5 Lessons Learned During Furlough and Lockdown Life
Being a venue and events manager, as well as a wellness advocate, I've recently taken some time to reflect on the new situation we are living in. Now that work and home boundaries are blurred, I’ve studied how we have adapted to create new habits and ways of structuring our day.
Just about everything in our daily lives has been turned upside down. We are sharing living room tables 24/7 with housemates and family members. We are schooling kids at home and are reinventing ways to exercise and to communicate. With all of this comes new pressures which are different from what we’ve been used to.
The best pieces of advice I've received have two things in common - 1) creating structured new routines in the day and 2) to reduce the amount of media we watch or listen to (uncertain times can take their toll on our mental health).
I want to take it a bit further. So here are my 5 key recommendations for staying focused, healthy, and engaged.
1. Keep up with an exercise routine
Building in exercise routines helps physical and mental wellbeing. Only 20 minutes of movement everyday can do wonders physically and mentally. This can be in the form of stretches or more impactful exercise such as cardio or HIIT. A combination of different disciplines is best for the body and mind as this way we keep challenging ourselves. It takes discipline to make this a priority and a daily habit. But by being consistent, it will be so rewarding I promise. And, if you can combine exercise with nature that will double the benefit!
Some companies have been encouraging employees to access wellbeing-boosting resources. It is great to see that employers have put physical activity first and decided to keep corporate memberships active, so fitness providers can still offer online workouts. For those of us who don't have access to memberships, there are all types of amazing workout routines that you can get for free through apps and YouTube. Remember where there’s a will, there’s a way!
2. Keep Communicating
There is a unanimous effort to stay connected with one another more personally even though work meetings are now virtual or on the phone. Having more catch-ups with colleagues, friends and family members than before due to having to adapt to the new environment have been key to keep good mental health.
It's good on a personal level but it's also important to liaise with people that you know are living by themselves or might be overwhelmed with their own situation. By showing up (virtually) for your closest ones like this, you too will receive a sense of purpose.
Also, keep in touch with trends and industry publications as it will ease your incorporation back into the workplace once things pick up again.
3. Do Some Spring Cleaning
Doing something to remove the clutter is proven to help with clearing the mind, especially important when we are working on a kitchen table or don’t have a separate space for working at home.
This period of time has had a very positive impact in most households as we have more time to organise, rearrange, and tidy up. For the first time ever, doing the change of wardrobe to spring clothing has not been a chore, and instead something enjoyable and exciting to do.
If you are interested in sorting out and recycling clothes you can always give those to charity organisations. And, if you want to give a little insight on why it's important and how we can all work against climate change try reading about why recycling clothes are important at Planet Aid and We Buy Rags.
4. Build a Healthy Mind
It’s important to look after our mental health in this tough time and it’s so helpful to set small goals, appreciate the little things and take it one day at a time. We may find we are not as productive as we used to be and it’s important to recognise and remember that this is a natural reaction to significant change.
Some of the activities that might help with keeping a healthy mind are: meditation (great benefits in breathing meditation in particular), daily gratitude, and journaling. Being present in the moment is what we can focus on now. Let’s be real, there is nowhere to go and nothing to plan ahead of the present time.
So, we find ourselves with the greatest opportunity to focus on the here and now. We are able to slow down our life and use our senses to appreciate everything around us: nature, loved ones, cooking, walking, and much more.
It is also key to be easy on ourselves. This isn’t a time for perfection or guilt. If something doesn’t go according to plan, let’s not beat ourselves up, but rather show self-compassion.
5. New Skills, Courses or Volunteering
Time away from work (if furloughed) and remote work (not having to commute), frees up the opportunity to develop new skills. Why not learn about public speaking, playing guitar, coding, languages?
Learning and self-development help to keep the brain active but also give some focus and structure which is so needed right now. This article has some excellent ideas for career development.
Consider volunteering toos. There are many charities who would be extremely grateful for a helping hand. Not only is this a selfless and generous act, but it also has a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing by reducing stress and improving mood levels. For example, these are some initiatives you can get involved with today:
- In Spain you can 'adopt for the elderly (Adopta un Abuelo).
- In France, the government created a volunteer program where you can make calls to vulnerable and isolated persons.
Overall, wellbeing needs to be a key focus for all of us whether being furloughed or not. There will be a moment when we will be going back to our workplace and we want to be ready for when that happens by making the most of this time for self-assessment and self-awareness.
We are now creating positive habits which are the foundations for our improved person of tomorrow. While the world is uncertain, what we are learning and discovering now will certainly help us in the future. It’s ok to have highs and lows, but overall personal wellbeing is a lifelong priority and skill that everyone can master to feel happier, but it takes work.
The present is a gift, so let’s unwrap it, take it out of the box, and enjoy!