Posted in Bullet journaling, life hacks, lifestyle, Mindfulness, productivity

Monday Matters: 8 wonderful benefits of listening to music

Photo credit: Lee Campbell for Unsplash

Back in October of last year, I found my mental health deteriorating, and, once again, started to have difficulties with anxiety and depression. I’m now (thankfully) feeling much better and my improved wellbeing has enabled me to start blogging again. Whilst I was struggling, the main focus of life was on doing any little thing I could either to distract myself from how I was feeling or to improve my mood. I found music was a huge help and so, for today’s Monday Matters post, I want to focus on the benefits of listening to music. The following are applicable whatever your musical preferences and can be utilised whether you are finding things difficult at the moment or feeling happy, content and positive, like I am currently. Let’s get started..

1. Elevates your mood

Whatever our taste in music, I expect we can all name at least one song which, when it starts to play, is able to shift our mood in a matter of seconds, making us want to turn the radio up, jump to our feet and start dancing around the room or burst into song. It may be the tempo, the lyrics or the sparking of a happy memory which uplifts us. Whichever of these it is that gets us going, scientific research proves that these tunes promote the release of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine into our bodies and it is this which is responsible for making us feel so good. If you do find yourself singing or dancing along to the music too, you will be doing yourself the extra favour of encouraging happy hormones known as endorphins to flood your body as well!

Making a playlist for times when you are feeling a little low or even depressed can be really useful. This can either be on your phone, your IPod or even in your bullet journal so you can seek out those songs on Spotify, YouTube or whatever is your music player of choice. Having them written down is particularly helpful for those times when you are struggling as, at that time, you may not be able to recall songs which are able to make you feel more upbeat.

The following page was inspired by one created by @sunshine_journal_ on Instagram.

A page from by current bullet journal. Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

2. Improves your workout

According to my Fitbit app, which has just this second provided me with an activity tip (it must have somehow known I was writing this blog post):

‘Listening to music can help exercise feel easier, and even boost your speed. Songs with 120-140 beats per minute appear to have the biggest motivating effect’

Source: Fitbit app info.

Clicking through to the information, which was written back in 2017, I learnt that music can increase your speed, make you feel more powerful, make exercising feel easier (wahoo!), boost your mood and help to keep you motivated. When I was battling with my mental illness, I didn’t have the energy to do my Zumba workouts but I did make sure that I went for at least one long walk per day and my playlist helped to put at least a little bit of a spring in my step. Now I’m back to good health, the music is really motivating and some of the track make me want to break into a run (luckily I haven’t acted upon the urge as I don’t wear my sports bra whilst pounding the streets or the paths of my local park and don’t want to be off to the doctors with detached boob syndrome which I’m sure would be the resulting affliction lol!).

Here’s a list of some of my motivational music, many of which I copied into iTunes from some old CD singles which I believe I purchased whilst at uni many moons ago:

  • Choose Life – PF Project feat. Ewan McGregor
  • Forever – Dee Dee
  • Another Chance – Roger Sanchez
  • Alone – Lasgo
  • Beautiful – Matt Darey Feat. Marcella Woods
  • Treat Infamy – Rest Assured
  • The Night Train – Kadoc
  • The Silence – Mike Koglin
  • Kickstarts – Example
  • In For The Kill – La Roux

They’ve been put into a playlist on my old Apple iPod, aptly called ‘On The Go’ as I couldn’t work out how to give them my own title.

3. Boosts your concentration levels when working or studying

When I’m struggling with anxiety and depression, it becomes very difficult for me to concentrate on the simplest of tasks and even harder to be motivated to do things in the first place. Studies have shown that particular types of music can be really useful in encouraging productivity and creativity. Some tunes can also be quite therapeutic, reducing stress levels so that you are able to concentrate better. Personally, I prefer instrumental music as many lyrics can be more of a distraction than a help. Whilst conducting online research for today’s blog post, I discovered that the best types of musical accompaniment were suggested to be the following (one of them may surprise you like it did me!) :

  • classical music
  • ambient music
  • nature sounds
  • between 50 and 80 BPM (Beats per minute)
  • video game music!

