Perspective, Priorities and Personal Development in Lock Down
I have been meaning to create a blog for the last 3 weeks but like most people, I have been adjusting to the changes which means trying to work with others around me or disturbing me every now and then. For me, having my house full with my three teens and partner when my norm has been to be alone to work freely, has disrupted both my schedule and my motivation.
But on reflection, I am glad I have waited since I now have a greater perspective on this strange situation we all find ourselves in.
Perspective forms a focus for this blog since I believe as a coach that we can all write and re write our own ‘stories’. It just requires however that we take ourselves to a different place. Mentally or physically. Or we change the ‘view’ from the same place. When we walk around a lake for example, the view changes every few steps. Sometimes it takes something or someone to point out those changes to make us aware of them.
I believe that this current situation, the likes of which have not been since war time, has the power to change our perspective on the rest of our lives for the better; how we treat each other, our fundamental values and on how we treat our planet. Indeed, I believe in many ways it already has.
As a personal development coach with a specialism of health primarily through food, I base my philosophy on what I see as the three fundamental priorities in our lives which underpin our long term health, longevity and well being. These comprise what I call the Triangle of Health;
I also believe there is a firm hierarchy in the above as I’ve written but each is deeply interrelated and needs to be incorporated in to our lives as a PRIORITY in order for our bodies to function as they should.
If we get it right in all three areas, we may affect both physical and mental fitness, and we may be ‘optimally healthy.’ We may live a full life in excess of 80 years with those years pain and disease free.
As a coach in these areas, the biggest obstacle to people undertaking change programmes, exercising, or cooking and eating well, is always ‘Time’. Or the lack thereof. Or so I am repeatedly told.
As a coach I also know while we are all busy and lead excessively busy lives usually, it is also a lack of connecting with these as deep values, or priorities in our lives…until that is, we are forced to due to ill health, the sickness of a loved one, or something close to home.
I call this stage ‘The Invincibles’. Since we all believe we are invincible, certainly in earlier life, until something happens to make us realise that sadly we are not.
Covid-19 has forced us all to take a long hard look at our lives. Perhaps and hopefully, at what the priorities are in our lives. And the lock down we all find ourselves in has undoubtedly given us time to reflect and indulge in activities we would not usually ‘have time for’.
The pandemic has forced us to think far more consciously about EVERYTHING, not just food. But we have seen a range of behaviours around shopping, cooking and eating change during this time. I want to look at the positives and negatives I’ve observed around this;
- People are shopping much more mindfully so that they can plan their meals more effectively as they do not know when they next might get to the supermarket or get a delivery.
- People are trying new foods as the staples cannot be relied upon to be on the shelves
- People are experimenting with food and condiment substitutes because they have run out of or can’t replace their usual cupboard standards
- People are taking time to prepare meals with families and share this time as a highlight of the day because we are ALL in the house at the same time rather than seeing each other as passing ships between the various activities
- Teens, Tweens and other members of the household are taking responsibility for cooking to prevent boredom and to alleviate the pressure on the main cook
- Planned meals are more nutritious since we have the time to ensure we are using good ingredients and we are less of a ‘white pasta three times a week’ nation.
- We are offering to shop for those less able than ourselves who may be at risk or unable to get out
- The supermarkets have offered slots for those more vulnerable or at risk so that they may have access to fully stocked shelves and a practically empty store
- The hoarding we saw in the first few weeks as the virus took hold; the selfishness around core products and the emptying of shelves which left the vulnerable even more exposed.
- The urge to eat more as we are all home and boredom leads us to consume more sometimes than we would usually, and foods which contain ‘empty calories’ with little nutrient value
- Our timetable and ‘time’ is entirely our own. With the exception of those who struggle to sleep for one reason and another, there is no excuse for not getting the recommended 8 hours sleep. (In fact the BBC in an interview with a sleep doctor and author stated that less than 6 hours will make us far more prone to illness and susceptible to infection.)
- We can take short ‘naps’ (between 60 – 90 minutes. Matthew Walker , author of ‘Why we Sleep says his research shows this aids learning by shifting memories from short term to long term storage in the brain – to lockdown in the frontal cortex, saving it to a USB effectively)
- We CAN stick to the usual timetable of sleep we usually work to. Our bodies need to stick to the same Circadian Rhythms for many reasons which affect our general wellness and health. It is linked to our gut and immunity. The freedoms we now have in our timetables allow us to remain using our usual sleep schedules, if indeed adding to them slightly either end which must be done gradually to let our bodies adapt.
- People are telling me they feel more rested than they have done in their whole lives
- People are less stressed about work the next day and the quality of sleep appears to be deeper
- People have observed with quieter roads, few planes and empty streets that they fall asleep more quickly and wake to sound of birdsong which they never usually observe in their day to day lives
Because of the lack of a normal timetable we may have changed our sleep schedules to something which is both erratic and unpredictable. This can lead to a number of negative and undesirable outcomes;
- Our lives become deeply synchronised with the day night cycle and the timetable we set it. You are effectively changing your body clock when you disrupt your usual rhythm. The 24 hour cycle we have set ourselves affect the activity of the blood, liver, lung and kidneys.
