Darren Lawrence

Finding the Positives

Over the last few years, I’ve both observed and experienced a gradual increase in the pace and pressure of life. I don’t know if this is real or perceived but to coin a phrase being used frequently at the moment, I feel there’s been a ‘ramping up’. Many people have spoken about the need for us to slow down, to take time out, to be kinder to ourselves, and it has given rise to responses such as mindfulness and self-care.

In my opinion, as a global society prior to this pandemic we were out of control, burning the candle at both ends and in the middle. Now the candle has been extinguished, for now. Many of us were feeling that the pace of life was too much, it was unsustainable. We wanted life to slow down, just not like this.
We couldn’t have envisaged we would all be in this predicament less than a month ago however the fact is that the majority of us now have that time out (unless you are a key worker) as the pace of life is temporarily halted. Stay at home, life is on hold.

Up until recently, for the last 6 months I had been doing a 300-mile round trip 2 days a week in my role as an Interim CEO. The rest of the time I was working from home on other projects as a self-employed consultant, and looking after my children 2 or 3 nights a week and alternate weekends, as I am separated. That has now suddenly and completely changed, I now have the children with me for 80% of the time, juggling homeschooling, mealtimes, snacks, activities, and my own work responsibilities. I am renting at the moment and the house/garden is a confined space. Like all of us, the change has been a shock to the system, but we adapt.

As we move into week 3 of this very unusual and surreal situation, what strategies have you put in place to make this ‘new normal’ work for you?

My main coping strategies so far have been to:

  • Speak to other people – on the phone, on Whatsapp, via FaceTime, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or whatever it is. Knowing that other people are going through the same challenges and emotions is of some comfort.
  • Maintain some form of routine (however loose). I have a structure for the day, I may not stick to it entirely, but it’s there if I need it.
  • Get outside in the garden or other outside space either with the children or to exercise on my own when I don’t have the children. Being able to get outside has been a real help, nature is such a tonic, especially at the moment as Spring arrives.
  • Not put myself under too much pressure, i.e. not trying to be a real school teacher or a Superdad.
  • Think up short activities and tasks – fortunately my children are still at an age where a bubble wand is fun! We’ve been junk modelling, scooting, played football, set up a regular afternoon movie slot, read, crafted, cooked, dressed up, as well as doing their school activities and other games. They are starting to do jobs around the house. And of course, we start most days with the Bodycoach. They have screentime inevitably but this is balanced with other things.

Are these strategies working? None of us know exactly how the next few weeks will pan out (or the impact they will have on us) but so far, so good – 2 weeks down a further ‘x’ to go. IT could be 12 weeks, it could be longer. We are all trying to adjust and make sense of the change and it will be a real test of our resilience and positivity. We are all doing our best, and that’s all we can do.
The key I have found is to keep busy which put me in mind of the Hugh Grant character in About a Boy when he talks about ‘units of time’.

What are you learning, and adapting, as you go?
Clearly this is not a situation we’d choose to be in, however I think we have to look for the positives, as there will be some. For me these have been 1) more quality time with the children, rather than just every other weekend and a couple of nights a week. I feel that I have reconnected with them 2) I have exercised more than ever in the last few weeks and am feeling the benefit 3) I have read more 4) Listened to podcasts more 5) Travelled less, so I am not as tired 6) I have enjoyed talking to friends and family more than usual but not only has the regularity increased, we seem to be talking on a deeper level. Overall I have found myself focussing in on what I really need – and how to use all the resources I have (time, energy, money) more wisely.

What positives have you experienced?
A good friend of mine remarked that how people behave during this time will be remembered. That was a really incisive observation for me and made me consider how I want to be through this period. Our children are watching and I want to be a positive role model for them.

How do you want to be through this?
Another thing I have been considering is what I want life to be like when this is all over. When normality resumes, as it will, will it be normal again? Personally I think certain aspects of life will have changed forever. Already there has been a refocus on what’s important and my priorities right now in addition to survival, are my children’s welfare, putting food on the table, making sure those close to me are ok and getting through these next few weeks and months. I imagine that is similar for many of us. Perhaps a calmer, less frantic way of life is the way forward after all this?

What is going to be different for you out the other side of this?
I hope that some of these thoughts and questions are useful for you at this time. Do please get in touch or comment if anything has resonated with you, I would love to hear what you think, your own experience, and how you are getting on in these remarkable times.

Stay safe and stay at home,