It’s Okay to Float: A Reflection on Mental Health during Quarantine

Written by Kaye San Miguel

Edited by Victoria Albitos


When I was five, my parents took me to my first ever swimming class, which absolutely terrified me. I was almost sure that if I were to go to the deep end of the pool, I would either drown or get eaten by some ravenous monster underneath. So, before the lesson started, my swimming teacher attached floaties around my short and tiny arms. 

Then, as soon as he securely attached them, he carried me and threw me into the deep end of the pool. I was screaming, crying, and flailing about—I felt like I was sinking right into the bottom of the pool. Needless to say, I was sure I was going to get eaten by the monster who has been waiting for me. Surprisingly, however, I found myself slowly rising up the water until I finally reached the surface. Was it magic or my floaties? I wasn’t swimming, so why is it that I had stopped sinking? 

I then realized that what I was doing was an essential survival skill that I would need at any moment in time: floating.

But sometimes, it’s better to float than to swim.

In the Philippines, it’s been two months since the quarantine started. Upon realizing this, I felt a pang of guilt for not doing as much as I wanted to. In my head, the number of tasks I have to accomplish in this period should be at par with that of when I was still attending classes at university. After all, with all these idle hours we’ve suddenly been given, some of us might like to think of this period as time off. On top of that, we’ve been wired to make use of each free second we have to sharpen our skills or learn new things; in short, we are to do anything that will bring us to a position where we woefully end up with not a feeling of ease, but of exhaustion.

But we have to remember that this is not a vacation. 

Right now, we are merely 5-year-olds—with the pandemic affecting everyone in almost every part of the globe, it’s inevitable to feel that things are spiraling out of control. We are suddenly thrown into a sea of crisis. Grief is swimming around us as if it is waiting for the right time to swallow us whole. Having little feet and short arms can feel as if we have no choice but to swim to thwart us from sinking. 

But sometimes, it’s better to float than to swim. 

We are not supposed to bear the additional pressure of accomplishing a hundred tasks when the world around us seems to be in sudden disarray. We are grieving collectively. It’s commonplace to feel desolate, lonely, angry, stressed, and afraid. There’s a loss of normalcy and certainty. Whether it be because of a toxic environment, a mental illness, the isolation, or simply unease, how are we supposed to swim when all these waves of negativity keep crashing over us?

To float is not to remain stagnant.

Admittedly, it can feel wrong to not do anything when there are people out there working so hard to fight the pandemic—doctors, nurses, workers, and honest public officials are selflessly putting themselves on the line to help the country. But don’t forget that we have an important role to play too: to stay at home. More than that, we can ensure that they are also getting the support they need. But for us to be able to do that, we have to take care of ourselves first.

That’s when self-care comes to play. 

There are things that are still within your sphere of control, and slowly and surely, when you’ve learned how to handle these correctly, you get opportunities to widen this sphere. If you still have work, it is best to set a specific duration of time dedicated to it. Allot some hours every day for your downtime, whether it be a creative hobby or play. Connect with your loved ones. Introverted or not, too much isolation is bad for the mind. Most important of all: get adequate rest. All of these will serve as your floaties to keep yourself afloat amidst the chaos.

Here are some links to resources that can help you cope amidst this pandemic:

  • Feeling anxious about what’s happening? Visit virusanxiety.com, a website by Shine and Mental Health America, a mental-health toolkit to help you manage your anxiety.
  • From psychosocial services to mental health activities, the UP Psychological Society compiled a database containing everything you need regarding your mental health needs: tinyurl.com/MHResourcesforCovid19
  • Need an online support system? Youth for Mental Health Coalition Inc. made a facebook group if you want to join. No requirements needed!
  • Want to talk to a professional? The Mind Nation, Ms. Risa Hontiveros, and Akbayan! Youth have opened FREE Online Mental Health Consultations for anyone who might need it. Book a session here.

Remember one thing: To float is not to remain stagnant. Rather, to float is to give you breathing room. 

Let yourself grieve and feel. Let the waves of your emotions gently carry you. Don’t shut them out or go against them. Acknowledge that what you’re feeling is natural given everything that is happening right now. 

Let yourself rest. Working from home whilst a battle is happening between you and your mind ultimately adds to your exhaustion. If you’re currently holding yourself to the exact same standard as when there was no pandemic, it will be too suffocating. Forgive yourself for accomplishing little to no work today. Forgive yourself for not learning a new skill. Forgive yourself for spending too much time in bed when you wake up in the morning. 

Granting yourself the kindness you deserve allows you to extend that same kindness to others who may need it the most. 

Not only do you help them navigate their way in this confusing situation, but you also get to ameliorate your own emotional well-being. Slowly but surely, the waves of negativity originally drowning you will calm down; although not entirely, you will find that this is enough for you to get through this pandemic. 

You’ve been holding your breath all this time, but that will do you more harm than good. The deadly waves of this crisis will come to a halt sooner or later, and this means that you will not arrive at the same island you originally came from. It’s okay. The rest of us will be there with you. 

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