- In fact virtually everything in our bodies including our gut and digestion and enzymes in the gut. These are influenced in a major way by what time of the day these things are normally needed. Change them radically and you upset your whole equilibrium, including compromising our gut health and therefore our immunity.
- You may experience physical symptoms as is headaches or a change in our digestion
- Your memory may not work as it does usually
- Your eating habits and appetite may be affected
Faced with the choice of time on our hands, I believe people will have gone one of two ways in this period of shut down. I asked my partner a question.
‘Do you think people will be much fitter when we come out of this period of isolation’? He replied that he thought those that exercised anyway, will continue to exercise in whatever way they can find. Those that don’t will not.
An eternal optimist, I am going to hope that the access that is available to nearly all to do some sort of physical movement in this period has instigated different behaviours. This remains to be seen and we will see when we come out of this if we are a nation of people ready to take responsibility for our health. Having said that I have seen so many positives from this situation with regard to exercise;
- So many wonderful instructors who are not technically minded have got their heads round zoom and the online world and offered regularly timetabled classes. It has opened up a whole new world of clients for them. But not only that, it has meant that their days are not as stressful as they usually are, having to dash from location to location to teach in different venues.
It has meant many that I know are already thinking of changing their pre existing manic schedules and will continue to have an online offering long after this lock down is over. I am hugely grateful to them. As someone that needs to connect and exercise every day as I have done since a very small child, I would not be doing nearly so well during this period without them. Not that I cannot home practice alone or power walk with the dog, but this connection has given me and others like me, consistency while we are physically distancing to be socially connected with those I am used to seeing and practising with each week.
- More widely, there have been nationwide online offerings from celebrities such as Joe Wicks to provide the opportunity for those even in the smallest of places to do some sort of exercise.
- Because of the restriction based on the times we are allowed out of the house to exercise, many more people have taken advantage of the ‘constitutional walk’ once a day. With few cars, less planes and less pollution, we are more aware of the world around us. A world that is thriving and oblivious to what is going on with the humans who can be abusive and ignorant of its needs. We see Spring emerging everywhere, and the irony is not missed that while we are curtailed and limited, the earth is continuing to turn regardless of us and flow through the cycle of changes that come with a seasonal rotation. While we may be missing the outdoors as much as we are usually allowed; the air, the sun, the sea, the vitamins and nourishment they all give us, the earth is blooming and recovering with us in confinement.
- We are so much more appreciative of the outdoors when we do go outside. The wildlife seems so much more prominent. The bird song is louder, clearer. The air seems fresher, more fresh and delicious. So many times I have heard people tell me this last few weeks that they have a far greater awareness of the sounds outside their windows and doors. The non ‘man made’ sounds.
- People who have not been unwell with the virus have been saying they have more energy
- People have directed exercise to cleaning the house, decorating, revamping and giving things within their environment a new lease of life.
- Some have ignored the advice and gone outside as much as they like anyway, sitting in groups, having picnics, meeting friends for walks, cycle rides and seem to think they are immune from the same restrictions as everyone else. An abuse of the guidelines not only putting others at risk but placing themselves above advice and risking parks and public places being shut for the rest of us.
- Restricted access to the outside can also make the perfect excuse to stay in and watch repeated Netflix and Amazon Prime for hours a day. That or play the X Box, Playstation or lose ourselves for hours and days inside a television screen. We can become unproductive and simply move between Netflix and naps with no exercise whatsoever.
It is according to our perspective therefore, and according to our values, that we will adapt our habits and actions to get us through this confinement. I believe there is huge potential for us to come out the other side a healthier nation, more aware of the planet upon which we are guests, kinder, more in control of our direction in life and with control over our personal development.
Indeed I believe that the difference between those that come out of this most challenging period better for it, will be those that focus now on personal development.
Giving ourselves time to plan the rest of our lives. That time which we will, in all likelihood, never have again.
What we want from it.
How well we want to be and what we are in control of in order to be as fit as possible, in mind and body when all this is finished.
Through loss and illness, we will have questioned our values.
What is important when all is said and done.
And distilled down, to what really matters.
I remind you, with care and compassion at this time that without our health we are nothing.
I am also mindful when writing this, that there are many for whom life is out of control at this point. Those in abusive situations which lock down has only exacerbated. Those who rely on food banks for meals. Those who live in the most confined spaces with family groups and have no space or privacy. I am also mindful of those who have experienced far greater hardship on a scale unimaginable to most of us; Terry Waite’s Tips for Lockdown this last week, put all into perspective.
So while we are all taking a view on this current lock down from a very different perspective, and our wellbeing and our health is at the forefront of your mind, while we listen to the real life stories of those struggling with this virus in all its manifestations, I urge you to make you, your priority. Those around you and those you can help, your priority.
Take the time we all have to re design your life. To ensure it is going in the direction you would like it to. This may be the first time you have had time to ever stop to check. In fact I expect you have spent more time planning your next holiday than you have the rest of your life.
Use this time as a gift for those of us that are able to )and I know we are not all as privileged or lucky), to personally develop, to gain strength, passion and move forward with purpose when we are allowed once more to move freely.
Because I believe the world will be a very different place.
This is your chance to decide, and take action on the sort of person you will be and where you are headed in that new world.