Lockdown 2.0 feels worse than Lockdown 1.0 but what can you do about it (Top 5 Tips)?

Eight months ago (at the time of writing this) we were at the very beginning of the pandemic and the widespread disruption that COVID-19 brought with it.  This blog looks at the differences between Lockdown 1.0 and Lockdown 2.0 and what you can do to build resilience.  Back in Lockdown 1.0 (LD1) we had hope, we had the summer ahead and personally I had miles of cycling in my legs.  Cycling was great, no cars on the roads, fantastic weather, and a Mallorca triathlon in October for me to train for (I still had hope back then that the triathlon would take place). 

We had the Houseparty App novelty, the summers evenings, people were on Furlough and getting paid to do nothing (Some with salaries topped back up by the company so they were effectively on fully-paid holiday).  Some had the challenge of working whilst managing home schooling, cancellations of various holidays, and business really struggling due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.  That was Lockdown 1.0, bad for some, not for others, the novelty did wear off and rules were then relaxed for the summer.

Roll forward eight months and we are just coming out of Lockdown 2.0 (LD2).  “Lockdown Fatigue” is now mentioned a lot, we are social creatures, and I for one crave heading down my local bar on a Friday evening; how one can take life’s simple pleasures for granted!  I think we can mostly agree that Lockdown 2.0 is what one could mildly describe as a “struggle”.  Winter is here now so the nights are darker, all the news we see (apart from advances on vaccinations) seems to be constantly negative.  School “bubbles” keep isolating and causing disruption, the government seems to flip-flop on rules, and quite frankly everyone is getting fed up with COVID.  For many (myself included) it is/can be a mental struggle.  There is now a very different spiritual environment in LD2, and as social animals we are all getting very tired of social restrictions. 

How do we manage our way through this?  At Red Tiger Coaching there are many ways we can help you, so do get in touch if you would like to explore the careers coaching options we offer.  Here are five tips that I suggest to help you (and our coaching can expand on this) towards what I am calling “The Spring of Hope” (When a Vaccine should be rolling out and restriction measures should be lifting)!

  1. Get in the Right Mindset – Some people naturally have this, others do not.  If you don’t, then here is your priority area to work on.  Techniques to improve your mindset are wide and varied but things I have found work are:
  • Mindfulness – just 10 minutes meditation a day over a sustained (say 8 weeks) period really does work at helping to quieten the mind and help you to relax (and sleep) and also to think clearer
  • Try to focus on the positives – this is hard with all the negative news but if this affects you then start to limit your news exposure, try to think of one positive thing each day no matter how small We all know there will be an end to this situation so think forwards to that point if you can.
  • Give yourself something to look forward to – this again is a challenge as holidays, eating at a restaurant or meeting your mates aren’t possible at the moment.  But think and grasp hold of what is possible – order a nice takeaway, plan some exercise (more on this below).
  1. Exercise
    This is very much linked to point 1 but as we know exercise has many benefits, I for one really feel the endorphins after a good evening run. If you are not into exercise this can be a difficult hurdle but one that with resolve can reap many benefits. I suggest giving yourself an exercise goal – for example couch to 5km run may be a good start?

    I’d also suggest booking yourself on a summer 5 or 10k race – once committed this can make you focus and you can do you training now (weather is a negative but it will help force you out). It can take an average of 66 days to form a habit so try and focus on a few months of running 3 days a week to begin with and don’t increase your distance by any more than 10% per week. You will then find that you realise the benefits of running not only from the health side and endorphins but also the sense of achievement. If you really can’t see yourself running, there are loads of other forms of exercise; a daily walk for instance can be really beneficial to mood. Yoga and other less weight bearing activities can also help.
  2. Use time and space to think about your career
    This is especially important if you are on Furlough (Hence you will have more time). Even if you are not on Furlough you will probably also have more time (There’s not a lot else we can all do). Time is the golden ticket so you need to try and think more about what you enjoy at work, what are the prospects in your current role, what can you do differently at work in certain situations?
    At Red Tiger Coaching we can help with the whole process of working out your strengths. Analyse your strengths and development systems to give you your significant 7 strengths, and then activate a few 1:1 sessions to review the results and start to explore and discuss areas for development or change.
  3. Plan
    With all the uncertainty still out there, this can be very difficult and most of us have got out of the planning mindset. We are creatures of habit and in an unstable world planning can help to give some normality back to our lives. We often have and feel like there is too much to do, and do not know where to start. This is where a coach can help as not only a sounding board but also a “monkey on your shoulder” to keep you in line with any actions you agree to and then eventually to help you make progress in your life.
    We can all get into a habit of running on autopilot, accepting everything as it is, and not challenging ourselves. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Which I have referred to in a few blogs prior to this one) shows that the top 2 segments (Esteem and Self Actualisation) can often be neglected in our lives as they naturally slip down our priority order. Having a career coach will make sure that these needs are supplemented and will help you to plan how to make sure you improve your Esteem and also will help you to strive towards maximising your full potential.
    Click here to read ‘Getting out of your Comfort Zone’ which examines our basic needs as humans and how we can really push ourselves to higher levels by challenging ourselves to get out of that comfort zone!
  4. Learn something new
    I have seen many examples of when people have been furloughed, felt comfortable with the time off and not thought about the fact that their role is at risk, only to have been made redundant. All I would say to people now (and I said it through LD1 and LD2) is that you should use the time to try and learn a new skill. I learnt Alteryx during LD1 and devised a training course on it for beginners. If I hadn’t done this, looking back I would definitely feel disappointed that I hadn’t achieved something. I also managed to cycle 70 miles in one go which is the longest cycle I have ever done.
    Having a careers coach can help you to think around areas for development and then also make sure you implement a plan to cover those areas, making sure it happens. In an uncertain economy, having additional skills will make you naturally more of an asset either to your existing employer or to a future employer. Use your time well and prioritise what you should learn and then plan how you should learn that skill.

