Football Science ● May 21, 2020

Mental health webinar gives insights on coping with COVID-19

The ‘Florence Nightingale’ of local football, Nurhafizah Abu Sujad broadens the reach of her quest to keep footballers in top condition, joining the Lion City Sailors while retaining her role as National Teams Head Physiotherapist.

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SINGAPORE, 21 MAY 2020 – The unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 global pandemic, coupled with the resulting firm measures to slow the spread of the infection, has affected the global population. In Singapore, the government introduced the COVID-19 circuit breaker to curb the rise in locally transmitted cases by reducing movements and interactions in public and private places. This has resulted in the closure of workplace premises, sports and recreation facilities as well as places of worship.

 

While these are necessary measures, the circumstances may inevitably affect individuals who find it difficult to handle the pandemic mentally and emotionally. It was reported that there has been a surge in the number of calls to the National CARE Hotline which was set up to support people who feel stressed and anxious about the evolving situation.

 

To provide support for footballers during this time, the FAS organised a webinar in partnership with the Singapore Sport Institute covering topics on mental health in football as well as strategies to cope with the current COVID-19 situation. The webinar, while targeted mainly at professional and amateur footballers and coaches, was also open to members of the public.

 

One of the two speakers for the webinar, sport psychologist Joshua Chua, shared that it is common for individuals to experience symptoms of cabin fever during the circuit breaker.

 

“Cabin fever refers to the negative emotions one feels because we feel isolated and always stuck in our homes,” he said. “There are various emotions one may experience and feel…. isolation, boredom, frustration, irritability, restless, overwhelmed and stress. Perhaps some of you might feel fear and anxiety as well. These are normal emotions that a lot of people face.

 

“What is important to remember is that these are normal reactions to an abnormal situation. Everyone is feeling the same way; it is not just you that is experiencing stress, anxiety, frustration. It is important to recognise that everyone is in the same boat and to tell yourself that it is ok to feel this way. Essentially you are just being human.”

 

Joshua recommended creating and maintaining a routine to help individuals keep a healthy state of mental well-being. The routine should include having a regular sleeping pattern and getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep. It is also important to create a work space separate from where you sleep or relax if possible and take regular breaks to prevent feeling too overwhelmed.

 

He added that the circuit breaker is also a good time to reflect on one’s sense of purpose in life. The action of giving, volunteering, and offering support to others can provide individuals with a sense of satisfaction and meaning.

 

Senior sport psychologist Stevenson Lai advised that coaches should check in with their players and coaching staff occasionally during this period to share about the challenges faced and how they are coping with the situation. He also suggested that individuals can make an effort to connect with family members and friends.

 

He said: “Friends will help to encourage and keep each other going, especially when we have to deal with so much negative emotions if we do not have an outlet to share.”