platforms that are easy to browse and order from. Best of all, you can get everything sent right to your doorstep.#2 Buy cash vouchers or packagesSome brands and entertainment centres are offering advanced purchase packages and cash vouchers that you can use when things are up and running again. Not only will you be helping them through this difficult time, you can look forward to enjoying their services later on! #3 Choose localAnother thing you can do is to visit your local hawker centre and drop in to small neighbourhood eateries and cafés that may be having a tough time. It’s the smaller places that really need our help right now! Plus, there are also small home-based businesses that we can support.We also have a great list of restaurants with delivery and takeaway options – some have great dining deals to snag! And, if you’re able to, it’s a nice gesture to add a tip for your food delivery guys (or even order a meal for them – GrabFood allows this option).#4 Volunteer your timeCharities and organisations are working around the clock to help people in need. There are many ways you can help, from befriending and accompanying the elderly for medical appointments to packing meals and tutoring needy students. Head to to find out how you can help.There’s also Love Translated, a cool initiative where you can send encouraging messages to migrant workers in Singapore. Just WhatsApp your message to 8110 5683 and it’ll be sent to the workers in their native languages!#5 Donate moneyIf you’re keen to give a cash donation, there are many causes to contribute to. is a great platform for finding out who you can donate to. They include heartwarming ground-up initiatives that have started in Singapore. Virus-specific relief is also listed. For instance, you can contribute to the Migrant Workers’ Assistance Fund to sponsor meals for foreign workers, Beyond Social Services to provide Wi-Fi access for low-income families or AWARE to help women who are victims of sexual assault. The list goes on.We also shouldn’t forget practitioners in the arts scene – many of them are struggling financially due to cancelled performances and gigs. You can send in donations to help them during this period. Some non-profit local theatre companies to check out include Wild Rice and The Singapore Repertory Theatre. #6 Donate essential itemsAnd, of course, you can make in-kind donations for items that different communities need during this time. If you have working laptops lying around at home, for example, send them to Engineering Good. They’ll fix them up and pass them along to needy individuals. Or, if you’re good at sewing, join the efforts by Masks Sewn With Love to make reusable cloth masks for vulnerable communities in Singapore.Along with masks, sanitising products are also in high demand. If you’ve got some of these to spare, why not pass them along to others who need them more? and Masks for All SG have teamed up to collect and distribute these items. Find out more now.City of Good is also working with charities to find out specific items that they need, from antibacterial soap to thermometers. Find out more about how you can help here. Looking for more about living in Singapore?Virtual therapy and counselling sessionsLook chic with a mask on!