In conclusion, most of society is naturally hitting lockdown fatigue and until we reach more normality (most likely Summer 2021), we all need to try and do things to build up resilience. Start with the five areas that I suggest above and see how you get on. If even just one area of this blog resonates with you, why not get in touch with Red Tiger Coaching and book a free initial chat to see what coaching can do for you? If you take that leap of faith, I guarantee you will not regret it.

Email Steve on steve@redtigerconsulting.co.uk or phone 07979 756257.

How to cope with working from home

The demands on our homes as an office space have never been higher. The team at Red Tiger Talent are used to working from our home offices and have an appropriate setup to ensure that we can conduct our work in comfort and with minimal distraction. Critical to our collective well-being in the months ahead will be to adapt to a new work regime (if you are used to being in an office) and new ways of working (with a de-centralised workforce).

Our ability to work from home will be impacted by the closure of schools from tomorrow. This will put an extra burden on those parents with children that require supervision and/or home schooling.

This is by no means a definitive list but, based on our experience, provides some suggestions on what you can do to ease the transition.

Further information can be found in a previous blog about the office-home balance. Read ‘The Office home Balance‘ here.

Other ideas and suggestions from our readers are welcome (please add in the comments below) as I’m sure there are plenty of other things that can be done.

Man working from home
Make yourself a space for your office, not just sitting on the sofa…

