This week, I thought I’d write a blog about coronavirus because, well, what else am I going to do? I’m going to start writing about it anyway, not quite sure where it will end up – which is quite fitting!
It’s 9pm on Monday night, the end of the first day of lockdown. Quite frankly, I’m finding it difficult to imagine what another 90 days like that is going to look like. (Don’t read too much into 90 days, I don’t know any more than you). Boris Johnson has just made his announcement that the lockdown is going to be tightened – this is going to be our life for the foreseeable future.
It’s amazing that life can be turned on it’s head so completely. Thinking back to those innocent days of a fortnight ago, when the biggest concern was whether Liverpool would still win the league, our world has been turned upside down to a point we are not even allowed outside the house. Two weeks ago, this wasn’t even a possibility in the minds of most people, so it is little wonder we all seem so shell shocked.
I have to say, I was little bit excited about the thought of a lockdown. When it became apparent last week that the country was going to close down and the Chancellor started throwing hundreds of billions of pounds at the economy, there was something in my head thinking this was going to be something of an adventure. A once in a lifetime experience for the whole country, something that would bring us all closer, something we could look back on in years to come as a positive that changed things for the better.
I have been fairly relaxed about the whole thing. Mainly for the fact that much of it sits outside my ‘circle of influence’. Many of you will be familiar with this concept. If it sits outside your circle of influence, this is literally nothing you can do about it, so relax and go with it. Work instead on the things you can influence.
I’ve been familiar with this concept for many years, but have always struggled with it. Working in corporate business, I always felt I should be able to influence things so got very frustrated when things happened that I didn’t agree with, or I felt I wasn’t being listened to. It was one of the reasons I left in the end – to protect myself from those frustrations that were eating away at me.
In the last six months, running my business has changed that view. From initially being frustrated at not being able to affect things or speed things up, I have begun to recognise where my circle of influence starts and ends and have learnt to work within those parameters. I have come to accept the limits of my circle and that is helping me now.
At the start of the month, I had a flurry of new clients, the ground- work was beginning to pay off, but very quickly things were put on hold with the escalation of events, something I understood and accepted. Currently, it is unlikely that people will hire me in the immediate short term. I accept that too. This acceptance actually allays many of the fears around financial security – I can’t do anything about it right now, so don’t worry about it and put my efforts into things that I can influence – support my wife (as much as she’ll let me!!), make sure the kids are OK, do we have everything we are going to need for a prolonged lockdown – a trampoline and a dart board as it goes – both a stroke of genius (by my wife!).
I now need to look forward at the things I can control in the future. How am I going to come out of this crisis, what changes do I need to make to my business plan, my communications. I think there is something of an opportunity coming up to help clients come out of the other side. It’s too early to talk about it yet. Everyone is still trying to work out how to survive. But once they have found that equilibrium, they will start thinking about how to come out stronger and I am planning that now. More on that another time.
So from feeling quite relaxed about the whole lockdown thing, after a day of it, I am a little more thoughtful. Last week I was thinking about doing a daily video blog talking about the fun things I had experienced on lockdown. That was until I remembered I wasn’t a millennial who thought the world would be interested in every word I say! After today, I am thinking more about survival and how we are all going to get through the long days ahead of us. To be honest, I’m worried about it. About the mental stress of it.
Over the past year I have gone from a fairly standard 9 to 5 office based lifestyle to a working from home set-up. That took some getting used to. Lack of structure, lack of people around me. The things I was used to that set the agenda for my day were suddenly missing from my life. Even though I thought I was breaking free from that corporate life, there were some comforts to it that I hadn’t realised. It was the same for the rest of the family, to now have me about all day (under their feet!) was a change they had to adapt to.
And now we have moved on again, to a point we will be in close proximity, 24/7, for a prolonged period of time. It’s been odd today. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a lovely time. Lying in the garden with my daughter reading, playing darts with my son – looking at me strangely because I am quite good at it when normally on anything Xbox related, I am quite shit.
Aside from those positive moments, there have been other moments where I have been a bit uncomfortable, wondering what I should be doing, looking at LinkedIn at all the people diligently working from home on Zoom and panicking that I should be working too. It must have been bad because I ended up cleaning out the shed!
This whole thing is so alien that I’m not 100% sure what I should be doing. I read a funny tweet at the weekend, that this is the first time we can all save humanity simply by lying on our arses doing bugger all! My wife would disagree, but I don’t actually like sitting round on my arse, I like to be busy, to be active, doing things. The idea of doing nothing is actually quite stressful.
I told you I didn’t know where this was going. I had hoped it might be a few light-hearted observations on this whole Coronavirus lockdown, but I seem to have meandered into this whole concern around mental health. I have seen and heard so much about mental health over the past week or so. And while not dismissing it, I have to say it has played second fiddle to other concerns I have around the economy, the kids education, getting food etc.
But one day in, and I am seeing the effect on my own mood. I have thought more about the kids and their mental health challenges, their change of routine, missing their friends. My wife is also stressed to hell, she has a travel business and is dealing with the repatriation of her clients as well as the shit-fight of cancellations, refunds, insurance claims.
The more I think about it, the more I think this is going to be the biggest challenge we face. A hidden challenge. Not the ‘in your face’ challenge of the economy, or the NHS, but a hidden challenge that we will all need to deal with to come out the other side of this.
Given that I didn’t actually realise I was going to be writing about this and that I really don’t know too much about it, I don’t really have any solutions. I don’t know what to suggest, although I am quite sure these problems are going to surface in every house in the country at some point in the coming months.
Maybe it’s just what we said to our kids – talk to each other, be polite, be tolerant, be patient and we will get through this together!
Take care everyone. Cheers Chris