Our yaya was supposed to have gone back to Zamboanga for vacation when the lockdown hit. She and many stay-in helpers were inadvertently stuck in their employers’ homes for an indefinite work stint, most without days off.
When it was safer, we allowed our helpers to go to physical church even if we ourselves did not. But we needed to coach them extensively on safety as standards differ from person to person.
As we struggled to power through the pandemic, we may not have always thought about how it has affected our household angels’ physical and mental health.
“Pahuway” is Visayan for “rest, relax and reflect.” It is also the name of a yearly seminar given by De La Salle Zobel School that aims to equip kasambahay with knowledge related to their needs and work, to provide stress management techniques and to promote self-care.
This year’s program was held online. School counseling head Erica Malli shared that the kasambahay seminar began in 2000. It was organized for those caring for their students.
Asked about their dreams, various helpers shared how they wanted to be able to travel abroad, to have their children or themselves finish school, to have their own house and lot, or to be able to help their mothers.
Not all kasambahay may have access to such a program, but household employers may want to take note of these and craft something similar for them.
Guidance mentor Hannah Mamawal discussed how to gain awareness on stress and how to manage one’s self in stressful situations: “When we try to achieve our dreams, it can’t be helped that we encounter stress or trials in our lives.”
The kasambahay defined stress as “hirap makatulog,” “pagod,” “nakakasira ng beauty,” “malungkot,” “nakakaloka,” “nakakapuyat” and feeling emotional.
Stress is a physical and emotional reaction to change. It can be positive, when it gives you more energy or promotes growth and accomplishment, or negative, when it can cause sickness.
Signs of stress include nervousness, sadness or anger, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, sweating, pain or hardness in the neck, shoulders, jaw or face, headaches, tiredness, difficulty sleeping, diarrhea, stomach pain, no appetite or overeating, and weight loss.
How can our helpers fight stress? Mamawal talked about mindfulness and learning different relaxation techniques that they can practice daily: deep and slow breathing, listening to music, reading, taking a warm shower, or doing something they enjoy (singing, playing with pets, exercise).
She also talked about accepting things we cannot change (the 90/10 principle of Stephen Covey) and how we can control 90 percent of how we react.
If your helper becomes heartbroken because their significant other left them, being stuck in your home without a face-to-face friend to talk to or the weekend to look forward to when they don’t have to put on a professional face, can be incredibly stressful and depressing, especially for kasambahay who have no access to data or Wi-Fi.
Be mindful of such needs, and depending on your setup, you may need to be a source of emotional support. Mamawal advised them to take one day at a time, sleep eight hours daily, eat healthy and have someone to talk to.
Breathing and tapping techniques by alternating negative tapping (“I’m stressed out and overwhelmed, I’ve got so much going on, etc.”) with positive tapping (“I choose to relax now, I choose to surrender now, I choose to find peace, I choose to find some space”) were also presented.
Guidance counselor Dominique Sta. Cruz taught simple basic makeup looks as part of taking care of one’s self. She talked about its positive effects on one’s mental health. “It helps boost confidence, releases stress and enhances beauty.”
If makeup is something you think your helpers are interested in, you can suggest appropriate tutorials on YouTube and maybe provide them with basic tools.
Guidance counselor Jeri Gerido also taught basic photography tips and selfie hacks. She advised the kasambahay participants to know their angle, find their most comfortable side, be aware of lines and spaces, find a good spot with a good background, and be natural and confident. Gerido also gave tips on taking group and couple shots, lighting, food flat lay and travel photos.
Social media has been the most accessible outlet for our kasambahay to express themselves, so photography is one of the best ways they can communicate their condition to the outside world.
Since they live with us, it is natural to get emotionally invested in our kasambahay and vice versa. They may not only look to us for financial support, especially during these uncertain times; as they look after our family, let’s provide them with tools to help them look after themselves and support them in doing what makes them happy. —CONTRIBUTED