Days after posting "sawang-sawa na ako mag-PPE" on Facebook to welcome 2022, anesthesiologist Rodj Casa is isolating with COVID-19 symptoms at the onset of an Omicron surge that has frontliners and common folk alike questioning whether much-vaunted Filipino resilience is a virtue.
The Omicron surge, unprecedented in the speed at which the virus spread, became evident at the start of the New Year, making the Christmas holidays feel like a distant memory. Nearly three million total infections and 52,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, here we are again, being called upon to get out of this one alive.
"Nalulungkot ako siyempre pero kailangan mo mag-cope up, 'di mo kailangan dibdibin 'yung mga bagay-bagay kasi nasasanay ka na nga lang e," Casa told reportr in between coughs. He has yet to get his RT-PCR test results.
Being in isolation for Casa meant pausing his rounds in nine different hospitals in Cavite. Many of his colleagues are also isolating due to COVID symptoms.
Logistics associate Mac (not his real name) self-isolated at home after catching COVID-19 for the second time in less than a year. He fears he is putting his family, including his 4-year-old nephew, at risk.
"Nung first time ko talagang pagod na pagod ako at ayoko na maulit," he told reportr. In July, he relied on oxygen tanks to breathe battling severe COVID-19. He is dealing with milder COVID-19 now that he's fully-vaccinated.
"Honestly ang kinakatakot ko, kung may nahawa ako e kasi ayoko na maging dahilan na ako pa 'yung nagkalat pa ng virus dito," Mac said.
Constantly forcing oneself to be motivated while the pandemic rages can be exhausting. When coping becomes harder to do, it could result in resilience fatigue, psychologist Eugene Hontiveros said.
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What is resilience fatigue?
Resilience fatigue is when a person loses motivation to have a positive outlook in life after long periods of crisis. Those who have contracted COVID-19, lost loved ones or jobs, or are simply fed up with prolonged isolation and lockdowns could feel helpless and tired, Hontiveros told reportr.
There's also caution fatigue, when being on crisis mode becomes too burdensome and people feel less inclined to follow protocols. Two years of staying at home, with the government reporting low COVID-19 cases before the Omicron surge, could be enough for complacency to kick in, said Hontiveros.
"Nature kasi ng mga tao na we're showering ourselves with justifications na safe naman, sige punta ako sa mga kaibigan ko," he said.
Mac suspects he got infected while welcoming 2022 with his relatives. "Meron din siguro lapses nung New Year party namin ng family pero kasi family naman 'yun e, you trust na nag-iingat din sila."
Casa was looking forward to a memorable 40th birthday celebration in March, saddened that the spread of Omicron variant meant he would spend his birthday alone again, away from his senior citizen parents.
"Mas maraming lungkot kaysa motivation," Casa said.
Hontiveros likened people's ability to cope with a glass full of water, which gets drained as the crisis drags. He said those whose cups are running low could experience resilience fatigue.
"Nag-give up na tayo, parang enough is enough, why? Kasi dito sa resilience fatigue, ito 'yung we're draining our resources already or we have reached our limit," he said.
How to deal with resilience fatigue?
Hontiveros said there are ways to keep that symbolic glass of water full. "Resilience is about how fast you can recharge. It's not about being tough, or 'di ka tinatablan ng problema. It's how quickly you can bounce back and recover," he said.
Pick your battles
In times of crisis, pick your battles, he said. While it's frustrating to hear news about new variants, for example, you cannot stop it on your own. What's within an individual's control is maintaining safe distance from others and wearing of face masks to avoid infection, he said.
"You can only manage what you can control so 'wag mo na aksayahin 'yung time natin sa hindi natin kaya i-control," Hontiveros said.
Increase your mindfulness
When feeling overwhelmed, list down all the negativities and do the opposite, he said. If you're sick, call a doctor instead of feeling anxious about your symptoms. If you're feeling lonely, connect with your loved ones.
If possible, enjoy a few minutes of sunshine, exercise, or meditate. Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that can help you relax in any situation by calmly acknowledging your emotions, he said.
Increase your connections
Social connectedness can help those who are feeling anxious, Hontiveros said.
That's why the World Health Organization advocated against the word "social distancing", suggesting instead "physical distancing", to emphasize the need to remain connected "because your mental health going through this is just as important as your physical health."
"You increase your social connectedness with quality people, hindi 'yung magde-drain ng energy mo o ng glass of water mo so you spend time with people who can help you recharge."
Nourish your spirit
For some, praying can also help renew their spiritual and mental strength, he said.
Helping other people in need can help increase happy hormones, he said.
It's okay to seek professional help.
"Kung extreme na 'yung nararamdaman natin, nauuwi na ito sa nagagalit tayo sa sitwasyon, nagagalit na tayo sa sarili natin... we have to recognize that help is available," Hontiveros said.
Psychologist Eugene Hontiveros is a graduate school professor and chief psychologist of 3MDG Mental HealthGATE which provides free mental health counseling as its main advocacy.