Long-distance grief in the time of COVID-19

8th May 2020 by Melinda Murphy 3 Min ReadIt’s always hard to live overseas when there’s a crisis back home – family funerals, for example – but COVID-19 has created the worst kind of heartache and grief for far too many.I usually love living abroad – and I especially love living in Singapore. But not now, not today. You see, my sweet father-in-law died in the United States yesterday and we couldn’t go back to say goodbye. Nor can we hold a traditional funeral with everybody under lockdown.COVID-19 didn’t kill this dear family member of mine, but it has certainly changed the way we mourn him. I suspect there will be many more of these sad stories with people losing loved ones back home, many to the virus or perhaps just other natural deaths. And what if somebody dies here?In some ways, Flying Home specialises in long-distance grief. For years now, they’ve worked to repatriate people who have died in Singapore so they can return home for burials and funerals with their loved ones. The world’s current situation has changed this to some degree. For example, if a person here dies of COVID-19, they can only be cremated to return home at a later date, and funerals back home are often delayed.So, how then do we honour our loved ones? The Flying Home team has some great suggestions. #1 Don’t delay your griefFunerals help us heal, and delaying them also delays the healing. Work together to plan what will be said and what will unfold at the service, no matter how small the service will be. Working together to plan makes everybody feel a part of the mourning process. If there’s a small service at a church, consider live-streaming it to family members around the globe.#2 Mark the loss privatelyHave some sort of service, even if it’s only a private one in your own home with immediate family. Display photos of the person who died, light a candle, say a prayer or read a text aloud that is meaningful to you. You can even play music while sharing thoughts and memories. Or perhaps you’d rather release balloons at the beach or go to a park and pray with your family. Create your own version of a small memorial.#3 Plan a memorial service for laterWhile it’s impossible to really know when the pandemic will end, you can still talk about what a memorial service will include and where it will take place. Doing this now rather than later helps the healing process begin and deal with their grief. When the restrictions are lifted and we can all be together again, gather with your loved ones and say a proper farewell.#4 Use technology to connectIn times of grief, it’s important to connect with loved ones. Sadly, several of my friends in New York have already held virtual memorial services for family members and friends who have died of COVID-19. One of them had almost 100 attendees. It’s hard for everybody to talk during these, but the chat function helps everybody share memories while one or two people say something meaningful. It may seem a bit hokey, but by all accounts, these virtual memorial services are healing.#5 Write!As a professional writer, I find sitting down and writing about the person I’ve lost can help. I write about them, reminding myself what I loved and what I’ll miss. Sometimes I even write to them, telling them things I’ve left unsaid. Or, I write to the other people who are also grieving, sharing my memories and love. I was surprised when my 11-year-old daughter did the same yesterday. Writing does heal.I’ve really struggled with not being able to be there for my family, not being able to say goodbye. I tried to explain to my nine-year-old son that it’s okay. We can still say our own goodbye. And his grandfather will be remembered over and over in small ceremonies across the globe, each of us saying our goodbyes before we get together to say the final farewell.For other ideas about how to celebrate the life of someone you’ve lost, see this article. Find out more about Flying Home.This article first appeared in the May 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

