Growing Trends: Iloilo Personalities on Lifestyle, Productivity, and Mental Health

Cris Antonio |

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The pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone. We all had to make adjustments for our work, family, and lifestyles. Many of us were uprooted from everything stable and comfortable. For some, there was hardly any choice but to get out of the comfort zone entirely.

Perhaps our biggest challenge was - and still is - how to keep sane despite everything that has happened.

The second week of October is National Mental Health Week in the Philippines. To celebrate this event, we’ve asked four personalities in Iloilo to share their pandemic stories. How did they adjust to working from home? What’s their self-care routine like? How do they cope with anxious feelings? What keeps them going?

Hopefully, their words will answer some of our questions; and remind us to take better care of ourselves.

Iloilo Personalities on Lifestyle, Productivity, and Mental Health

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Joce Sta. Maria

Aerialist/Dancer, Certified Life Coach, Nushu Facilitator
For this professional dancer, meditation, positive podcasts, and acceptance have kept her sane during the pandemic.

"It took me a while to be okay with the idea of being stuck at home, and also it took me a while to really practice not bypassing what I feel and that emotions really are just waves…to ride it means a better chance of surviving lockdown."

She says good Bordeaux helps, too.

"I'm very lucky to have enough space in the house which enabled me to teach and work."

Straightforward, honest, and very professional, Joce understands the link between mental health and overall well-being. "You cannot separate mental health from physical health… Anxiety and stress causes inflammation."

She’s not wrong. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that mental health issues, such as depression, can increase risk for long-term health problems, like diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. This is why she listens to her body and rests whenever she needs to.

"Listen, if you're tired, rest. It's that simple. But also learn the difference between being tired versus being lazy. Figure out the things that restore your vitality. If it's running, run. If it's singing, sing! Caring for yourself first is crucial. You can't care for others if you're not physically taking good care of yourself."

If she’s not dancing or working out, this certified life coach likes to have fun with her pets (she has 11!).

"As long as I am able to breathe, I will continue to live. Life is not meant to be easy. Right now I feel so stuck, and bored and overwhelmed but boohoo, tomorrow is another day. If I was given it, maybe I will feel joy tomorrow. Again, it is what it is."

While Joce believes feeling anxious is part of being human, she won’t say no to essential oils. Oh, and wine, of course.

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Follow her on Instagram: @_jocestamaria 

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Michael Robby Lazo

Crossfit L1 Trainer at Strength Ground Crossfit Iloilo

It’s not surprising that coffee lover and manga-reader Michael has used his time during the pandemic to read, learn, and keep moving. It can be hard to imagine that he ever felt demotivated. But he did at one point.

"…When the lockdowns kept happening and there was no sign that this pandemic would end anytime soon, I found myself feeling lost…I became inactive for almost the whole duration of the initial lockdown. I lost all interest with anything related to fitness for a while."

Not one to be easily deterred, he picked himself back up and kept rolling.

"If I set aside all distractions and commit to a task, I can finish it way ahead of the due date. As someone whose work requires me to interact with people, having a healthy mental state is really important. People will notice your moods, your reactions to certain questions or challenges during classes. That’s why as a coach, it’s essential we take breaks to avoid burning out, making sure we have that same drive and enthusiasm in every class."

To achieve this, this trainer ensures he gets at least 15-20 minutes of sunlight every day, workout 4-5 times a week, get 6-8 hours of sleep daily, and drink 2 cups of coffee.

"…I really got into the different brewing methods. I spend most of my time trying to learn the different processes and testing out recipes online."

He’s no superman though. So what does he do on days when he doesn’t feel like doing anything? He tells himself that every day is an opportunity and a blessing. And whenever he feels anxious, Michael collects himself by pushing pause, doing box breathing exercises, and thinking about the nice things that have happened lately.

"It’s okay to take a break …everyday's an opportunity to learn and become better… Stop and smell the flowers."

