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Five top tips for maintaining mental and physical wellbeing during lockdown

Isabelle Parkinson, a Senior Product Manager at Esme, shares her tips to help you boost your physical and mental wellbeing during lockdown.
Five top tips for maintaining mental and physical wellbeing during lockdown

Isabelle Parkinson joined Esme’s Product team just under 18 months ago and currently works as a Senior Product Manager. She creates and drives enhancements to a digitally enabled lending system that provides simple journeys for all its users. Her primary focus is to build adaptable, effective systems and services that are easy to use for internal employees and customers.

A bit of a background around my own environment

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Right now, life seems quite surreal for me and pretty much everyone across the globe! We’re all living in a circumstance that is unique to each individual and dealing with it in our own way. Our own way, meaning there is no right or wrong.

Human beings are wonderful creatures and one of our biggest attributes is to adapt, which at the moment, is happening not just by the day but by the hour and even down to the minute. I’ve watched and read countless pieces of content stating what we should and shouldn’t be doing and aside from what is being recommended by the government and health organisations, I’ve concluded that we all need to do what’s right for us as individuals and relative to our own circumstance.

My circumstance is as follows: I live alone in a flat in which I am lucky to have an outdoor space, with my terrace now nicknamed ‘Costa Del Clapton’. Like being next to the sea, I am woken up to the sound of seagulls every morning. And after hearing their serenades, I get up, make myself a cuppa, go back to bed for 20 minutes, meditate for 10, and read a few pages of an inspirational book – currently ‘A Book About Innocent: Our Story and Some Things We've Learned’ by Dan Germain– but that’s where the routine stops.

By week 9 of working from home and having no social commitments (other than Zoom meetings or catch ups with family and friends), I’ve had a lot of time to sort and reconfigure every cupboard, clean the windows and even wire a new light into my ceiling (under the strict guidance of a trained electrician) and ultimately have a think.

My wellbeing tips

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So here are some tips on how I am managing to maintain my mental and physical wellbeing with the current restrictions from my personal experience.

1. Take time out for yourself and slow down

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I’m fortunate enough to still be working full time and it’s easy to let the day pass and creep into the night without taking the time to stop, take stock and check in with myself. At the beginning of the lockdown, I realised I was spending most of my time working, on a call to a family member or friend, and mostly repeating the same conversation over and over again. I consciously recognised this pattern as something that was creating anxiety; similar to my life before the outbreak of a global pandemic, where I filled my life with plans, I just wasn’t stopping.

So now, Tuesdays are mine. I cut off from everything and everyone. I cook a tasty dinner (trying a new recipe each week), do class of Yin yoga (taught by a lovely friend), slide into in a warm bath (surrounded by aromatherapy scented candles), read a good book (one of my recommendations is ‘Self Care For The Real World’ by Katia Narain Phillips and Nadia Narain) followed by the best night’s sleep of the week.

2. Keep connected and reach out

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Having such a wonderful family and a good bunch of friends is something I feel truly privileged to have above anything else, before and even more so now. Living alone means I only have myself and my own thoughts to think about, whereas most of the people I know are sharing this with at least one other person.

Initially I thought living by myself was fine and felt positive, however after 2 weeks, cracks began to appear and I felt quite the opposite, and it was getting worse. My reaction was to become insular, only to realise that I was lacking the need for increased connection to balance the extended time of isolation.

Since then, I’ve spoken about it and this drew much needed support and empathy from my loved ones and even work colleagues – who have continued to help support me, and hopefully they feel the same is reciprocated. I now make a conscious effort to speak to my family members at least daily, even if it’s just to say, “I love you and we’ll see each other soon”.

If that’s not an option for you, though, it might be worth reaching out to a mental health charity such as Mind, or reading more of our wellbeing tips.

3. Try to get outside if you can and keep moving

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Now I’m not saying that every morning you need to try getting up at 6:30am, go for a run or do whatever latest fitness trend is on social media. But at some point throughout the day, (and within the government’s lockdown guidelines of course) whether its morning, lunchtime or evening, getting outside might make you feel like you’ve done something different, seen something different (to the four walls of your house /flat/patio/garden), felt the sun or moon and gotten some fresh air as well as topped up your levels of much needed Vitamin D.

One tip for getting movement into your day, even on the most moderate level, is to tag something onto a daily habit which you already have i.e. whilst the kettle boils you could try 10 air squats. You could even start smaller and build your way up to doing the same for other habits you already have during the day.

4. Set tasks and allow yourself to do nothing

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I’ve already sorted every cupboard and colour co-ordinated my wardrobe (don’t judge!), but as my Dad says “the list never ends”.

There should be a job title called ‘Professional Potterer’ and my Dad would be the founder and CEO, with me now in line for succession! But despite ‘Potterer’ not even being officially recognised as a word, it follows the meaning of pottering around “to spend time in a relaxed way doing small jobs and other things that are not very important”.

Now, ‘Pottering’ is one of my favourite things to do, so long as there is no pressure, as it allows me to relax. On that same list I have the words ‘do nothing’ to remind me that it can be made number one priority at any time.

What I am trying to say is that it’s great to set yourself small daily tasks and keep ploughing through them, but also try to take liberty in doing nothing and not feeling bad for it. The times of doing nothing are often the times when you become the most creative, come up with your best ideas and solve that one niggling problem. That’s what I’m realising anyway.

5. Plants and flowers

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I like to surround myself with them in whatever way I can. Some of us can’t explore the countryside or travel to seaside like we used to, but this is temporary, so in the short-term, why not bring nature to you? I’ve signed up to receive a beautiful bunch of flowers every two weeks, which fill my visual field with brightness and give me joy. It’s also a way to support the local nursery and garden centre businesses, which otherwise might mean the flowers and plants turn to compost without their radiance being appreciated first.

Overall, what I’m learning most at the moment is that normality is not set, it can and is changing every day. This is just amplifying our attention to its speed of change and how quickly we need to adapt.

Take each day as it comes, tomorrow will be different and you’ll have a whole new 24 hours to live again - in the best way that suits you!

Issy Parkinson

Please note, the nature of this article is speculative. We cannot guarantee that the scenarios, opinions and experiences described within will be true for everyone.

How could Esme Loans help?

These are difficult times for many businesses, so it’s important now more than ever, to take good care of yourself and your team. If you’re concerned about your business being impacted financially due to coronavirus and want to understand the support available to you, please visit our advice page for information.