The Silver Lining

My mom always used to tell me, “You can always find a silver lining if you just look hard enough.” Well, I’m looking, Mom, and you’re right – even if it’s incredibly hard to see a silver lining just now during COVID-19.When I pitched a story to my editor about families being together 24/7 during the COVID-19 Circuit Breaker, I thought I’d write a funny piece about how hard all this togetherness can be. Oh, and trust me, there is some of that. Our first day of e-learning was not pretty. The school’s server went down. And mommy? Mommy went down, too. A leak in our roof drowned my computer so I had no backup or patience. Day Two was infinitely better. Still, my takeaway from home-schooling? Teachers deserve to make a million dollars a year.As it turns out, there is more heart than humour in this situation. The ugly bitThere is a very real adjustment to all being together. My friend Katrina Bens quipped, “If this is foreshadowing retirement, then I’m glad the stock market crashed so we can’t retire for at least another ten years.” She laughed when she said it, but I can tell there’s a grain of truth. Being together all the time can be hard.Anthia Chng in my office is a newlywed, which, quite frankly, can be hard enough. Adjusting to marriage is fabulous, but also tricky. Sprinkle in both spouses working from home and things can get tough. Anthia says, “My husband’s ‘break time’ revolves around watching ridiculous TikTok videos on max volume – and then there are the video work calls he has in the living room, which is our main (and only) working area where we have both our computers set up. It’s like I’m playing hide-and-seek with his laptop camera every morning. Send help!”Can’t you just feel her pain? We’ve all been there these past weeks, with a little too much togetherness and nowhere to hide during COVID-19. Stay-at-home parents are also having to adjust to their spouse being home. Many now-at-home spouses are trying to help, but only getting in the way of routines. Working spouses don’t seem to get that the stay-at-homes have their own set of important things to do, too. And then there are the expectations.“Whatever I’m doing is obviously not important and can wait until later,” stay-at-home dad Brian* told Expat Living. “Also, I’ve now become the home IT support person for the entire family and expectations are that any issue is fixed within two minutes!”Yup. Being together 24/7 can be tough. Working from home hasn’t been easy, not only on couples, but just from a sheer comfort level.Sally* juggles her high-powered job from her bedroom where she doesn’t move from her desk all day. “I just feel claustrophobic and I’m sitting on a dining room chair, which is uncomfortable. I’m getting no exercise at all. The only steps I get are from going up and down the stairs to the kitchen.”And Sally has to manage her long list of phone calls with two rowdy kids at home, too. “To be honest, the first day was a bit ugly. The kids were with me all day and there was no routine yet and a lot of screaming. But my husband has really stepped up to help, which has made things much better. We’re now in a routine and it’s actually fine.” The twistBut not all this togetherness is grim.“To be honest, what I expected at the beginning of being home together during COVID-19 and where I am now are quite different things,” says Chloe*. “I thought my daughter would have a fit and forget things, that I’d be dragging my son to do his school work and I’d be struggling with work, but that hasn’t happened.”Kids everywhere seem to have risen to the occasion, lighting the way for us adults. Niki Harding told us, “I have to say I’m enjoying having the kids around. I’m super impressed how well they’re adapting. It’s actually motivating me to be a better person, mum and confidante.”What has happened for the likes of Sally, Chloe and Niki, plus so many others, is they are reconnecting with their families, taking time to play a bit of football or work on a puzzle. Busy calendars have been replaced by cups of tea and internet calls with friends from across the globe. People are really talking and reconnecting, sometimes if only with themselves.As I write this, my own kids are now on Easter break: two long weeks with no playdates and nowhere to go thanks to COVID-19. The mere thought of it had me in a bit of a cold sweat. Instead, we are enjoying taking the dog for long walks. (Nobody likes this whole situation more than all the dogs out there!) And my kids are loving learning life skills. They’ve baked bread, built shelves, used the sewing machine, made dinner, perfected an omelette and, yes, they’ve even cleaned their toilets. They’re just happy to be doing things together.I’ve also taught my kids something Mr Rogers’ mom taught him. Don’t know Mr Rogers? He was an icon of American children’s television. His mother told him when something bad is happening to look for the helpers. My kids have learned to appreciate those in the healthcare industry, the grocery store workers, the delivery people, the cleaners, the taxi drivers, and all those on the front line helping us.And that, my friends – all this togetherness and the thankfulness – is actually one of the silver linings of this awful situation. Turns out, we really are better together than apart.COVID-19’s wider pictureThe other silver lining is what’s happening to our environment. Factories are shut down. Cars are parked. Boats are docked. The result? Our air and water are cleaner. The planet is actually moving differently as there is a reduction in seismic noise. Go figure.I sometimes wonder if Mother Nature didn’t unleash COVID-19 to protect the planet from the other virus: mankind. Oh, gosh. I can see the hate mail now. But truly, while this situation has been nothing short of tragic for us humans, Planet Earth has been given a chance to breathe and reboot. She is saving herself where we humans have failed. Singapore is specialBut let’s be honest, there’s nowhere better to be than Singapore right now. Living here is another silver lining. The government has managed the situation better than almost anywhere else in the world. We haven’t been as homebound as some nations; nor are we as sick.And by global standards, most of our homes are pretty nice. Some of us even have helpers cooking and cleaning. Imagine being elsewhere in the world, crammed into a tiny room (or worse) with no pay cheque coming in and no end in sight.But living here can be really hard, too, during this world crisis. We are worried about people back home and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it if they do get sick.My own dear father-in-law passed away this week in the US, though not with COVID-19. But because of the pandemic, we couldn’t be with him or our family. There is truly nothing more painful. Being away from family in times of crisis is always awful. Being away during the coronavirus crisis is all the more heart wrenching. There is no greater pain.And perhaps in some awful life-lesson way, there’s a silver lining there, too. We’ve all learned to really appreciate what we have, near or far – and to reach out and tell people we love them and to take the time to connect. It seems humanity has learned to really love again. * Names have been changed.7 Tips for coping with COVID-19 and familyMahima Gupta, a psychologist with Thrive Family, offers suggestions to help families cope:#1 Carve out some personal space and time, even if that’s just going to your own corner, a quiet shower or taking an isolated walk.#2 Communicate about expectations, roles and responsibilities explicitly. Do not leave it to assumptions and common sense – talk about it.#3 Have realistic expectations. Do not expect 100 percent efficiency or perfect parenting.#4 Remember that “this too shall pass”. All of this is temporary, so just breathe.#5 Get creative with play. Think outside the box and let your kids get bored sometimes.#6 Take time to connect with each other, with friends and family, and rekindle long-lost connections.#7 Take up a wellness challenge as a family – each member can be the leader one day, and they get to decide on the exercises or activities.Check here for more in-depth advice about dealing with family stress.This article first appeared in the May 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

How long do viruses stay on surfaces?

