Change can be terrifying. It entails uncertainty, letting go of familiarity and a sense of control. The human brain has been termed as an “anticipation machine, and ‘making future’ is the most important thing it does” (Gillbert, 2006). Uncertainty arising from changes reduces our ability to efficiently and effectively prepare for the future, thus, leading to an increase in anxiety (Drupe & Nitschke, 2013). Anticipatory cognitive, affective and behavioural processes serve as an adaptive function at manageable levels, but, become maladaptive when they are excessive (Rosen & Schulkin, 1998).
Truly, there is no better demonstration of the inevitability and the, sometimes, unwelcomed nature of change than the recent COVID-19 pandemic. In the blink of an eye, everything has changed. The life that we once took for granted seems like a luxury now. To deal with COVID-19 in Singapore, Circuit Breaker measures were implemented. After a national address on April 22, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced an extension of circuit breaker that would last till the beginning of June (Mohan, 2020). Due to the circuit breaker, there were many new changes in how we lived every day. Work-from-Home (WFH) and Home-Based Learning (HBL) were introduced to help curb the spread of COVID-19. People were also encouraged to stay at home and not socialise with members who are not from their households.
HBL was made mandatory for all levels of education. This meant that learning is digitalised, with only limited services available for children in pre-school whose parents are essential workers (Kurohi, 2020). Teachers and students had to navigate through the challenges of online learning. A prominent challenge brought about by this change included increasing amounts of time spent in front of a computer screen. Though students are able to better pace themselves online, productivity could also be greatly reduced through distractions from entertainment such as YouTube. This could also increase the likelihood of cyber bullying and exposure to violent content. WFH was another unfamiliar change to Singapore. Who would have thought that it could be possible to implement such a change? Some of the challenges include isolation from people and dealing with a new “norm” that acts as a stressor for most people. It becomes necessary to change the way services are delivered and people may also lose their jobs as companies try to reduce their losses as much as possible.
With the end of circuit breaker comes phase 1 where we are still not able to gather with our loved ones. Phase 1 itself would last between four to six weeks but could be extended depending on the situation in Singapore (Lai, 2020). This news may be difficult to some as most of us would have been looking forward to the end of circuit breaker to resume our normal life. The change brought about by circuit breaker forced us to deal with a completely different way of life so abruptly and when we finally thought the light at the end of the tunnel was near, another curveball gets thrown at us. Although these new measures are for the greater good, there is no denying that we still have a lot more to learn about dealing with changes. “Expect the unexpected” is an appropriate phrase to explain the effect COVID-19 has had in our lives.
But, change does not have to be from something as big as a pandemic. Every day, we experience small changes. No two days are exactly the same and though the changes may be insignificant (especially now that we are all at home), they still involve doing something differently. We go great depths to avoid change in fear that we are unable to handle its consequences. However, we fail to realise that as humans, we are good in adapting and will always be able to find solutions for any issues that we face.
As scary as it seems, change is necessary for growth. How boring would it be to be stagnant for the rest of your life? Some disadvantages of remaining stagnant are the deprivation of a wholesome life, possibly, even leading to depression due to a lack of purpose. Often, we find solutions only when we approach the problem from a different angle and this requires change. Also, the longer we delay accepting changes, the harder it gets (Morin, 2014).
Changes in life provide opportunities to reflect on what truly matters. At the heart of the desire to change should be a conviction that this change is for our good. If we focus on how change is beneficial for the long term, it makes the temporary pain worth it. A good way to be committed to change is to have a clear goal in mind. Then, we can identify something to do each day that will bring us closer to that goal. We could also consult our loved ones or mentors for advice because they will be able to offer a fresh perspective and hold us accountable for our decisions. This helps us to keep in mind what our ideal self is and re-evaluate what needs to change in our current selves to become that person (Morin, 2014).
2020 is the year to embrace changes. We were thrown a curveball right off the bat, catching us off guard. This highlights how anything can happen in life, as much as we try to avoid changes. Maybe this COVID-19 pandemic is just the universe’s way of getting us to look within and identify what needs to change in our lives. Let us look forward with a positive mindset!
- Drupe, D., & Nitschke, J. (2013). Uncertainty and anticipation in anxiety: an integrated neurobiological and psychological perspective. Nature reviews Neuroscience, 488-501.
- Gillbert, D. (2006). Stumbling on Happiness. New York: Random House.
- Kurohi, R. (April , 2020). Retrieved from Singapore schools to shift to full home-based learning from April 8 to May 4 amid Covid-19 pandemic: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/schools-to-shift-to-full-home-based-learning-from-april-8
- Lai, L. (May, 2020). Retrieved from Singapore to lift circuit breaker measures from June 2, in three gradual phases: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/spore-to-lift-circuit-breaker-measures-from-june-2-in-three-gradual-phases
- Lay, B. (March , 2020). Retrieved from 17 years ago, on March 27, 2003, all schools in S’pore were shut because of SARS: https://mothership.sg/2020/03/sars-singapore-schools-closed/
- Mohan, M. (April , 2020). Retrieved from COVID-19 circuit breaker extended until Jun 1 as Singapore aims to bring down community cases ‘decisively’: PM Lee: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/covid-19-circuit-breaker-extended-june-pm-lee-speech-apr-21-12662054
- Morin, A. (2014). 13 things mentally strong people don’t do. New York: William Morrow & Company.
- Ries, J. (March, 2020). Retrieved from Here’s How COVID-19 Compares to Past Outbreaks: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-deadly-is-the-coronavirus-compared-to-past-outbreaks
- Rosen, J., & Schulkin, J. (1998). From normal fear to pathological anxiety. Psychol Rev, 325-50.
Contributed by: Caluag Aira Mheleen Avendano
Aira is an undergraduate student with Nanyang Technological University, pursuing a double major in Biological Sciences and Psychology. She loves to sing and go on random adventures. During the citcuit breaker, she developed new hobbies like playing the ukulele and cooking.