You can find many different collections of classical music for work or study on YouTube but I like to create my own playlists as there’s nothing worse than a tune coming on that you simple don’t like. My absolute favourite has to be Fur Elise by Beethoven, but, my musical choices are often dependent on the type of task I’m working on.

Ambient music is a genre that is generally identifiable as being atmospheric and environmental in nature. According to online definitions, it is gentle and largely electronic with no persistent beat. One of my favourite pieces of ambient music is Porcelain by Moby and, although mostly tracks are instrumental, this one does have minimal lyrics. If your chosen music does have words, I think it is best to have the song on at a low volume so they don’t distract you.

I love listen to the sounds of nature in my local park or in the garden on a fine day. When you’re working or studying, apps such as ‘Calm’, ‘Sleep sounds’ or other relaxation and meditation focused packages, are great for providing nature sounds such as rain on leaves, Autumn woods, water flow, coral reef and wind in pines. I’m not sure how much of the Calm app is accessible for free ordinarily because I’m currently making use of an extended free trial but the sleep sounds app has lots free to use (my phone is Android but I expect there are iPhone Apps too).

According to my research, music at 50-80 BPM is good for stimulating the left side of the brain for information processing and problem solving. Again, collections of tracks can be found on YouTube but I would definitely recommend you create your own playlist of music you love. For sparking your creative juices, more upbeat, faster music is suggested (more BPM).

Who knew that music created to accompany video games could help boost your output? I certainly didn’t. The ones that I play tend to get on my nerves and I mute them but apparently they’re designed to enhance your gaming experience by stimulating your senses and blocking out other stimuli which may distract you. One game that both my husband and I always have the music on for though, is Angry Birds 2 but I’ve never thought of listening to it when working or studying – that is, until now (I may just have it playing in the background as I type away on this blog post!).

4. Calms the mind and relaxes the body

Some music can be really soothing when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or uptight. According to a number of studies, listening to calming tracks can help you relax by slowing your breathing and heart rate, lowering blood pressure and reducing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (AKA adrenaline). Try searching for ‘peaceful music’, ‘soothing music’ or ‘music for relaxation’ on YouTube (I found some wonderful extended compositions by talented Norwegian musical artist Peder B. Helland whose videos also contain beautiful imagery), create your own playlist or check out some of the music on apps such as Calm.

5. Great for mindful listening

Music can be a great part of your daily mindfulness practice. Mindfully listening grounds us in the present moment and, by paying attention to what’s going on currently, you won’t be focusing on ruminating about the past or worrying about things in the future. Mindfulness is obviously a huge topic which I couldn’t possibly cover in this blog post but with regard to mindful listening to music, you can start with really paying attention to the piece, noticing its melody, rhythm, tone or lyrics and tuning in to how it makes you feel or what emotions it evokes. And of course, if your mind wanders off, as with all mindfulness practices, gently and kindly bring it back to the music without berating yourself for losing your attention or starting to think things such as ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘why do I have the concentration skills of a goldfish?’!

6. Combats isolation and feelings of loneliness

Many of us will be struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness right now due to the effects of local lockdowns and social distancing as the result of Coronavirus. Studies have shown, however, that listening to music can combat these by triggering the release of a hormone called oxytocin which plays a key part in cultivating empathy, trust and compassion for others and creates a sense of belonging and connection.

7. Brings back happy memories

Sometimes, when you hear a song on the radio, it evokes happy memories and has the ability to transport you right back to the time when you first heard it or to a particular occasion (e.g. your wedding day, a night out with friends in your early 20s, or a family get together. Adding these to a playlist can evoke fond memories or help you recall and remember happier periods of your life when you’re feeling down. Research has shown that just replaying music helps us reconnect with the feelings we were experiencing at the time.

Talking of memory, there’s also scientific evidence that listening to music can help us retrieve memories and is also good at helping us to lay down new ones. For this reason, music can be wonderful resource for elderly relatives or those who have dementia.