4th May 2020 by Lindsay Yap 4 Min ReadWe all know that surfaces such as elevator buttons and handrails in public places aren’t clean, but we can tend to forget that doorknobs and tabletops in our office and home can also carry bacteria and viruses. The team from Rentokil tells us more and offers some solutions on how to disinfect surfaces including a sanitisation treatment that might help you feel a bit safer.How do we get ill from bacteria and viruses?We’re constantly exposed to various viruses and bacteria, but we don’t get sick from them all. Our immune system fights against most of them, particularly those we’ve been vaccinated against or recovered from. It’s when they start damaging and invading cells and affecting their functions that we fall sick, if our immune system doesn’t respond quickly or effectively enough. This happens when our immunity is weak, or when pathogens are strong or in too huge numbers for the body to handle.There are many ways that bacteria and viruses can enter the body – through cuts, for example, or contaminated food and drinks. Or, you can inhale droplets that come from the nose and mouth of an infected person, or touch a contaminated surface. Check out a cool infographic about germs here. How long do they stay on surfaces?According to the Mayo Clinic, droplets infected with cold and flu viruses can remain infectious for a couple of hours. This depends on various factors – the type of surface they land on, the surrounding environment (temperature and humidity) and the amount of droplets left on the surface, for instance. Viruses typically remain infectious for a longer time when they’re left on harder, non-porous surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic, compared to softer ones like fabrics. One study has shown that H1N1 virus strains remain infectious on stainless steel surfaces for up to seven days. As for COVID-19, WHO says it’s not entirely clear how long this particular virus can survive on surfaces, though it’s believed to act in a similar manner as other coronaviruses. Depending on surrounding conditions, it could linger from several hours to a couple of days.What can we do?Practising good hygiene can go a long way. Wash your hands with soap regularly, including when you’re in contact with food and after you cough or sneeze. Scrub them well and ensure you dry them after washing to prevent the transfer of germs. If you don’t have access to soap and water, the next best alternative is a hand sanitiser. Use one that has at least 60% alcohol content as it’s more effective at killing germs. Ensure you use a sufficient amount and leave it to air-dry.Another key method to avoid getting ill is to sanitise frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and tabletops. This reduces the chance of germs collecting and lowers the risk of spreading infections. According to an NSF study, the kitchen was alarmingly found to be one of the places with the most germs in the home.Why is sanitising and disinfecting surfaces important?When bacteria multiply and adhere to surfaces, they can form biofilms that gives them protection from disinfectants. So, it’s key to regularly clean surfaces so that bacteria doesn’t accumulate and become resistant to sanitising agents. Get professional help!Rentokil offers a surface shield sanitisation treatment carried out through misting. The formula instantly works once it has dried, reducing viruses and bacteria on surfaces. How does it work? Positively charged ions in the solution attract negatively charged pathogens, including viruses and bacteria, and attack and kill them.The treatment is said to remove 99.99 percent of viruses and bacteria. This includes coronaviruses, Influenza A, E.coli and Staphylococcus. The formula contains food-safe ingredients so it’s safe to use in most spaces, including kitchens. It’s a water-based solution that’s proven to last up to 30 days without leaving any stains or scents. You can also continue with regular cleaning as per usual – it won’t affect the treatment’s effectiveness or antimicrobial functions.How often should I sanitise my office or home?Sanitising shouldn’t be a one-off job. Pathogens constantly move between humans and surfaces, so it needs to be done regularly. The treatment will be less effective, too, if we don’t practice good hygiene and keep surfaces clean. How often you’ll need to sanitise also depends on how highly used the space is. Consult the Rentokil team for more details about when and how often you should do so. Give it a trySign up for Rentokil’s surface shield sanitisation treatment and get two free 500ml bottles of hand sanitiser (first 100 sign-ups).Written in collaboration with:Rentokil6347 8138 | Read on for more about living in Singapore:Need help getting rid of mozzies?Tackling termites: What are the signs?

