GEORGE TOWN – Having to make changes to one’s daily routine is one thing but the clampdown on stepping out of the house is quite another.

In the initial one or two weeks after the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced on March 18, it was hard for most Malaysians to be positive about staying at home 24/7.

The MCO is now in its third phase (April 15-28) and people have started getting used to the “new normal” which will prevail as long as the COVID-19 threat is not fully overcome.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) psychiatrist Associate Prof Dr Asrenee Ab. Razak suggests drawing up a work and activity-packed daily schedule to prevent feeling negative about being cooped up in the house.

“By keeping yourself busy all day, you won’t feel lost. A packed daily schedule will make your life more structured and beneficial as you will also be spending more quality time with your family,” said Dr Asrenee, who is deputy chairman of the Brain and Behaviour Cluster, School of Medical Sciences, USM.  

To ward off anxiety-inducing thoughts, she recommends doing some deep breathing exercises which will help the mind to become calmer and more focused.  

The MCO period, she added, is also a good time for parents to shape their children’s minds to become more creative.

“Give your children the opportunity to explore certain things and participate in learning activities that will improve their creativity,” she said, adding that mothers should also prepare nutritious meals for their families to boost their immunity.


Dr Asrenee also urged Malaysians not to circulate fake news on COVID-19 on social media as it may cause panic and anxiety among the people, particularly senior citizens and women.

“Those who have family members with mental health issues should continue to give them support and be a good listener as they may feel depressed during the MCO period,” she added.

Penang State Executive Councillor for Women and Family Development, Gender Inclusiveness and Religions other than Islam Chong Eng said the state government has implemented an eco-craft project to help single mothers and other women who lost their livelihoods after the MCO was enforced.

“We are also acting as a facilitator to help them to apply for financial assistance to run their businesses,” she added.


Insurance agent Mohd Azeli Ali, 42, meanwhile, said the MCO has given him the opportunity to spend more time with his five children. Daily, the children would do their homework, study, recite the Al-Quran and perform their prayers. The family would also cook and participate in sporting activities together.

“I’m usually very busy with my work but after MCO was enforced, I’ve been bonding with my family,” said this former reporter.

He is also bringing back nostalgic feelings by playing traditional games like batu Seremban with his children, as well as playing football using a paper ball.

Retired policeman Mohammad Zain Rasit, 61, said he spends most of his time reading, spending time with his family and doing carpentry work.

“Of course, it’s stifling to stay at home all day but as a former cop, I can see that the MCO has been effective (in reducing COVID-19 cases),” he said.

Single mother Nurrul Huda Ghazali, 49, who has four children, said she spends her time cleaning the house and teaching her children to do household chores such as hanging up the laundry, folding the dry clothes, tidying the house and taking the garbage out.  

“I also do some light exercises every day… being in the premenopausal stage now, I tend to get emotional so I exercise to keep myself calm,” she added.


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