Home working advice 

  1. Find and define your space – Some people may already have a dedicated office or space but if you lack a room you need to find an area that you can regularly sit at which ‘mimics’ your traditional workspace.  This can be a kitchen table or breakfast area but you need to ensure sufficient space to house a laptop and be in close proximity to appropriate power sources (for both laptop and phone).  It is advisable to avoid something like the sofa (particularly with the tv remote controls close to hand).  If you and your partner are working from home it is advisable to try and find separate rooms to work in if possible. 
  2. Get dressed and feel the part – It is easy to not bother getting dressed for work when home working but there is certainly a benefit in changing out of your nightwear into acceptable daywear to conduct your day’s work.  It will make you feel more professional and make you prepared for any (planned or inadvertent) video calls that may happen. 
  3. Try to commit to specific working hours – It is good to try and commit to a routine and communicate this to your colleagues/clients/suppliers.  I personally prefer to start work early (7am) in order to get some quick productive wins out of the way. It is also important to have an end time that you try to stick to if possible.  The working hours may be impacted by other factors such as need to look after your children.   
  4. Pay special attention to desk ergonomics – Good posture is important to ensure you don’t develop any physical problems and that starts with the height of the table (and the level of your workstation) and your chair.   This extends to using a handsfree device or headphones when having calls – certainly avid cradling your mobile between your head and your shoulder.  General advice can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/ 
  5. Stay engaged with work colleagues and associates – Your business is likely to have announced changes in procedure and adoption/increased use of technology (such as Skype, Whatsapp, Facetime, Zoom, GotoMeeting) to facilitate remote working. It is important that you take time to contact people via video or audio calls if possible.  This will help with reducing any feelings of isolation and reduce the amount of emails you send.  This is a great opportunity to speak to us at Red Tiger Talent if you want a careers catch-up. 
  6. Be prepared for downturns in online connectivity – It has been reported that the infrastructure for broadband and mobile telecommunications are struggling for capacity at specific times, particularly in major areas of population.  These infrastructures have been designed to service the ‘normal’ daytime populations and are often lacking bandwidth to cope with this flipped demand. 
  7. Prepare for reduced workload – Inevitably there will be less business being done and in theory less travel means more time to do things.  It is important that you plan to fill these gaps with things to give you a sense of achievement.  Examples include: 
    • Email or hard drive housekeeping – there is always a need to ensure your inbox is clear, unnecessary emails deleted (particularly if they have attachments) and required emails are filed away.  This is also the case with drive space either locally or on file servers.  The spring clean can also be quite therapeutic. 
    • Update your CV – you may not have done this for a while but now is a good time to at least reflect on skills and achievements since you last updated your CV. 
    • Training – perhaps there are some online courses you wanted to do but didn’t have the time?  Are there any work-related books that you could read or re-read?  Think about your skills gaps and set yourself some objectives on learning new skills. This is also something that may be worth speaking to Red Tiger about. 
  8. Build in downtime during the day – It is important to take regular breaks throughout the day.  Try, if possible, to avoid distractions such as TV, games and social media.  It is better to use the time to either get some exercise/fresh air (see below) and give your eyes a rest from looking at a screen. 
  9. Keep your body healthy – This is extremely important, particularly if your previous commute involved exercise or a visit to the gym, you need to fill the gap.   For anyone with a lack of ideas there are plenty of Youtube videos that give instructions on exercises you can do at home.  Other activities include: 
    • Stretching your legs – as long as you are keeping a safe distance from other members of the public then this is permissible.  Go out for a walk, run or ride a bike. 
    • Check in on a neighbour – particularly if you have old and vulnerable neighbours it is worth checking in on them.  Of course, you will need to keep an acceptable distance (2 metres) but they may be in need of something or at least some human interaction. 
    • Plan/prepare meals – meal times will need extra planning, particularly with alternatives as your required ingredients may not be available.  Use the time to work up a shopping list and plan meals (and alternatives) for the week ahead. 
  10. Focus on maintaining a healthy mind – Try to reduce stress and anxiety which will be heightened in this current state of isolation:
    • Practice some mindfulness – even if it is a 5 minute meditation – more advice can be found in our previous blog, ‘Practice Mindfulness – it really does work’ here.
    • Write a journal – this can be a very good way to ‘share’ your anxieties 
    • Read a book – any form of escapism can help with mindfulness 
Make sure you take regular breaks to stretch your legs, hydrate and get away from the screen

How to cope with young kids at home 

We now have to be prepared for an extended period of isolation in our homes with our partners and children.  Think of the challenges of a rainy weekend but for a longer period of time!  It is going to be a stressful time – parents tasked with keeping kids occupied during the 6 week summer holiday will know this.  We mustn’t underestimate the stress and anxiety that our kids will feel and we can certainly support them through the most restrictive and uncertain times they have ever been through. 

The challenge will vary depending on how old your children are and their boredom thresholds.  This is also a once in a lifetime opportunity to regain some of the old traditional family values that many of us will remember from our childhoods.  Most parents with teenage kids will know that the days of the whole family sitting around the single household tv (or if you are really old, wireless) are long gone but this may be an opportunity to encourage proper family time.  It may be worth giving it a week or two before implementing some of the recommendations, when the boredom really starts to kick in! 

How many of these can your kids tick off the list?

This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully it serves as a good starting point: 