8. Helps you to process difficult emotions and heal from heartache and grief

I’m sure most, if not all of us have experienced the heartache that goes with losing a loved one at some point in our lives. Although music doesn’t have the capacity to make the feelings of emotional anguish or grief go away, it can certainly help us process and make sense of things. Seeking out and listening to tracks where the lyrics seem to be describing our situation perfectly is something many of you will have found yourself doing automatically. In the past, following the breakdown of a romantic relationship, I would always find myself reaching for CDs of sad songs and having a good cry. I wasn’t sure that choosing such tunes was helpful, but according to my research, it definitely can be. In fact, listening to music which matches our mood (either in terms of tempo or lyrics), whether that be sadness, anger, excitement or joy, benefits us by activating our limbic system (the section of our brain which is directly related to emotional processing).

Final thoughts…

I hope you have found this music focused post helpful in some way and that is has encouraged you to think about using songs and instrumental pieces to benefit your mental health and wellness. Let me know in the comments if any of what I’ve said resonates with you.

Happy listening!

Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, gardening, Planning and journaling, productivity, TN journaling

Spring is coming! Pretty, practical and creative journal spreads you must try

Spring officially starts on Saturday 20th March but there are already so many signs that the season is on its way. It’s a pretty chilly 3 degrees here in Sunderland today (warm coat and scarf weather), but last weekend, the temperatures rose to highs of 13 and it felt like Summer had arrived (never mind Spring) when my husband and I took a coastal walk in the bright sunshine and under cloudless blue skies! The warmer conditions have meant that lots of things are starting to pop up in the garden including early flowerers such as daffodils and tulips. One of our regular hedgehog visitors has even been tempted out of hibernation which is pretty early in comparison to previous years. There might still be lots of worries with regard to Covid around at the moment, but I think its super important to celebrate the small stuff and remind ourselves that there’s still lots to be grateful for right now and plenty to look forward to in the not too distant future. With that in mind, today I’m sharing some practical and pretty journal spreads, for your BuJo or your TN inserts, that I’ve created this week and really encourage you to try.

Spring flowers collage spread

This bright and colourful collage spread was created using pictures printed from Google images following a search for early Spring blooming flowers. They depict shrubs and bulbs which we actually have in our garden but most of which are not yet out. I copied the text in the left hand corner of page one of the double spread from an article which I found on the Woodland Trust website as I thought it was particularly fitting for the theme. The stickers are some I had left over from the Blooming Lovely collection and I discovered I had matching washi tape in my stash too. Both of these pages make me feel happy every time I look at them and I revisit it most days.

A pretty quote page

This was a free printable from https://www.bluemountain.com/blog/ I’ve printed it twice and put one copy in my bullet journal and a slightly larger version on the wall in my craft room. I found the quote by typing ‘spring quotes and sayings’. There’s lots to choose from and as long as you’re just printing them for personal rather than commercial use, you can add them to any of your journals or a prominent place in your home!

Garden jobs for Spring

This spread is purely practical, although I did add a few cute stickers! My husband and I sat down and listed some garden jobs that we would like to get done this month as a useful reference to see what needs doing and to see how much we’ve achieved. There’s not much on it yet, but by the end of the month, I reckon the list will be much longer (hopefully with lots crossed off!).

Time spent in nature

I love to document days out which my husband and I enjoy and, even though we’re limited to the local area at the moment, due to lockdown, we still go out for a walk each day. Last weekend, as I said earlier, it was really warm so we headed to our local coast. It was really busy there but as we’d had lots of sunshine, the grass was dry enough to walk on and it was easy to keep socially distant from others. I took a screenshot of the temperature on my phone as we couldn’t believe how warm it was for the end of February!

Shoots and leaves

There’s lots starting to emerge in the garden and so I took my phone out there and snapped a few signs of growth. It’s exciting to see things popping up even if some of them are weeds! The photos aren’t wonderful as I wanted them to just be quick pics but it will be good to compare how things look now with how they look in a few month’s time.

Plant and flower factfiles

This is something I started doing as part of last year’s garden related spreads. Basically, it’s just info from the plastic card you get stuck in the pots when you buy a plant or details which are included on the seeds or bulbs packet. It’s handy to know the exact variety you have and what they will look like when they come into bloom. Also, doing a little sketch of them is quite relaxing and therapeutic too! I messed up the lettering on the page so have stuck a piece on I cut from a page at the back of my journal. IRL, you can’t see it as badly as you can at the bottom of the header as you can in the photo.

