The lock down diaries

Managing My Time And Mental Health During Lock Down

So whilst I have been furloughed I have used this opportunity to get some more hobbies and routine in my life and rebuilding my self confidence, working long hours all those years especially in team leader and managerial roles throughout my career in the tourism and hospitality industry, I haven’t had much time to connect very much with my friends and members of my family; but also have not been able to fully commit to some of my hobbies, it made me realise how much of my unhealthy routine may have contributed to my mental and physical health over the years. Working nights and weekends, I have developed a lot of unhealthy, nocturnal habits, for instance sleeping in til late afternoon before work, not eating regular meals or eating regularly, drinking too much Pepsi and coffee and not enough juice or water definitely, but it’s due to not the hours I work, due to my poor time management and staying up until the early hours after work watching films or rubbish reruns of ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’ even when I was a general manager of a coffee shop prior to the job I have now, I couldn’t shake off the nocturnal sleeping habit, as my boyfriend, friends and family will all tell you, how much of a morning person I am (which is strong sarcasm in this case) so during lock down I have used this opportunity to learn to manage my lifestyle easier; the one thing prior to lockdown was loosely giving up smoking, and as very occasionally I do like one as a treat when I go out, I have decided to not smoke at all anymore. I was so desperate and sad for the first few days for people around me, my neighbours isolating on their own; my colleagues who like me have had their own worries and struggles; my dad who has had to shielded due to having medical problems and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, that I couldn’t see as I had been working front line and customer interaction a matter of days ago; my employers, who put everything into their business and caring for their staff. I thought I could for once use this to reinvent myself and straighten out my private life and how I can be kinder to myself and how to improve my habits and lifestyle for when I return to work and lockdown is over.

My top things was, my partner working part-time during lockdown meant I had the flat to myself and with no friends or other members of family, or work to go I had a lot of time on my hands. As tempting as it was to cuddle up and watch Netflix and eat chocolate all day, I thought, now’s the time I can use productively to catch up on things properly that can keep me active, keep my brain engage and use my creativity; so I drew up a day by day schedule. This schedule was time slotted, organised and involved not just admin things like, budgeting, but other activities such as future planning, sewing, baking, daily exercise and other activities.

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New furniture and complete transformation to the flat since we moved in in February.

Firstly, I am not on property ladder yet, as my partner and I only moved in together at the end of January into a flat on the outskirts of Stratford-Upon-Avon, so I thought, I’d use this time to put some of my creativity to good use and deep clean and have a spring clean, of going through everything I wouldn’t use or wear anymore, and I had some clothes that I gave to charity and books that I have already read that I don’t enjoy so much, I gave them to the community library hub and also put the books on the block of flats neighbour shelf, so the neighbours if they are bored there is stuff they can borrow from the communal shelf. All my years of hoarding finally caught up with me, but throwing things out that I don’t wear, want or need was highly beneficial to my mental health; it’s like a whole weight had been lifted. I find cleaning tiresome but therapeutic and satisfactory with a sense of achievement, as many of you that know me perfectly, I am messy (due to my dyslexic brain) but I am a clean and hygiene freak, think that comes from having a mother who is a chef and red hot on clean and hygiene. Even though this flat isn’t ours, it’s still going to be our home for a while, and when we first moved in we had a lot of teething troubles that I manage to fix by myself and worked hard to keep on top of, things like no working flushing toilet (gross I know), mould, damp and no proper working boiler or heating, but with persistence and argumentative powers of persuasion we made the calls and did the work to rectify these things. Now each room has a theme, and I got some good bargains on great furniture from charity shops, B n M bargains and my friends and family giving us furniture we don’t need anymore and upcycling it, our flat looks more homely than ever, because I have used the free time to do it up. We have an office which will have a retro gaming thing but also with pictures and framed programmes of my drama performances, so it’s a place I can go to if I am having a day of low confidence or a down day, I can come into the office and be surrounded by reminders and be like, ‘actually Helen, you’ve done alright for yourself.’

Other things I have done during this lockdown, is my partner and I have created a three year plan with goals we want to achieve, and how and when we will take action on these things. I have taken up dancing again, which is a hobby I haven’t been able to keep up with due to the hours and work commitments I have had over the years, so it’s a stop and start hobby. I love dancing, it makes me feel good and has boosted my mentality loads, I have gone back to something I enjoy, I have always been one for having ‘ants in my pants’ and the inability to sit still. Throughout the years I have taken part in dance shows, musicals and dance festivals, and competitions. A lot of former dance pupils have their old dance schools doing online classes, however my old dance school, Jo Leigh School Of Dance closed down years ago, so I can’t go back down memory lane in that sense. Instead, I have done dancer classes, which has improved my suppleness and muscularity, endorphins and retaught me skills I have left behind previously. I have lost the days where I could do splits and backflips like they were just second nature, but I have been working on gaining that flexibility back. Here is a list of dance classes I have done over lockdown that I have enjoyed.

1) Pump it up (This is more clubbercise, mixed with club and disco dancing, great for flexibility and core muscles)

2) Facebook live recommended from a friend from Attitude School of dance where they do ‘Flow’ this is a mixture of yoga, contemporary and lyrical. This is great for flexibility, stretches and working balance, they also do a ‘Tone’ class which is more freestyle mixed with aerobics.

3) Dance Xchange based at the Birmingham Hippodrome where I attended many dance classes over the years, have done Instagram live classes, from contemporary, to advanced musical theatre and street dance. As I was out of practise I did all three versions beginners, intermediate and advanced to reteach my self.

