Written by Sara Fernie-Jones

Adjusting to a new normal: protecting your wellbeing

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Following the government’s announcement last night that tighter restrictions are coming into play, life as we know it has and will continue to change. Staying in is the new going out, and Zoom parties are now all the rage.  While I say that tongue in cheek, living in isolation and social distancing can take their toll on wellbeing. So, as we’re looking at ways in which we can support our team through these challenging times, I wanted to share a different perspective on the current situation.

It’s easy to focus on what we don’t have: the freedom to go about our everyday lives, the ability to meet up with friends, the opportunity to work alongside friends and colleagues. But focusing on the negatives can be really detrimental to wellbeing and perpetuate anxiety.

This weekend I attended my first yoga class over Zoom. 20 people from different homes in different countries joined together to stretch our bodies and unwind our minds. Recognising the unusual situation we find ourselves in, we started the class by talking through the positives that have come out of the current crisis. While I fully appreciate the devastating affect this is having on people’s health, the uncertainty for those losing their jobs and concerns for financial, physical and emotional wellbeing, those 10 minutes gave me some perspective that helped me get through the next couple of days in a less anxious state.

So, in the spirit of sharing something positive to my fellow humans struggling through this crisis, here were a few observations my classmates and friends expressed gratitude for:

In a new world where social isolation is the new normal, we are in fact becoming more connected than ever before. Over the weekend I had three Zoom “parties” – meeting up with colleagues, friends and family. People I may otherwise not have spoken with. Our work Friday drinks became virtual with mini drinks parties linking up IFFers from their respective living rooms, surrounded by washing lines, animals, children and life’s mess. Recognising the humanity of this situation was a bonding experience. Friends and colleagues have been reporting similar meet ups, with Mother’s Day lunches conducted online and games sessions, dinner parties and plays performed over Zoom, Skype or Face Time with friends and relatives.

In times of hardship communities come together. Most of us will have seen the postcard campaign doing the rounds on social media, with people distributing postcards among their neighbourhoods, offering to help those ill or isolating, by picking up shopping, running errands or being a friendly voice on the end of a line. While stockpiling is getting the headlines it’s worth remembering that times of hardship often bring out the best in people, uniting communities. I really believe that people are inherently good. They just need the opportunity to let altruistic and nurturing sides thrive.

While the home-schooling thing is a new and unique experience, many recognised the value in having time to spend with our families. We all live busy lives; with busy jobs, side lines and hobbies filling what little time we have left. So, having more time at home to spend with partners, children, parents and siblings, can be really beneficial in strengthening bonds.

We all have the gift of time. Linked to the former point on the busyness epidemic, the fact that life as we know it has changed drastically, buys us back our time. We’re not facing a constantly ticking clock anymore, the pressure is off. There is no FOMO as there’s nothing to miss! That foreign language you always wanted to learn – the time is now. Those watercolours at the bottom of your drawer – get them out. We have the time to pick up old hobbies and learn new skills, offering stimulation and respite from the depressing site of our social feeds.

We’re in the midst of an era of innovation. As businesses and individuals fight to stay in business, innovation is happening on a mass scale. People are changing their working practices and business models, as exercise classes go digital, restaurants move to home delivery and events become webinars. While it can’t quite be “business as usual”, we can make the most of a difficult situation, and in doing so, learn new ways to adapt, developing new business practices that offer greater resilience in the long term. At IFF we’re lucky to have had a large proportion of our workforce working from home already, but the last couple of weeks have forced us to move to a fully dispersed team at speed. Would we have enjoyed a little more time to adapt? Absolutely. But has it forced a rapid uptake of new systems and technology that will benefit the business in the long term? 100%.

So, if you’re finding this whole situation anxiety inducing, step away from that news channel, stop looking at your social feed and take a moment to remember some of the positives. You might just feel that bit better placed to cope with the challenges life is throwing at us right now as a result.