Final words…

I hope you are tempted to have a go at at least one of these spreads – I guarantee they will make you smile when you look back over them if you do. I would love it if you would take the time to add your thoughts or your own ideas in the comments below. And, as always, if you’ve created any Spring spreads and shared them online, leave the link and I’ll be sure to check them out.

Posted in lifestyle, Planning and journaling, productivity, Setting goals and intentions

Monday Matters: What is the ‘WOOP technique’ and how can it help you achieve your dreams?

This week, I wanted to write a post about goal setting and fulfilling your dreams. I talked last week about the power of positive affirmations in developing confidence in your ability, but is telling yourself you are something such as successful, confident or happy enough to achieve in a particular aspect of your life? Whilst perusing the Internet for inspiration for my chosen focus, I came across something I’d never heard of before called WOOP. I’m willing to bet that a lot of my readers might not have heard of it either, so today’s Monday Matters is going to be an introduction the principles behind this fascinating and scientifically researched idea, which to me, make a lot of sense and might need more consideration.

What is WOOP?

WOOP, which stands for Wish, Outline, Obstacle, Plan is a scientifically based principle developed by German academic and psychologist Gabriele Oettingen. Her research has focused on ‘how people think about the future and how this impacts cognition, emotion and behaviour’ (Wikipedia). Gabriele has found that if we just dream or fantasise about something we want, our brains tend to think we have already attained what we desire and this can make us relax and prevent us from actually achieving our goals. She talks about two processes that we need to go through for the WOOP strategy to take effect, namely mental contrasting and implementation intentions (MCII for short). Basically, this means focusing on the contrast between the positive aspects of your desired goal and the barriers (negative aspects / obstacle / internal struggle) of you actually achieving your goal or wish. So, the WOO bit is the contrast as you imagine / visualise how wonderful it would be to fulfil your wish and then conversely, look at what might stop you. Thinking about both of these helps to motivate your self conscious to do something about the issue you face. The P part is the implementation intentions as you are coming up with a plan of actions and thoughts to work against your obstacle.

Gabriele and her team have spent 20 years fully researching and investigating goal achievement and the effects of mental contrasting and implementation intentions with studies including participants of different ages and backgrounds. The results of their work, has lead them to create WOOP as a framework for implementing change. The process has been found to be affective at helping people improve their social behaviour, health and academic performance. Examples of these scientific studies can be found online if you want to find out more.

Creating a WOOP

Wish Gabriele says that it is vitally important to give yourself some mental space in which to think about and imagine what you wish for yourself right now. You should dedicate some calm and uninterrupted time where you can specifically focus on your immediate wish for this present moment. Clearing your mind of everything else is essential so that you can dedicate your attention to working on your WOOP.

You may find that many wishes come into your mind, but you need to select the one that is most important to you and is challenging but do-able at the same time. Wishes can be about anything you want, your relationships, your job, your education, your health and fitness, whatever is important to you right now.

When you’ve decided on your wish, you should try to come up with 3 to 6 words to summarise it. I found this part really difficult as I’m very good at saying in 50 words what could be shrunken down to 5 but it’s important to be concise so you should really take your time to think.

Outcome When you have outlined your wish, you need to imagine what it would feel like if it came true (you might like to close your eyes for this bit so you can create an image of your life). Think about what the very best outcome would be and describe it in a small number of words (approximately 3 or 4 is a good number).

Obstacle Next, you need to think really carefully about what holds you back from achieving that wish. In other words, what is the main obstacle? For this, you should focus on an inner obstacle, i.e. something in you that is preventing you from realising your wish. You might find here, that you start to think of external obstacles such as other people or situations which you find yourself in but it’s important that you try to concentrate on yourself as it is much easier to create changes within yourself. Again, you could close your eyes and allow yourself to come up with a vivid image.

Plan When you’ve identified your main obstacle, you need to come up with a plan to overcome it. Again, you should try to summarise thoughts or actions in 3 to 6 words. Keep these in mind, whilst you create an If… then plan. Take your obstacle words and put them after the If. Then, place the thought or action after the ‘then…’. You can then recite your If… then plan a few times.

