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Managing wellbeing during lockdown

In my normal life I am always busy, moving around school checking in on my year 7 students, planning and teaching.

In my normal life I am always busy, moving around school checking in on my year 7 students, planning and teaching, as well as first aid, break duty and a myriad of other little jobs. Going into lockdown has been a real culture shock for me, affecting both my work life and home life in equal measure.

Outside of work I normally attend my beginners yoga class every week and see family and friends as often as possible. Within days this all came to a grinding halt, something I think everyone found a very difficult transition. Going from a busy life, meeting 1000 people plus per day, to being stuck in the house with just my husband was the biggest change of all.

After the first few days of lockdown it became apparent that I needed to change my way of thinking and bring some wellbeing activities into my daily routine. In just a few days it had become all too easy to sit in front of my laptop for 8 hours a day, only taking a break to eat or nip to the loo.

This was not a healthy way of working so I designed a schedule to incorporate regular breaks, wellbeing activities and family time into my day, which I named “Operation Wellbeing”. I have always been really passionate about the wellbeing of our students but it was time to bring this a bit closer to home.

The first phase of Operation Wellbeing was creating and planting a vegetable patch in our garden. We have had an allotment for many years but travelling to the allotment was none essential so building the plot at home was an ideal solution. We started off small, planting pots, planters and even our old bath with salad, radishes and beetroots. After 9 weeks of work we now have a greenhouse, a large vegetable plot and 28 bags of potatoes growing away. Getting outside into the garden for breaks during the day has really helped me to de-stress and given me a great sense of purpose during these uncertain and difficult times.

It is so easy to grow plants in pots or tubs, you don’t need a great big garden and the sense of satisfaction of picking your own salad for tea is amazing. Our plants have done so well we have been able to donate some to some colleagues from the Academy and family members, so tomatoes will not be in short supply in our local area this year!

The next part of Operation Wellbeing has been provided by Lily and Little Mo, our 2 Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Everyday I take a walk with Little Mo, even if it is just around the local field. Lily is more of a home bird but brightens up my day with a game of fetch or catch in the garden at lunch time. Little Mo and I have had some great adventures down to Chatterley Whitfield, along the canal and enjoyed seeing some of the historic sites in our local community, as well as the local wildlife! Being outside in the fresh air and sunshine, has been a real mood booster for me. This has been particularly important as I have gone from rushing around school all day to sitting behind the laptop, not good for the mind, body or waist line!

The final part of Operation Wellbeing is still a work in progress, the building of Cluckingham Palace, our new chicken coop and run. We have been wanting to do for a really long time, but in a strange way lockdown has given us the time to be able to get it built. It has been a real labour of love for us and provided us with some challenges, as well as plenty of laughs along the way. For those of you who are old enough to remember the Good Life, we will not be getting any goats, making our own clothes or riding a lawnmower to work any time soon! (Much to the dismay of Mr T!)

During this really stressful and unprecedented time it has been a real challenge for everyone to safeguard both their physical and mental wellbeing. It is so easy to become so focused on work that you can lose track of all of the other things in your life that make you smile. It can be hard to see the light at the end of this never ending tunnel of lockdown but even small steps can help make the journey better, they have done for me.

As part of Operation Wellbeing I decided that learning some new skills would be a good way of moving forward positively during this challenging time. I have just completed a mental health first aid course online which has been a really interesting challenge for me. It has allowed me to explore the world of mental health and how it can affect so many people in so many different ways.

One of the key things I have learnt during the course and the wider lockdown experience is that it is OK not to be OK. Everyone has days when they feel fed up, feel down or just don’t feel their normal selves. Even keeping busy and doing all the right things it is possible to feel that the tunnel is just too long or that there are just too many obstacles in your way. There are lots of support options available to support anyone who needs help, from mindfulness and meditation to counselling and talk therapies.

If this period has taught me anything it is to take pleasure in the small things, Facetime with my nephews, a walk around the lake or picking fresh salad for tea time.

To help to improve the wellbeing of our students I have been setting them some challenges to come up with craft and art projects to share with myself and the rest of the staff. I have even had a go at some stone painting myself and re-discovering my long lost ability to knit, something I haven’t done in about 30 years! All these little things have been real morale boosters for me and have really encouraged the students to interact with me and the rest of the staff.

This is more vital than ever at this time, if this situation is hard for us, it is a massive challenge for our young people. I have posted some great mindfulness activities onto our Google Classroom as well to help our students to unwind and help their emotional wellbeing.

If anyone wants these, please get in touch – In the meantime, take care everyone and good luck with your own Operation Wellbeing!