Take the “Pay a Meal Forward” Challenge

27th April 2020 by Melinda Murphy 2 Min ReadMy friend Melody sent me a text the other day.“My friend sent our family a Peking Duck dinner earlier this week. We’d like to pay it forward and do the same for you. Is tonight okay?”It was perhaps the nicest text I’ve ever gotten. My eyes welled up with tears. After all, we’d had a pretty hard couple of weeks with the death of my father-in-law in the US. The simple act of somebody sending us a meal was an incredible lift — a virtual hug in the days of no hugs allowed. It made the whole family feel loved and cherished. I grew up in Texas where families always bring food after a death, but things are different here and times are different now. People can’t whip up a homemade meal and then just drop it off. COVID-19 makes that impossible. Which is why this simple act of food delivery meant so very much. And not only did sending the food boost us, but it also supported the local restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis. It was the ultimate in giving back.And you know what? We decided to pay it forward by sending a meal to our friends who also had a death in their immediate family this week. And you know what? She said she’s planning to pay it forward, too. So I got an idea.The “Pay a Meal Forward” challenge for youDo you know somebody who could use a lift? A friend who has also lost someone? A family having a particularly challenging time? If not, how about an organisation that works with the needy? There are so many people in these times that could use support. So I challenge you — yup, you sitting right there reading this: help the restaurants and help others at the same time by Paying a Meal Forward. It doesn’t have to be as fancy as Peking Duck. It truly is the thought that counts.Just choose your favourite restaurant and then do it: Pay a Meal Forward and make somebody feel loved.And if you are one of the lucky people to get a meal delivered, please share on our Facebook page. Let’s spread some joy, people!Need help finding a restaurant? Check out our article on great restaurants that are doing deliveries or browse options in Dempsey.