An example

Here’s an example from my own life. I’m now pretty good at doing yoga every day but there are always occasions when I don’t feel like doing it or think of other things I would prefer to do.

  • Goal: Yoga for 20 minutes every day
  • W: daily yoga practise for 20 minutes
  • O: Strength. Good posture. Mindfulness.
  • O: Don’t feel like it. Don’t bother.
  • P: If I don’t feel like it… then I’ll put my workout gear on, get out my mat and then remind myself of the many mental and physical benefits of practising.

Some other WOOP ideas

  • In bed by 10pm every night.
  • Be more productive.
  • Get a new job.
  • Find my soulmate.
  • Stop eating unhealthy snacks.
  • Read a self help book.
  • Meditate for 10 minutes each morning.
  • Finish a project before the weekend.

You might find the process a little tricky at first, but once you’re proficient in WOOP, you can apply it to so many situations – daily tasks, habits you want to instil, projects you want to complete or whatever you want really! Also, you will likely get much better at summarising and getting to the crux of the matter in terms of your inner obstacle which will help you develop solutions more quickly.

The WOOP app

When I visited the website for WOOP, I discovered that there’s a free APP available, so I thought I would download it and see how it works. As well as giving an introduction to WOOP, it also guides you though the process of creating WOOPs for professional, health and interpersonal wishes.

The app guides you through each WOOP by giving you a number of prompts. You can choose a timeframe from 24 hours or 1 month or you can select not to have a time frame. The app gives you limited characters in which to compose your wish, outcome, obstacle so as to encourage you to keep it brief but I can imagine it’s quite frustrating if you feel like you can’t condense it down that much. It also asks you to take your time with thinking about each step of WOOP and if you click through the steps too quickly, it will warn you that you are going too fast! If you like having things noted down on your phone, then I think you would benefit from using the app, but personally, I prefer to write things in my BuJo and have a notes page to refer to, to help me create my WOOPs.

That’s all for my introduction to using the WOOP technique for setting goals and creating a plan to achieve them. If you want to learn more about WOOP and watch a great video introduction, visit woopmylife.org Here you can also find the link for the mobile app and a free printable to help guide you through the process.

Posted in lifestyle, mental health, productivity, psychology, wellbeing

Monday Matters: The power of positive affirmations and how to create your own

Today’s Monday Matters blog post is all about the helpfulness of positive affirmations and how you can write your own tailor made statements to re-wire your brain and start working towards the life you want. It discusses different types of affirmations which can help develop your body confidence, increase your self belief, encourage you to reach your goals, enable you to accept yourself and others and be grateful for what you have whilst working towards what you want. It also answers questions about how to choose specific affirmations, how to get them to work, how to word them for maximum effectiveness and how to use affirmations when you are struggling with your mental health. Finally, towards the end of the article, I include some of my current affirmations and why I chose them so you can see for yourself how powerful they are for me and can be for you.

What are positive affirmations and how do they work?

Affirmations are phrases which we repeat to ourselves either out loud or in our thoughts. They can be absolutely anything, sometimes good, for example I am great at my job, I can do this etc. but quite often can be bad, unhelpful or completely self-critical, for example, I’m so stupid, I always get things wrong etc. Positive affirmations, though, have the aim of over-riding negative beliefs and negative self-talk and creating positivity and a much better mind set. When said regularly, they can change your thoughts, your way of thinking and how you feel about yourself and life in general. They work by re-wiring your brain to think good things about the world and your place in it.

Different types of affirmations

There are lots of different types of affirmations to choose from and it all depends what you want to focus on. For example, you might want to improve your body confidence, become more successful, increase your happiness levels, be more accepting of yourself or others, combat fear, anxieties or insecurities, lose weight, be more resilient, celebrate your good points etc. Whatever you want in your life or for yourself, there are positive statements to help you.

So, how do I go about creating my own positive affirmations that work?

First of all, you need to think about what you want to see in your life right now. Maybe you want to be more confident and assertive at work. Perhaps you are keen to be more grateful or more positive. Or, you might want to practise self love and kindness. Jot down what’s important to you at the moment or create some goals that you want to work on and start to think about the kind of affirmations that would reflect these ideas.