4) If you are one of those dancers like me, who is more practised in the element of musicals and acting, then I highly recommend youtube Broadway choreographer Joseph Corella, he’s very cardio and jazz based, which you can do in your own home space with your family and not feel like you’re exercising. There is also a more flexible one that’s more technical and acrobatic it’s the ‘Chicago‘ and for those of you with kids or Disney fanatics he also does the dance cardio workout to ‘Aladdin.’

Many of my family and close friends will know I am a massive fashion freak and fanatic, so I have improved my sewing skills by upcycling clothes and creating new inventive styles and inspiration off my pinterest board, and how to experiment with different styles, I have watched TV show costume directors commentary on youtube, as well as doing a fashion history short course for free online from future learn, where I have learnt about fashion theories which connects to my love for history and also theatre costume theory short course, these have helped engage my brain and creativity.

I used to hate learning and studying when I was a teenager, I love it now, funny how you change with age; I did some online short courses that I got online from a couple of different universities, which I have enjoyed doing, I did one based on Fashion, the theories behind it, I have always been highly interested in fashion and it’s history and write about fashion, so this was a great way to help me learn and channel it into the fashion category of this blog. One was about managing mental health during COVID 19, which I found useful skills how to manage my own mental health and to help people in and outside of work that are having struggles, as I want to be that kind of leader that understands and knows techniques I can teach to other people. And I have just completed a HR Fundamentals course, which has incorporated employment law surround by CIPD and COVID 19 and how to be an empathic but diplomatic leader and different sections of HR I have never covered. So I have been able to keep my brain fully engaged.

I have done bits of baking, but not as much as I’d like to as I enjoy channelling my inner Mary Berry, I enjoy baking for others than I do myself and not been able to see many people has meant I would have more surplus cakes in my flat that Jack and I would have to eat.

Another thing I have done in order to help people at work that just want to keep in touch or have mental health worries or issues, I have taken it upon myself with the blessing of my manager to form a WhatsApp support group for mental health and wellbeing open to anyone, it’s a great way of bonding as a team and sharing things that are uplifting.

Then of course My boyfriend and I have been taking part in my work’s pub quiz religiously every Friday, hosted by my female pub owner which is facebook live, and it’s a fun way of drinking whatever we want and seeing some of my colleagues and regulars taking part and joining in the banter. I then created a facebook group for my family and small groups of friends of an idea of a pub quiz which I created each week, due to a lot of people not having the time to doing it now due to being back at work, I have cut the quiz to once every to weeks.

I will no doubt be doing more upcoming activities, one thing I know for sure is after lockdown I am hoping to continue looking after myself and have more time for these hobbies. If anyone is like minded or has been up to any new hobbies or returned to old ones during lock down, please feel free to leave a comment.

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The lock down diaries

The Start Of Isolation

So as part of my lock down diaries, I have decided to share my experience of how I have found it difficult emotionally at times, going two and a half months of not seeing my family, which has put on strain on my mental health and well being and living the furlough life; worrying if or not I have a job to go back to by the end of all this but one way of managing these difficulties is by keeping busy. Prior to lock down I was off work for a month undergoing treatment for mental health difficulties which were triggered by events in my private life, so you can imagine I was more than happy after my period for being off sick, to be happy to return to work, at the timber roofed, cottage style country pub, where I work as an Assistant Manager. Further more this was a return to work cut short, as a week and a half later, the government decided to close all pubs in the UK and go into lock down.

It didn’t feel real at first when I went back to work, this news of coronavirus, I remember saying to my manager when I was at work, ”it’ll all blow over soon” and I thought it was one of those depictations from the media exaggerating, but I was wrong. Each day I was at work, the pub that on a typical lunchtime would have 60 diners on a steady day, got emptier and emptier, it was like some alternate universe, but at the same I kept saying to myself, ”it’ll all be over by next week” as Boris Johnson announced on the news for the public to stay away from all bars and restaurants, this put my business owners in limbo, to quote how my boss addressed our situation on ITV News, ”It’s like we have been thrown under a bus.” Do you know what she was right? The government telling the public to stay away from these hospitality venues, but didn’t give us instruction. As a management team, we didn’t want to let our customers down, especially our ones that were eager to come in for lunch and catch up with their loved up ones, or those ramblers that like to stop and have a pint by the Victorian style fireplace with their dogs. We had 205 people booked in for mothers day at the start of the week, and this then went down to barely any as the week went on, the pub got emptier and emptier each day; my co assistant manager and I was cleaning everything thoroughly back and forth all over again. The pub was like ghost town each day, the mothers day bookings were dropping like flies each day.

After anticipation and waiting for the 6pm news, the government declared us officially closed; Emma my boss, finally had some guidance and instruction on what to do, still there was a long road ahead as we didn’t know when we would be able to open back up and if some of us were eligible for furlough payment; but after days of contacting HR consultants and working with other local pubs and media and press, giving hospitality a voice, she could finally temporarily relax. When the government declared hospitality closed it was like a huge weight had been lifted. I had a tear to my eye as I finished what would be my last shift for a while, after I tried everything I could to help, saying goodbye for now for the rest of my full time colleagues, who were the last ones left, it felt like the end of an era, an emotional goodbye, and the regulars all serenading drunk and full of emotion that their local boozer, and heart of the Warwickshire village community wasn’t to be their second home for a while.

I had to think of it as not goodbye but see you later. All we can do for any of you co-workers in hospitality, we are all in the same boat, so for me it’s just a case of sitting tight and playing the waiting game.

Your obedient servant Ellie x