  1. Get your kids to timetable what they want to do (or at least what they want to achieve from this extended break).Dust down the board games – most households have board games of some description.  If not, there is usually at least a pack of cards.  My advice is to try and avoid playing Monopoly as I don’t know of any family that hasn’t witnessed a game descending into a world war! 
  2. Teach your kids some key life skills – it is likely there will still be a need for home teaching via online resources as per instructions from the school, but this could be an opportunity for your kids to help with the housework and gaining other skills.  This ranges from household tasks such as cooking (give them responsibility to choose what to cook/bake), cleaning and laundry, through to other skills such as growing plants, mowing the lawn, doing the recycling, cleaning shoes etc. 
  3. Encourage them to write a journal of their experiences during these times – this is hopefully something that we will not witness again for generations.  This is an opportunity for them to capture their thoughts and feelings for the benefit of future generations. 
  4. Spring clean and get rid of unnecessary clutter – Do you have a cupboard that needs to be cleaned out and sorted?  Perhaps it’s the garage?  Do you hoard electronic gadgets that are just decaying in a drawer?  This is a good opportunity to get things ready for the tip, car boot or ebay. 
  5. Ensure you have a good selection of books – It may take a while but it might be worth creating a mini family book club where all of you take turns to read a book (or you could take turns in reading it aloud to each other) and then chat about it at the end? 
  6. Catch up on box sets – With on demand and streaming services we’ve never had more content at our fingertips.  It might also be an opportune time to dust down some of the old box sets you have on DVD/Bluray.  Try to get a consensus on what to watch to ensure that the whole family watches it together, ensure everyone has a say as there will be plenty of time to watch multiple series.  This could be a challenge as we are all so used to using our own personal devices to watch what we as individuals want to watch. 
  7. Allocate some time for children’s self study / practice or home tutoring – It is likely that the schools will be making available some online resources or homework for the kids to do.  Whilst I think it will be unreasonable to allocate the hours usually spent at school to home study it may be a good idea to dedicate a small proportion of the day for focused study and learning. 
  8. Facetime/Skype/call the family – Over the next few months this will be a great way of keeping in touch with loved ones in different households, make sure you include   any elderly relatives or friends.  One idea is to give it more of a purpose than just a chat-  perhaps ask a relative to relay a story to the whole family? 
  9. Have a break from social media – Social media has been very useful in helping distribute official advice relating to the virus but it has certainly contributed to heightened panic due to mis-information.  It might be worth you committing to removal of some or all of your social media channels. Let’s face it, our timelines are going to be pretty boring for the foreseeable future. 
  10. Embrace the Playstation/Switch/Xbox – Many parents show a passing interest to their kids’ obsession with gaming (mainly driven by a desire to ensure their online safety).  Now is our chance as parents to get involved, particularly with multi-player games such as Minecraft, Fortnite or Super Mario Kart.  This could be our time to shine and demonstrate that years of practice on a ZX Spectrum, C64 or Sega Megadrive has not all been in vain.  Getting to an acceptable level of skill on one of these games will gain kudos with your kids and you can also use it at bargaining power when you want them to watch the Office boxset or Karate Kid movies. 
  11. Exercise – As of writing this we are still permitted to go outside as long as we keep an appropriate distance from other people.  Kids will need to go out at least once a day for some fresh air and some exercise.  It is also possible to exercise inside with plenty of online instruction videos and even dusting down the wii fits can help. 

I am certainly open to any other suggestions that people may have on activities for the kids – what works, what hasn’t.  The coming weeks and months will be a learning curve for both parents and children. 

Mindfulness really does work!

It’s #MentalHealthAwareness week and following on from Steve’s recent blog “The crying game” this is a personal blog about my mental health and how I cope with anxiety.   My sole reason for writing this blog is in the hope that just one person who has maybe struggled over the years will read this and think “yes that’s me and how I feel”, “that’s why I feel like I do” and “there is a way to stop feeling like this”.  Feel free to write comments below – obviously you can remain anonymous if you like.  Remember if you feel like reaching out for a chat with me at any time please do so!

The journey to anxiety

My journey to discover mindfulness started about 24 years ago.  In the Indian summer of 1995, I got mugged at knife-point near the city centre whilst studying at the University of Leeds.  I don’t need to go into all the details but suffice to say it was an ordeal but one that I thought I would brush off given that I wasn’t physically hurt.

To cut a long story short – it is believed I suffered Post Traumatic Stress from this incident (I can still picture the long sharp knives of the 3 assailants to this day), to the extent that I didn’t want to live in Leeds any more or carry on with my studies (I nearly did give up my studies in 1995).  This event I believe has pushed me from a mildly anxious person to a very anxious person.  By the way – I did finish my studies thanks to amazing support from my wonderful parents and brothers, The Hepworths (Great friends of the family who I lodged with for 2 years) and my University tutor at the time (I wish I could remember her name).

My journey now rolls on to 3 years ago and my now late Mother Susan (Mum died 14th February 2019) was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia.  Dementia is such an unforgiving illness and I sympathise with anyone having to deal with this terrible disease – for all of us connected to Mum it was like 3 years of hell and cruelty seeing such a beautiful, caring, perfect woman deteriorate mentally and physically over time and all of us powerless to stop it.  If you are still reading this and you are lucky to still have a Mum – do give her a big hug next time you see her (And to Steve’s recent blog – I really am actually crying now as I type this and it actually feels great).

Just after Mum’s diagnosis I’d had enough of working at BT (That is another blog) and with the opportunity for voluntary redundancy I decided to go for it and set up Red Tiger Talent with Steve as we had seen the opportunity, but we had also decided it would give us the flexibility to help care for our Mum and support our Dad through what was to come. 