Key features of good affirmations:

  1. Present tense e.g. I am relaxed and calm, I am worthy of self care and compassion, I take things one step at a time. This makes sure that they are powerful as they are about the here and now.
  2. Short and to the point. This makes them easier to say and easier to remember as you go about your day.
  3. Full of positivity. Try to avoid using negative vocabulary. E.g. rather than ‘I am not anxious’, you could write ‘I am calm and relaxed’. Instead of writing ‘I don’t eat junk food’ you might go for ‘I eat a balanced and healthy diet’.
  4. Powerful and emotional words. Try to use the best emotive vocabulary to can think of e.g. Everything in my life is wonderful, I am an amazing writer, I am incredibly proud of all that I achieve in my life etc.
  5. Make use of your own voice. You can find a wide array of affirmations online e.g. on Pinterest and Instagram. Some of them, you will be immediately attracted to the idea of but if you do use or adapt them, make sure that the vocabulary used is the kind of thing that you would like to say to yourself and that the words within the statement are part of your personal vocabulary e.g. It’s no good saying ‘I am a highly motivated person’ if you would usually use the term ‘hard worker’.
  6. Believability. If you want your affirmations to work, you need to create statements that you can readily believe in. For example, it’s no good writing one that says ‘I am super fit’ if you are only just beginning your fitness journey. It’s better to create something that says where you are at right now or where you can feasibly be soon if you improve your confidence levels e.g. ‘I am getting stronger and fitter every day’ or ‘My fitness levels are improving each day’. Rather than ‘I am always confident at speaking to an audience’ you could try ‘My confidence in presenting my ideas to others is getting so much better.’

Consistency is key with getting your affirmations to manifest positive change in your life so make sure you say them regularly. Add them to your morning routine and assess the effect that they are having as part of a reflection process in the evening. You might even do some journalling on them in your bullet journal or other planner.

How to use positive affirmations to get you through a mental health bad patch

As some of my regular readers will know, I have suffered from episodes of anxiety and depression throughout my adult life and know how easy it is to get into a very negative mindset when you are struggling. I also know that that at times of really low mood, it is super hard to find anything positive to think let alone say out loud. However, if you at least try to treat yourself with kindness and compassion and accept where you are right now, you can find ways to come out of your mental health blip. In the past, I’ve used a small number of positive affirmations, chosen and written with the help of my wonderfully supportive husband, which have helped me and kept my mind focused on resilience and recovery. Below is the page which I produced in my bullet journal at a time in the past when I was having a hard time.

As you can see, they generally focus on accepting myself for who I am, recognising that I have it within me to get better and knowing that I am loved by others. Now, I know at the time, I found it difficult to say these affirmations and I remember tears forming as I read through them the first few times, but it did get easier after a while and I can confirm that I was strong enough, the bad patch did pass and I did get through it and come out of the other side. I’m not saying that the affirmations were the main reason that I got better but they certainly helped with the recovery process, a lot!

Some tips for creating positive affirmations when life is hard:

  • Think about the negative thoughts that enter your mind or negative self talk that you find yourself saying and try to turn it around e.g. ‘I’m so weak and pathetic’ could become ‘I am brave and strong’, ‘I’m never going to get better’ could be re-written as ‘This feeling will pass’. ‘I can’t do this any more’ can be changed to ‘I have the ability to cope’.
  • Check out Pinterest and look for affirmations which suit your current situation e.g. search affirmations for self love and kindness if you find yourself saying nasty things about yourself, look for confidence building affirmations if you find yourself lacking in this area right now.
  • Think about how unique you are and what is special about you. Ask for help on this if you need to from family members or friends. Write down your qualities in first person e.g. I am creative, I am kind to others, I always try my best etc.

Some of my current positive affirmations and why I chose them

  • I run a successful Etsy shop and customers love my products and personalised service. This one was chosen because I regularly have moments of self doubt when I haven’t had many orders, when my visitor count in low or I don’t get any feedback for a while.
  • Readers enjoy my blog posts and find them interesting and insightful. One to remind me that people like the content on my blog and I should keep going with it because I love writing it and I’m really passionate about making it a success.
  • I accept myself. Although I’m always working on self development stuff and new ways to manage my mental health, it’s really important that as I do this, I accept the way I am right now, just as others do.
  • My body is getting stronger and more toned every day. I’ve got a few affirmations related to fitness on my list right now and this is because I’ve recently be getting myself a little upset and disheartened about the fact that I haven’t really lost any weight despite working really hard. Both my husband and I have noticed my body changing and really toning up so this is a little reminder to myself to keep going.

