A day in lockdown by Suffolk Mind’s Jo Flack
Our Workplace Wellbeing Trainer, Jo Flack writes about one of her days in lockdown and how she continues to try and meet her emotional needs
We are now several days into ‘lock down’ and my alarm goes off at 8.30am, much later than my pre-corona alarm used to chime, since now my commute simply involves a walk downstairs to spend the day working from home.
Once in the ‘office,’ aka the sofa in my lounge, I fire up the laptop and check my email in-box. Before doing anything else I open my ‘To Do’ list and plan my day, including any actions from the emails I’ve received. This has become a daily ritual as I find it helps give my day some meaning and purpose and helps me feel in control of daily life.
At some point whilst constructing my list my cat, who is utterly delighted to have mummy at home all day, comes to help by interposing himself between me and the keyboard. Aware that I have a lot to get on with, I have to resist the urge to remove him immediately, and I allow myself to take a relaxing minute stroking him, listening to his contented purr and enjoying the emotional connection between us.
Cat cuddles completed I turn to task one of the day, recording two 60 second videos for the Suffolk Mind website. This is a process that sits well outside my comfort zone but, multiple out-takes and a lot of choice language later, I have a finished product. As someone who is inclined to seek perfection, I am not 100% happy with the end result but sometimes it is important to accept that things are good enough and I certainly get a sense of achievement as I cross the task off my to-do list. It is at this point I get a well timed ‘ping’ from my lap top to draw my attention to the fact our CEO has sent round his own video. It is well timed because his message is one of thanks to all staff for their efforts at this difficult time and it was just the feedback I needed to meet my need for status after a challenging few hours recording!
Next up is a non-mandatory video call that I have decided to join to help me feel connected to others and meet my need for community. At this point it is perhaps worth mentioning that to say I am not tech savvy is an understatement. I am having to embrace technology in a way I have avoiding up to this point. Therefore, I am impressed with myself when I have successfully downloaded the relevant app and joined the meeting… however, I can see everyone talking but I can’t hear a thing. Where oh where are the settings for sound on this app???? After searching around for a few minutes that feel like forever, all the while watching the little image of myself on screen become increasingly frustrated and aware that others on the call are witnessing this too, I decide it is best for my emotional wellbeing to message the group, apologise that I cannot stay due to technical issues and sign off from the call.
Feeling a bit despondent about this experience I decide to replace my despondency with action and ask a more IT able colleague of mine if he can talk me through video conferencing. In this way the stress is replaced with a healthy time of stretch where I am opening myself up to developing new skills. An important reframe that helps calm me and relieves my rising anxiety.
Because this situation has ramped up my anxiety in ways I didn’t foresee. Being in the privileged position of still being able to work from home and indeed having a comfortable home environment (security), I had thought, even though I knew it would be harder to meet my emotional needs, that I would essentially be in a strong position to cope fairly well. However, I have noticed a distinct rise in my stress levels since lock-down as particular needs are not being met in the way they were before. Perhaps especially notably for me, the need for attention.
As a trainer I spend my days both giving and receiving face-to-face attention from a range of people, and I had become well used to this level of attention. However, with no physical human interaction outside my household each day, my need for attention has undoubtedly suffered.
One of the consequences of this is that when my partner, who works in a warehouse and therefore still attending his workplace, comes in from his work day I instantly bombard him with the things that have happened in my day from stroking the cat to learning new tech skills. The result for him is that he doesn’t have the head space to give me attention as soon as he walks through the door; he needs some privacy time to collect his thoughts and quite frankly needs to chill for a few minutes.
Recognising his needs, I cease my verbal diarrhoea and decide to take some privacy time for myself to reflect on my day. And I conclude that, just as no-one is immune from the virus itself, no-one is immune to the potential threat to getting our emotional needs met at this time. So, we need to support ourselves, and each other, to continue to meet all our needs in a healthy way. In this way we can reduce stress and stay as well as we possibly can.
Author: Kristina Brinkley