How does anxiety feel?

The major point I want to make is this – sometimes we just carry on and know something may be wrong, but we are not quite able to put our finger on what it is that’s wrong.  We don’t feel the same but we don’t really know why.  So how did I feel?  Here are a list of some of the things I felt/experienced – you may well be experiencing the same:

  1. Unable to sleep (I got off to sleep but I would wake up at 4am every morning and my mind would be racing with worry).
  2. I couldn’t relax and enjoy things as much (Some things when I look back are almost a blur – basically my mind had got into a habit of constantly racing).
  3. I couldn’t even sit and enjoy watching a film with the kids – my mind would be racing and just wouldn’t switch off.
  4. I didn’t feel I could enjoy social occasions – I absolutely love socialising but at times I didn’t really feel in the moment.
  5. In and out of work my mind was struggling so much I even worried at times that I had early on-set dementia.
  6. I would worry about the slightest of things – things like the possibility of missing a train would stress me out far more than I knew it should.

All of the above are like a snowball effect and unless you work to stop that I am sure it can consume you and can just get worse.  The great thing is that you don’t have to feel like this and there are ways to train your mind.  Obviously do make an appointment with your doctor to discuss how you feel and get a diagnosis.  Don’t put this off as it’s OK to go and discuss these things, it may be useful to  write a list like the one above (I did).

My recent situation (I went to the doctors about 3 weeks ago) has been a mixture of grief and stress that has added to my current anxiety.  In layman’s terms my doctor (who is excellent) explained that the chemicals in the brain alter over time with constant stress.  He has mentioned that through exercise and mindfulness I can start to go some way to helping rebalance these chemicals.  The other option is medication for maybe 6-12 months but he wants me to try the mindfulness and exercise for now.

How do you overcome this stress and anxiety?

Before I jump into what I found mindfulness does, I also try and exercise regularly (Running, cycling and Hot Yoga).  I find exercise releases endorphins which also helps to lift up your mood.  I also have a very supportive wife and family that I feel I can talk to about how I feel which also lifts a weight off my shoulders.

Six months before I left BT my mood and experience of anxiety had got so bad that I needed to do something about it, and I thought “why not look into this ‘Mindfulness stuff’ that people are going on about”.  I did my research and bought a book entitled “The Mindful Way Through Stress” by Shamash Alidina.  The book takes you through an 8 week course of mindfulness and explains some of the theory behind it.  It has great examples of meditations and brain exercises that can help to train your mind over time to think differently (basically given time it really does re-train and re-wire your brain).  It also has some great online guided meditations – see the following link (Give them a go if you like but the book helps add context):    https://www.guilford.com/companion-site/The-Mindful-Way-through-Stress/9781462509409

My mind has a habit of overthinking and constantly worrying when I am under extreme stress.  I have found that mindfulness (It doesn’t work instantly – as Ruby Wax said, you don’t get a six pack overnight) over a period of weeks does start to work.  My first experience of mindfulness at BT enabled me to lift the “fog” and realise I could do something about my unhappiness (I left BT and set up Red Tiger Talent). 

It’s now been 3 months since my lovely Mum passed away and I will admit I have hit some really low moments in that time (It’s only natural), but I have found that mindfulness (and re-reading the book) has helped to calm my stress to a point now where I feel “normal” and very happy again (I still have my moments but I need to keep up the meditations).  The key for me now is to keep mindfulness front of mind (excuse the pun), rather than letting it slip when I feel good.  Regardless of how I feel I will make a commitment to doing meditations (You only need about 20 minutes a day – and if you feel you don’t have the time, then you really do need to make the meditation a priority).

The benefits I have found through mindfulness are (if you don’t feel you suffer from stress you should also give it a try anyway):

  1. I feel I can participate and enjoy family life a lot more – I try not to pass off a daughters request to tell me something because I am ‘busy’.
  2. I am a lot calmer about all situations now.
  3. I can concentrate far better at work and in general now (My mind before was becoming really foggy, basically racing). 
  4. I feel generally good about myself, like I have found a really happy moment (and many more to come) in my life.  My mind currently just doesn’t constantly race or worry (I still have my moments), it is generally calmer and clearer. 

I hope you have taken something from this blog and that you at least become self-aware of your own mental status.  Do be mindful of others, sometimes it is hard to spot who is suffering (As many do in silence) and if you are being silent – do speak out – it’s easier said than done but you’ll feel a whole lot better!

Author: Paul Halsall, Director, Red Tiger Consulting

Images: Wokandpix and Brenkee at Pixabay