Helping migrant workers during COVID-19

24th April 2020 by Melinda Murphy 3 Min ReadWant to know how to help Singapore’s migrant workers through the COVID-19 crisis? Here we meet DIPA SWAMINATHAN, the Singaporean woman behind one organisation that’s been supporting migrant workers for years — even more so now in this crisis. And then learn what you can do to pitch in to help yourself. There’s a lot to be done as nearly one in five people living in Singapore is a migrant worker, with 300,000 of them living in the dorms.Tell us about the organisation you founded.It’s Raining Raincoats started in 2015. I was doing bits here and there on my own to support the migrant workers. A Facebook post in a now-defunct group went a bit viral and the Singaporean Kindness Movement encouraged me to create an official organisation to support migrant workers. At the time, my suggestion was to carry around disposable raincoats and give them to migrant workers as they’re often caught in the rain without one. When the government asked me for a name, I came up with “It’s Raining Raincoats.” Now, we do a lot more than just raincoats.What’s the mission of the organisation?It’s a simple mission: support migrant workers. We try to do whatever it takes to do that, short of legal representation. No worker who comes to us in need goes away without help. We’ve been successful because we’ve come up with fairly simple, innovative and imaginative ways residents can reach out to migrant workers in need.You have a big job as the Assistant Counsel General at Singtel. How do you have time to do this too?I’m hooked. I get such satisfaction when we get these heart-warming messages from the migrant workers saying things such as, “Thank you. I was so hungry. Your gift meant a lot. God bless you”. It’s an empowering feeling knowing I can help somebody. Yes, it takes a lot out of me to do all this, but it also energises me. I wake up every morning buzzing with ideas, limited only by my time to give. It also helps that I have an amazing team supporting me.How does It’s Raining Raincoats help migrant workers?In normal times, we run several drives for migrant workers throughout the year. For example, at Deepavali, we do drive-by pizza drop-offs. At Christmas, we make sure every worker gets a gift, even if it’s something small such as Tiger Balm that the worker can use. Each gift is wrapped with a handwritten note. We have 30 to 40 collection points across the country for that. We also run a year-round activity, collecting unsold food from designated Starbucks outlets, four times a week, all year long. That obviously is suspended now, but we always need help with these types of ongoing things and we will continue to need help, long after the crisis has passed.Do you need volunteers?We have been very fortunate with lots people reaching out to help the migrant workers during this crisis. In fact, the number of volunteers has swollen, doubling in size from our normal ranks and we now have about 500 people on our roster. Managing them all becomes a whole separate problem for an all-volunteer group. My hope is that we keep some of these amazing volunteers after the current crisis is over. There will be a lot of clean up from this such as workers not being paid; people too weak to work; breadwinners who no longer have jobs; figuring out where do they go and more. This will not abate soon – our worry is that this crisis will not disappear overnight.How can somebody help the migrant workers now?The best way to help just now is for a person to come to us with a fully-formed and executed idea. Once you tell us what you’ve done, we can then help with the last-mile assistance, meaning we can help you get your collection to the workers in need.For example, you can self-organise a drive in your condo, at your school, within an organisation or amongst friends. Once you have everything collected, we can help get it there. Normally, we accept pre-loved items, but just now, we need to be careful not to inadvertently bring germs to the migrant workers so all items must be new.If you look on our Facebook page, you can see what’s needed, but items to help pass the time such as games, puzzles and cards, old phones in working condition, data top-up cards, books and magazines in their language, and snacks are always appreciated. It’s better to give smaller amounts in bigger quantities so we can spread the joy. For example, give five $10 data top-up cards rather than one $50 card. The government is providing Wi-Fi for these workers, but there is always more needed.For more information about It’s Raining Raincoats, check out their Facebook page.Here are more ideas about how to give back during the COVID-19 crisis.

