I went into lockdown on 24th March, this year, after a week of speculations on what the government would announce. I simply stayed back home from that day and have not been back at work, physically, since the day before.
The words coronavirus, covid-19 and Wuhan, first made their appearance in my subconscious in mid-January and I remember musing………..whatever is going on in China? As quickly as those thoughts came, I dismissed them; and why ever not? China is over 10,000 kilometers from Lagos, where I live and surely, that distance meant that whatever was going on couldn't get to me. It would first have to cross many oceans, seas and rivers wouldn't it? Silly me. I totally forgot that with all the international traveling taking place, we humans, would be the transmitters, wouldn't we!
Fast forward to March 5th and I am at an awards ceremony in London, in the midst of 400 or more. No social distancing (that was soon to come), no masking either, but I must have irritated everyone at my table with the number of times I sprayed liquid disinfectant into my palms. Probably every 2 minutes or less. After a while, my paranoia got the better of me and I started offering a spritz or two to the other occupants at the table, some of whom politely declined, trying hard not to roll their eyes. I pretended not to notice. Little did we know what was about to hit us all!
I have now effectively been in lockdown for 5 months and its looking like another 6 weeks or potentially longer, as I fall within the age range that cannot take chances, even as we begin the process of returning to some modicum of life as we knew it. I have learned a lot about myself and others; about situations and things; about what truly matters (good health, family, relationships) and what quite honestly, doesn't cut it (the increasing grey hairs on my head, ha ha!). Lockdown has taught me patience in many ways, but also impatience in different ways too (I simply don't have time for irrelevancies anymore). It has taught me to be kinder and more accepting of others and myself. I mean, the other day I had a video meeting with a client; I wore no makeup, no wig or hair extensions either. The meeting was excellent. Wow! That was definitely an epiphany moment for me!
These are a few more of my lockdown lessons and experiences:
Getting Ready For Lockdown: Stocking Up; Local Remedies, Myths, etc.
In the run up to lockdown, I was in full shopping mode, stocking up on everything we could possibly require for the next 3 months, in the first instance: enough Vitamin C, Cold & Flu meds and Cough syrups to run a small pharmacy; several hundreds of bottled water, Groceries, toiletries, etc. My pantry was a mini store. Everything was available, as the thought of running out was unbearable. We were going to 'war' against this virus and taking no chances!
Then came the avalanche of video clips from doctors, nurses, patients and a host of other 'experts', sharing their knowledge, expertise and experiences about this pandemic-causing virus, resulting in information overload. It seemed that everywhere you turned, there was a remedy being proffered or treatment protocol advocated, with local herbs taking a center stage in other cases. We were advised to stop using air conditioners, because the virus apparently thrives in cold conditions. So, I have gone more than 3 months without any air conditioning, which is unbelievable, as pre-covid, I couldn't do without it. I tried various immunity boosting combinations – Turmeric, Ginger, Black Pepper, Lemon, Selenium, Zinc, Garlic. Name it, and I tried it. I now have a vegetable and herb patch in my garden, where am growing Ginger, Garlic and Turmeric as well as lettuce, spinach and chillies.
Change is Constant; Think Differently & Outside the Box
These are clichés we hear so many times, but the lockdown means they are constantly in our face, playing out every day, with the changes in work structures and processes, meetings with clients and colleagues (all remote), habits, etc. You know how your hand is forced when things are out of your control? That's exactly how it has been. That technology you didn't think you could ever understand? Well, covid didn't give you any choice anymore; you simply got on with it! We were and are still constantly thinking of new ways to do things. On a few occasions I was faced with getting things done, sometimes in rather bizarre ways, but by focusing on the desired outcomes rather than the processes involved, I pulled through. I remember a particularly stressful project, which report I had to stay up all night to re-format to the client's specific taste. How I survived that night is still a wonder, but that experience tells me how resilient and tenacious we can be, bringing to mind, 2 more clichés: a). Begin with the end in mind and b). The end justifies the means. Very true.
Pace Yourself; Find Your Rhythm, Switch Off Sometimes
'Life is a Marathon, not a Sprint', as a very dear friend always reminds me, every time I reach out, with complaints about work stress, impossible deadlines, etc. Life is a marathon, so please pace yourself. At the start of lockdown, I thought surely this would be only for a month, maybe two at the most. How wrong I was. It has been 5 months and counting and I could potentially work this way till the end of 2020.
