Tatler friend and happiness coach Shireena Shroff Manchharam details her experience with battling Covid-19 and her recovery journey in this opinion piece

Singapore’s Covid-19 cases may be on a slow and gradual decline, but it’s inevitable for some residents to contract the virus for various reasons even with restrictions in place.

My family has been trying meticulously hard to be vigilant, maintain distance and regularly test ourselves—only to one day have it culminate into a dreaded positive result. And it belonged to none other than me.

As a relatively fit 39-year-old, I was stunned when I tested positive. Surprisingly, I experienced a combined feeling of relief of finally contracting Covid-19 (while not having any symptoms) and trepidation that it may get worse. I was concerned for those around me. It has been a mental rollercoaster of isolation, peace, confusion and rest.

Below, I will share more about my recovery journey. 

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Testing Positive

Last year in the epicentre of Covid confusion, my sister contracted Covid-19. She is a healthy 35-year-old yoga enthusiast, and in September of 2020, being unvaccinated, the virus definitely took a toll on her. She recovered well but being unvaccinated made it arduously harder to fight off the virus. I remember her genuine fear when she found out, compared to my reaction when I tested positive. Being vaccinated and not having major symptoms, made me slightly fearful but I accepted I just had to ride it out. We all routinely test at home with our Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kits, which was how I found out I was positive. I wasn’t feeling unwell, just a little tired. Of course, everyone’s reaction to the virus is different; depending on age, underlying health concerns, and other factors. I felt positive that I could take this virus down. I just had to stay isolated, positive and as healthy as possible.

Preparing for Positive

One of my closest friends recently described how she has kept her guestroom prepped and ready in case someone in her household of seven comes down with the virus. I thought that was forward-thinking and practical, and when I tested positive, I immediately took control of my bedroom.

In hindsight, I wish I had arranged a few items ahead of time, such as Vitamin C and zinc, pre and probiotics, extra fluids like coconut water, paracetamols, thermometers, tissue boxes, more rapid antigen tests, and a few cleaning supplies.

Having these items on hand can help with the initial anxiety and sets the rest of your household at ease as well. I also brought in my laptop and work items, yoga mat, and body roller, simultaneously transferring my husband’s items out the door.

Staying Positive

When my husband told my 11-year old daughter Lara that I tested positive, I heard emotional wails escaping her—as if the world was about to end!

My little eight-year-old son was slightly less expressive, but with some tears in his eyes. I told them I was perfectly fine and just needed a few days to rest it out. I felt mother’s guilt I couldn’t be there for them, but I realised I had to rely on others in my house to do it for me. I almost had another round of mother’s guilt from being relieved that I didn’t have to deal with homework, classes, school drop-offs and tantrums!

I could hear my kids through the door with their usual antics and my patient husband trying to run the fort. I knew that while I was isolated, engrossed in my relaxation music with essential oils diffusing—my kids were also using their devices more, eating junk food, and maybe not doing everything they were supposed to. But I was fine with that. I needed to let go and focus on me, my health and my mental state to come out stronger for us all.

Remember there is only so much you can control while sitting alone in a room. I tried to be grateful that I didn’t have major symptoms and felt relatively fine. 

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My entire life is a schedule and even when on holiday, I have a routine. I never just laze around in bed, and now having days of “me time” while the clock moved achingly slowly, I managed somewhat of a routine. Routine helps give us a sense of control and helps manage uncertainty.

When I woke up each day, the first thing I did was tidy my room. I mindfully went around cleaning up, making my bed, opening the windows and curtains and wiping down the room and bathroom. Granted the first two days I didn’t feel so energetic, so I skipped this. But as my energy came back, I fell into this pattern. I would then take out my yoga mat in front of the window and do some simple stretching and breathing. Just the act of sitting, breathing in the air, feeling the sunshine and looking into greenery and hearing the birds is complete bliss.

I would end the mat routine with meditation, which itself is grounding and comforting. The luxury of not needing to rush, accomplish the next task, sit at my desk, or drive somewhere is deliciously relaxing. I worked in the mornings after a shower and then ate lunch while watching TV. I continue to work, nap, or read in the afternoons, followed by the return of the yoga mat for sunset. My evenings are spent binge-watching Netflix.

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I believe that to feel physically and mentally better while isolating is to nourish the soul. The first thing I needed, was childhood comfort food; and because I grew up in Japan, that was soup and sticky Japanese rice every day. Whatever makes you feel good, eat it. And I stayed happily hydrated on coconut water. Other things that greatly helped were pre and probiotics from Synbiotic15, a Swedish brand that dramatically helped my immunity, gut health, especially when taking medicines that can irritate the stomach. Hot tea from Grandma Lotus was also my daily companion with its nourishing blends to help the Qi.

Another great resource that I found helpful was Speedoc, which caters to a wide range of medical services all in the comfort of your home. I booked my PCR test to be done at home which was convenient and stress free. By downloading the app, I could pre-book my visits from a doctor and not worry about leaving the house or putting anyone else at risk.

Embracing Temporary Isolation

I do believe at some point we will all get Covid-19, and my advice is the moment you don’t feel well, self-administer an ART, and if you are positive begin the process of isolation. If you can, ahead of time, arrange a box with essentials like thermometer, oximeter, paracetamols, vitamin c, Epsom salt for a soaking bath, warming eye mask, and maybe some anti-allergy which helped with my congestion, and extra fluids of your choice like coconut water. Also, to confirm any doubts, you can call Speedoc to then help with a PCR test which officially puts you in the system. 

It isn’t easy to be alone, but for a short period of time, it’s a luxury we don’t often get. My life is schedules, kids, work, errands, workouts—responsibilities that repeat themselves daily. I felt like I had time to heal, think, and rest. As a working mother, that never ever happens. I didn’t feel guilty, as I let go of what I couldn’t control, and found the hours in the day to sit lazily at my balcony enjoying the view, reading trashy novels, indulging in Netflix, online shopping, meditating, and just thinking about recovering to come out stronger and healthier.

We can ditch the stigma associated with contracting the virus, accept at some time we will all get it, hope for the best, and stay as positive as possible.

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