Craving Normalcy & Fighting the Panic

Being in the middle of this pandemic or COVID-19 (couldn’t they have come up with a catchier name?) is starting to wear on us all emotionally. Even if we don’t quite realise it. The big extension until 1 June didn’t help. I’m guessing you’re feeling a bit like I do: depressed, panicked and a bit fearful. But I don’t think we can let it win. We need to acknowledge whatever negative feelings, and then fight like hell against them. Here are my thoughts – and how I’m fighting to stay positive.Sleep — or lack ofThe clock reads 3.47am. Again. For what feels like the gazillionth night, I am wide awake. It’s not like insomnia of days of old when I was worried or panicked about something in particular. Rather, it’s just I can’t sleep anymore. My new routine is lay awake all night; manage the day pretty well; take a 20-minute power nap at 4pm; push through dinner and the kids’ bedtime; try to watch Netflix; fall asleep on the couch at 9pm; wake up at midnight; climb straight into bed; and wait to fall asleep at 4am. It’s like jet lag without the fun of getting it. My nine-year-old son can’t sleep either. It makes me so very sad when he peeks his head into the family room at 10pm (waking me up on the couch for a brief few minutes).Unexpected panicAnd when I went to the grocery store last week, I found myself in a mini-panic. It happened in the canned tomato aisle. Or what used to be the canned tomato aisle. There were no canned tomatoes. And no flour or sugar a couple of aisles over. I wanted to make my husband a cake for our 20th wedding anniversary, but I couldn’t find anything I needed. I settled for a frozen cheesecake. Lucky, I guess. It was far less work and tasted okay.But that panic — that panic was unexpected. That’s just not me. I’m a glass half-full kind of gal. My eyes peeping above my mask started to well with tears. I found myself breathing a bit faster and I had to work to slow it down, to not let the panic seep in. I found myself wondering yet again if I was living in the early scenes of one of those end-of-the-earth movies we’ve all watched. Did the horror start with a few news stories on the radio that became wall-to-wall news and then silence? Will this end in a few weeks or just get worse? Is this what happened before The Hunger Games or The Walking Dead? All those shows always seem to feature presidents not listening to scientists, don’t they? As an American, that feels a little too familiar just now.And again, I had to fight to keep that panic at bay. “It is not going to win. I am not going to give into this.” Undercurrent of concernBut the point it, this whole pandemic is getting to me in ways I don’t quite realize and it’s probably getting to you, too. On the surface, I feel okay. My kids are doing their best to soldier through eLearning. I’m so very proud of how hard they’re trying, though I see it getting to them, too — some days more than others. Me? I’m busy working on stories for Expat Living. I have lots of teleconferences with friends — even friends I haven’t seen in a long time, which is super nice. Life is pretty good, actually. I even started a website of nothing but good news and resources just so I would make myself create a daily gratitude list for all that is still good in the world.But just the same, the coronavirus is wearing us all down whether we realise it or not — and I’m not alone. It seems lots of people are in my boat, depressed and panicked both here and across the globe. A mattress company in the US called SleepStandards did a survey and found that about three quarters of those surveyed said they aren’t sleeping well.That’s not good news. Why? Because chronic insomnia can lead to all sorts of health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s. Equally bad? It can leave you open to getting COVID-19. All the more reason to get a grip on this before the panic gets a grip on you.Getting better sleepDonn Posner, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a founding member of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, gave the Harvard Business Review a few steps to fight the panic and help get your sleep back into a rhythm.Don’t take napsDon’t try to sleep in after a bad night’s sleepDo spend time in the sun during the dayAvoid nicotine and caffeineGet plenty of exerciseIf you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do somethingDreamsGreat. So now you can get to sleep, but even if you do sleep, you might not sleep well. Are you dreaming like a crazy person? That apparently is pretty common just now, too. In fact, Google searches for “Why am I having weird dreams lately?” have quadrupled in the US.Research shows that stress during the day affects what you dream about at night. Asleep, your mind goes where it dare not during the day sometimes exploring things that frighten and panic you.“COVID throws up many questions,” Anjhula Mya Sigh Bais, a psychologist, told the Huffington Post. “Your dreams are playing out survival scenarios in a bid to maintain hope, preparedness and stability.Truly, psychologists are having field days helping you explain your wildest dreams. But dreams are good. They help us work out what we cannot during the day. Our minds are taking care of us. Embrace it.Feeling unsettledBut what about that feeling of unease during the day? That folks, is grief. I remember this feeling after 9/11 when I lived in New York. The whole city walked around in a bit of disbelief, longing for life to return to normal. I’m guessing this is how people feel during war, too. And while we weren’t attacked by a typical enemy, it feels the same. COVID-19 truly is an enemy.It’s normal to feel this way. It’s normal for the days to blend together. And it’s normal to feel blue. Life as we know it has stopped and it may never quite return.It’s normal …  but these feeling don’t have to take over.The solutionSo what can we do about it? Well, for starters, you can’t give in. You just can’t. Feeling panicky and being enveloped in grief actually lowers your immune system. This means we need to be kind to ourselves. Accept that you’re hurting even if you don’t quite realise it. Don’t pressure yourself to write the next great novel or solve world peace. Breathe. Look for the positives. Realise you aren’t going to be a perfect parent during all this. Are your kids safe? Healthy? Fed? Then you’re smashing it as a parent.And then think ahead to what you want life to be like again. Plan for that day. Dream about it. Hang onto the knowledge that things won’t stay like this forever. There is a lot of good in the here and now, too. Search it out. And mostly, just be grateful that you now realise just how good life was – and will be again.Remember, this too shall pass.For more tips on how to fight the panic, read our top five tips on how to stay healthy.

