#24 Surviving Lockdown 3 with Russell Thackeray

Surviving Lockdown 3 with Russell Thackeray and Kevin Appleby on the GrowCFO Show

Surviving lockdown was an issue raised in the last GrowCFO Situation Room networking group. I asked resilience specialist Russell Thackeray for some advice.

Our finance leader community is affected by lockdown in a number of ways. Some are working solo, home alone. Others are struggling to do a high-pressure role alongside home schooling and childcare. Yet others might be finding themselves in between jobs. It’s lockdown number 3, its starting to feel like Groundhog Day, and the weather isn’t great anymore. So, how do we all keep sane?

Surviving lockdown is the wrong mindset

Many people are currently extremely worried about this lockdown and part of the problem is the way that we frame it.  We often think about surviving lockdown, rather than accepting it and then working out how best to deal with it.

People spend a lot of time reading negative headlines in the press, which can easily make you feel depressed.  However, the chances are that many positive things have also happened to you during the past year.  For example, new hobbies, personal achievements, business successes, family additions, discovering more things to do locally, meeting more of your community and spending valuable time with your household members.

It is important to build the right mindset and select which facts you would like to focus on when determining how you really feel.

Personal resilience helps surviving lockdown

Building personal resilience is essential towards surviving lockdown.  Everybody has their own unique combination of circumstances. Your circumstances can have a huge impact on how this lockdown is affecting you.  The chances are that you cannot do many of the things that you previously enjoyed doing. Spending time with family and friends; going to work; travelling; visiting bars or restaurants; and playing sport.  Plus, many people probably haven’t had much time off work recently.

Regardless of how you feel, you need to find a sense of perspective and determine what best options are available to you.  Otherwise, you can easily fall into the trap of blurring the lines between personal life and work. This will inevitably lead to you working harder at the expense of your wellbeing.

Statistics show that employed people are currently working incredibly hard and that most people are being incredibly productive.  However, this is unsustainable and carries a range of risks including developing stress and potential burnout.  You could also be missing an opportunity to maintain some form of personal life. Maybe there’s an opportunity to develop new hobbies that you may benefit from

How long is your working day?

Many people now have a potential working day from the moment that you wake up until the moment that you fall asleep.  Other than attending various Zoom sessions, much of your work can be done at any time. You can balance it around your personal requirements, household and family commitments.

However, given the blurred lines between each of these activities, many people find themselves constantly juggling work, homeschooling, childcare, household requirements and personal activities all into one go.  This can result in doing 14 things badly, rather than delivering each of these effectively in turn.

Neurotherapy shows that the way we think, feel and act is reflected in our physiological functioning. Particularly in the brain and nervous system.  Problems like depression and anxiety form when your brain gets stuck in maladaptive states and patterns, due to the hormonal feeding of cortisol into our system. 

Surviving lockdown is all about managing cortisol

Just small amounts of anxiety will create a cortisol load rocking through their body, affecting your heart, lungs, digestive system, glucose immunology and brain function.  Too much of your physiology is being poisoned by cortisol, which loves glucose and drains energy.

You need to control your situation to prevent cortisol from being stimulated and then determine activities to help you get rid of it.  For example, going for a walk, spending time outside and other forms of exercise.  This will help you to feel mentally alert, more physically tired and sleep better.

Like anything, you need to form an effective plan and be well-organised for surviving this lockdown.  Each week contains 168 hours.  Whilst some activities will be at fixed time periods, many are flexible. This should provide you with plenty of opportunities to organise your daily routines. 

For many people, your current lifestyle is a choice. How you choose to structure this is up to you.  For example, you may wish to take a few hours off during the afternoon to enjoy daytime hobbies and valuable outdoors time.  Going outside, within the rules, is also important for your confidence and social interaction.

Work when you are most productive

Learn how your brain works and when you are typically most productive, then structure your day accordingly.  Think about the ROI of your time and whether you are really using it effectively.

Many people still feel the need to work during standard work hours, despite this no longer being a necessity.  How you choose to structure your day is your personal choice, including which meetings you choose to attend.  You may be asked to attend many meetings. Most people have a level of influence upon which meetings are important. Do you really need to attend? Can you influence when they should take place.

You are likely to receive a positive response from your direct reports if you suggest ways in which you can structure your work commitments in a more productive manner.

Are you spending too long sitting down?

Most people feel compelled to spend most of their time sitting down, when in actual fact it is a choice.  Even the busiest of people could probably manufacture time for sporadic high-intensity short workouts in between tasks.  Research suggests that HIIT exercises, sit-ups, arm curls, etc., will improve your productivity. They will provide a high return on investment for the committed time.

Others complain of spending too much time sitting down during never-ending Zoom calls.  However, this is actually your choice.  In most cases, it would not be difficult to construct a setup that allows you to do Zoom calls whilst standing up.  You should think about converting some of these Zoom calls into walking telephone calls. Other people will be feeling the same as you.

Good dietary inputs are important but may be difficult to maintain as you get tired and bored of trying to be healthy the whole time.  Try to establish some realistic rules and stick to them.  Build in more movement and exercise to match your intake of calories.

Include the family in the working culture

Most people have now brought their family into their working culture.  However, it has now become generally accepted for other people’s children to unexpectedly appear on a Zoom call.  This acceptance should help to remove your anxiety towards such situations arising. This allows homeworkers to relax more whilst delivering your work.

Surviving lockdown is actually about resetting our physiological and psychological load on ourselves to drive more cortisol out of our system.  Despite most people trying to avoid bad weather, there is nothing better for dumping cortisol out of the system than getting cold and wet.  Likewise for cold showers.  Many studies suggest that human bodies repair much better in the cold.

Try physically separating where you do each activity

Where possible, try to have separate rooms where you sleep, work, eat and relax.  Consider putting a shelf up so that you can work or do Zoom calls whilst standing up.  You may wish to avoid taking your laptop or phone out of your work room.

For those in relationships, it is important to spend time together without any distractions, rather than whilst multi-tasking.  Develop a habit of generally doing one thing well, rather than two things poorly.

In summary, your approach to surviving lockdown is your choice. Organise your days effectively and spend time identifying a structure that works best for you and your family.  You should try to create time for exercise and outdoor activities. Challenge yourselves as to how and when things really need to be done.

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