I hope you have found today’s post useful and it has provided you with the encouragement needed to have a go at creating your own positive affirmations. Let me know in the comments what you want to work on right now and maybe share a couple of affirmations that you think you should add to your list.

Posted in Blogging, productivity, wellbeing, wellness

Keeping my distance: Life during lockdown for an office worker

This morning I received an email from my husband with his contribution to my how life has changed during the pandemic series of guest posts. He is only upstairs, but as he’s working on his computer, he decided to quickly attach his MS Word document and forward it to me rather than asking me to read it on his screen. So without further ado, here’s his summary on things.

Since March 23rd, when Boris Johnson made his announcement about social distancing, we have been spending much more time at home. My wife, Laura asked me to document some of the things that have changed for me personally, so here goes.

The good aspects of the lockdown

I work as a materials planner for factory and my place of work is a 30 mile commute from home. This means I am usually out of the house for 10 hours each week day, leaving at 6.30am and returning home by 5pm. Since I am now working from home, I get to spend more time with Laura. I’m also saving lots of money on fuel as I buy approximately £35.00 worth of diesel each week.

I am spending most of my day working in Laura’s ‘craft room’ (although I do manage on my laptop for the first half hour, sat at the dining table downstairs so I don’t wake my wife up tapping away on the keys!). When Laura gets up (usually around 7.30 – 8am, I’m able to take my things upstairs and spread out on her large desk, making use of the very comfortable office chair and connecting my laptop and keyboard to a large monitor, kindly loaned by work so I can actually see what I am doing on the various emails and spreadsheets! We are lucky as, with the nature of our business, we still have plenty of orders and with the factory operating with less staff we are probably busier than usual, especially as we have issues with getting hold of the materials from different sources as our suppliers are self isolating too.

Although Laura and I have the chance to converse more during the day, our company is still really busy with production and I am always typing away, making calls and having meetings. The only time I really see Laura, when I’m hard at work, is when she brings me coffee (and sometimes a biscuit or two!).

When I was at the office, I used to mainly spend my lunchbreak still sat at my computer but now I’m able to stretch my legs and enjoy my lunch at the dining table so my wife and I can spend quality time together, something we would never be able to do usually. I can also have a pop out into the garden and check out all of our various plants and see what needs to be done out there in terms of weeding, mowing the grass, digging etc. At weekends, there are of course all those little jobs in the house or garden to finally tick off as we are spending much more time at home.

The not so good aspects of the lockdown

When I first started working from home, I only had my laptop and keyboard and could barely see what I was doing. The company decided to arrange for us to have a monitor to use at home as ours are affixed to our desks in the office but I had to wait a while for this to be arranged and ended up having neckache each day and everything seemed to take twice as long to do. I’m getting used to the new way of working now but tasks still take a little longer as you can’t just pop over to a colleague’s desk to check something with them like I would usually do.

Laura and I used to enjoy getting out at weekends. These days we can’t really go out, except to the supermarket, which is now a stressful experience, queuing outside, trying to keep your distance from other customers. Trying not to touch my face whilst in the shop, or feeling like I’m nagging Laura to do the same. Some essentials, such as bread or vegetables are often sold out, so you have to go to ANOTHER shop even though we have been advised to only go to one place! When we return from the supermarket, there’s all the hand washing to be done, which has been making my already cracked and sore hands much worse.

Lots of other things have changed besides, too numerous to mention, or even worth thinking about without being overwhelmed. The situation is ever changing, but for the right reasons and will help us come out of this faster with less lives lost. Stay kind, stay safe.

Michael

Thanks to my wonderful husband for sharing his experiences. I am sure others who work in an office have had similar issues with setting up their space at home, although many of you probably have less to do or have to complete tasks a little differently. Also, now I know how much money we save in fuel costs, I’m thinking of all of the things I could buy with that £35.00 each week!