A Brush With The Virus

20th April 2020 by Expat Living 3 Min ReadBY ERIN TAYLORIt started with a fever: 38.6 the thermometer read. Could there be a worse time to present to a doctor in Singapore with a fever? There are various ways people are coping with the COVID-19 situation in Singapore. Some are laughing it off as nothing more than a cold; others are taking practical precautions and sanitising hands. Then there is the third kind. Me.I kept my children away from school for a week when the Dorscon alert was raised to orange. I wash my hands to within an inch of their lives as often as possible. I don’t hold on when riding the MRT. I would be wearing a mask if I could find any to purchase. “Your lungs sound clear, but given your symptoms and the current climate we are going to transfer you by ambulance to NCID just to be sure.” NCID. Ambulance. This would be a cruel twist of fate for someone who has been so paranoid about this virus. Someone so meticulous in hygiene. Like the virus had sensed my fear and sniffed me out. Two security guards marched me from the GP clinic to the “Isolation Room”, which was last week a storeroom. The security guards were gowned, gloved and masked. I was fully panicked. NCID is a systematic, sterile and uniform place. It is a comforting level of order amongst the panic. Lines to walk along are marked on the floor with red crosses to stop at to ensure you are never very close to the person in front or behind you. After passing through triage you are seated at a desk, exam style, in a room of 30. Rooms like this extend beyond the first. Most desks were empty and the capacity of the place is impressive. After a clear x-ray and a COVID-19 swab I was sent home to await results; quarantining myself in my own bedroom.The febrile state I awoke to was like nothing I had experienced. I took myself back to NCID. Yesterday’s test was negative but the x-ray showed pneumonia. I would have to be admitted.Drip in my arm, mask on my face, I followed two nurses in protective gear into the ambulance. It was a short trip – across the road to the Communicable Diseases Centre. I was in isolation. They were going to re-test me for COVID-19. I couldn’t leave my room. No visitors. My heart raced and fever roared. I cursed my quick-to-catastrophise imagination. A red sign on my door warned people that I was in quarantine. I could see them preparing to enter the room through the glass window: mask, goggles, gloves, gown. People peering down on me through googles added to my sense of disorientation. But the staff were calm and caring. The setting is quiet and controlled.Tests were conducted, doctors came and went, and my febrile state made most of it a blur. Two subsequent tests came back negative. The isolation sign on my door was turned to green. The dinner lady praised the Lord for my health. A frightening experience, but one that has shown me just how prepared Singapore is. There is nowhere I would rather be in a crisis than my Singapore home.Tell us a tale and receive $200Here’s your chance to get published – and make some money at the same time. We’re looking for 500-word written contributions on any funny, poignant, practical or even controversial topic that touches on expat life in Singapore. Simply email your stories in a Word document to [email protected] and we’ll consider them for inclusion in an upcoming issue.

How to help during COVID-19

20th April 2020 by Melinda Murphy 2 Min ReadSo there you are, cooped up in your home abiding by the new circuit breaker measures. If you’re like most of the globe, you are likely keeping an anxious eye on the news as the number of people around the world who are infected with the coronavirus climbs higher and higher. And so you sit, feeling like there’s nothing you can do other than working from home, overseeing e-learning and wearing a mask when you go to the grocery store. It can all leave you feeling quite a bit helpless.But studies have shown that one of the best ways to empower yourself is to give back. Get busy. Help other people. But how? Where? The Singaporean government has once again led the charge, realising that its citizens and residents want to help. In the middle of last month, they launched, a new website devoted to helping people help others. It’s all part of SG Cares, which also has an app to keep you abreast of what is needed. The site lists many organisations in need of volunteers – and the register of what you can do is endless. Many of these programmes involve telephone befriending seniors or escorting them to medical appointments. Our seniors really need us just now.There are other things to do, too, such as delivering meals, donating diapers, giving sanitizing kits – literally, the list is endless. And a few of these activities are family-friendly. You can even sign up directly online.Want to give blood? There’s information on that, too. Virus-specific relief is also listed. For example, you can click a link to see some of the ground-up initiatives that have started in Singapore, which are really heart-warming. Want to leave words of encouragement to our frontline workers? There’s info about where you can pen your support at any of the SG United appreciation zones if you are around the vicinity.And yes, you can even just donate money, which is sometimes the most needed gift of all. The whole thing is pretty amazing and just another example of how the entire country of Singapore has been brought closer by the circumstances we’re all facing. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his second speech about the virus, “We are SG United!”