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Follow him on Instagram: @robby_darko

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Myka Perlas

Yoga Teacher, Health Advocate

There are times when our troubles are in reality, hidden opportunities for us to get back to what matters most. When Myka took a hard fall that tore her shoulder tendon, she thought it was the end of her teaching career.

"Not being able to teach, I felt depressed and unproductive. Carrying this depression with me, I continued my meditation practice and spent time with people I value most."

Her injury forced her to take a break to let her body heal. When she could teach again, she was once again adjusting to new norms. "From teaching in a studio to shifting to different online platforms like ZOOM and fitness apps, it was a change of pace for me… A shift of perspective made me versatile...I learned to see the good in unfavorable situations."

Myka believes in balance. She says too much of anything isn’t healthy. So for those who may be keeping a lot inside, she encourages you to talk to someone you could trust.

"… Venting out and being honest can always make you feel better. Also, people undergoing mental health concerns must know that it’s really okay to seek help..."

According to the U.K.’s leading mental health charity, Mental Health Foundation, quality relationships will not only make you happier, you’ll also be physically healthier. No wonder Myka recommends the same: "I surround myself with people who have a similar outlook in life as mine…"

As an advocate for health, she includes healthy food, weekly exercises, and skincare in her routine. Just like everyone else, there are days when she doesn’t feel like hustling. When this happens, she tells herself that tomorrow will be better.

"Anxiety is normal. I stop, breathe, and take a step back to think, rethink, or empty my mind to give space for my thoughts to clear up. Yoga usually helps... A quick fix is also spending time with nature. There’s something magical about nature..."

We couldn’t agree more!

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Follow her on Instagram: @livelovemyka

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Jorvelyn Jaruda - Espinosa

Educator, Yoga Teacher, Advocate

It’s exhausting to fulfill many roles in life. So how does wife, advocate, and Executive Director of Maya Playgarden, Jorvelyn, handle it all?

She has a multiple-pronged approach that engages her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Aside from exercising and eating healthy, she does breathing exercises, yoga, journaling, enjoys massages, calligraphy, and drinking tea.

"…Emotionally, I try to keep my feelings in check … I allow myself some crying time, especially when I binge on Netflix…I do things that I truly enjoy like listening to music, making art, watching a theatre performance, reading, and daydreaming! For my spiritual health, I pray."

She may seem busy as a bee, but family always comes first. During lockdown, she found solace with her loved ones as they played, cooked, and just spent time together. "During the longest lockdown, everybody was home and being together with my family gave me a certain feeling of reassurance that everything will be fine."

Jorvelyn soon learned to ‘let go and let God’ as issues with the school cropped up. She had to battle some fears; but she found her own resilience and power. Talking about the future of the school, she was excited to share about their Bridging the Distance program, as well as concepts for a school garden.

Her role as an educator is evident as she strongly advocates for mental health.

"I cannot underscore the importance of taking care of our mental health… Although I keep my lines open, I always refer [them] to seek professional help. The thing with mental health issues is that some are actually mental disorders and need expert handling."

The future may look uncertain, but Jorvelyn is optimistic. Whenever she’s feeling unproductive, she reminds herself of the difference she wants to make in the world.

"I still haven’t done what I’m supposed to do in this lifetime. I feel that I am still destined for so many things and I’m constantly moving to find out what it is."

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Follow her on Instagram: @jorvelyn

Looking Beyond the Pandemic

Explorer and philanthropist, Sir Edmund Hillary, once said: ‘it's not the mountains we conquer but ourselves.’ For it’s certainly far more difficult to discipline yourself than to hike for hours. 

Indeed, the true challenge is how we remain steadfast in our goals. Not only on days when we can - but more importantly, when we don’t feel like getting out of bed. Hopefully, these Ilonggo personalities have taught you a thing or two about taking care of yourself and your mental health.

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Author Portrait

Cris Antonio

Cris Antonio is a freelance Copywriter, Editor, and Speaker. If she’s not writing or editing, she helps business owners and young adults build their presence on the Web.