I find that I can work frenetically on some days whilst I cannot stand the sight of my laptop, tablet or phone on other days! On some days, I wake up very early, and put in a few hours whilst the rest of my household is still asleep and on others, I sleep in for a couple more hours and can only pick up rhythm mid-morning. In all, I try to pace myself day after day, focusing more on outcomes and my deliverables.
Establish Routines; Set Boundaries.
At the start of lockdown, I went through each day in a haphazard manner, often starting out early and working through till late, with hardly any breaks in between; eating and/or taking clients calls whilst working through deadlines etc. At the back of my mind was the need to replicate how things were, before lockdown, when I went to the office physically. This did not last, and I realized soon enough, that I needed to set a routine that made sense. This includes my morning exercise routine, short (stretch) breaks during work hours, mindful eating, fix meetings using my calendar, switch off at weekends, etc.
I have also set certain boundaries, especially around taking non work-related calls during work hours, and refusing, as much as possible, to discuss work-related issues at weekends. These boundaries help keep me sane.
Avoid Negativity: News, People, Situations, etc.
As much as possible, avoid all that negativity that the tabloids, tv stations, etc., all seem to revel in. For long periods, I simply refused to follow any day-to-day updates on the coronavirus infections, or worse, the death rates being recorded country-by-country. International news media is replete with all the sad and discouraging news of the ravaging pandemic as well as the wars (wars in the midst of a pandemic, really??!), bombings, shootings, etc., and I simply had enough and decided to use the power in my hands to switch off! The same goes for people who only call or share whatsapp messages that depress you or put you under undue stress and I have blocked out some contacts on my phone as a result. My thinking is that there's already a lot happening in the world, so please, do not offload more negativity on me! I do not need any additional stress.
Find Your 'Happy': Mind Your Mental & Physical Health.
At the start of lockdown, as with most people, I struggled with a number of mental and physical health issues, one of which was overeating. It was terrible. It just seemed as if I lost control over my ability to see food of any type and not want to put it in my mouth. I opened the fridge so many times every day, it was ridiculous. I just couldn't stop. The result? Unwanted weight gain. I thought I was alone in this until I spoke to colleagues, friends, family, etc. Turned out I was not, and we were all struggling. This went on for about 2 months until I spoke to myself very sternly one morning, as I reached out for yet another slice of bread (funny thing is, bread isn't even my thing at all, but I ate so much of it those first weeks; it was my comfort food) and then began to cut back and to tame this strange 'hunger'.
I have done relatively okay in terms of physical exercise, walking 30 minutes, 3/5 times weekly, with brief cardio and yoga sessions 2/3 times as well, although I have had a couple of lazy weeks with zero interest in exercising. I watched a neighbor walk morning, afternoon and night, everyday, for the first month of lockdown, but happily, never felt pressured to follow suit.
Finding my 'happy', involves food (again!), gardening and redecorating. I love to cook (when I feel like it) and to share my food with others. Listening to a mental health expert's advice that we should all figure out, and do what makes us happy at this time, was all I needed to give this special OCD, a boost and I have cooked and shared so much food during the lockdown, sometimes dispatching to close family and friends using uber, if pick-ups (socially-distanced of course) are not possible. I am in love with my garden and watching the flowers bloom in a kaleidoscope of colours, is so uplifting and whenever possible, wifi signal permitting, I work from the garden. Adding a vegetable and herb patch in the last month has been brilliant. The last one month has also seen me redecorating our home – really, just simple stuff, as moving furniture around and upgrading light fittings, but the joy and peace these seemingly simple actions have brought, have been phenomenal.
This Too Shall Pass………….
As dire as things sometimes appear to be, I tell myself often: Remember, this too shall pass. It is important that we remain positive and follow the guidelines of social distancing, masking up and washing our hands often. Beating this virus is not just about ourselves, but our loved ones: children, parents, families, friends, colleagues, etc., so let us do our part in stopping it in its tracks. We can each commit, consciously, to not being a transmission agent for the virus, so that it can eventually run out of steam.
Let's stay positive, stay grateful, focus on what is important, and do all we can, to stay alive. As Jack Ma aptly put it, we would all have made profit this year by staying alive.