We are all beginning to settle into our ‘new normal’ routines with school, work and home life. No one will deny that this has been a very challenging time for everyone. I don’t know about you, but I find it mindboggling yet somewhat comforting all at the same time that the whole world is going through this. I feel as if in some ways I am in a state of suspended animation while nature carries on with it’s awakening into spring. Hour by hour I can watch the river change from mat ice to reflective water. Gulls have come back, cackling in the time just before sunrise, and gathering in groups on the thin ice. Magpies are noisily gathering nest materials and busy pairs of coal tits chirp in the bare branches of the trees outside my window. The ever present pigeons are still taking their daily stroll along the riverside walkway constantly searching for food: no doubt bewildered at where the humans with their bags of bread have gone.
Shoots of green are appearing in the bare earth. Earth that until a couple of weeks ago were covered with deep blankets of snow. Bulbs are pushing through bravely, grass changing from yellow to green and, if you look very carefully, there are buds forming on some trees. The birches are not yet ready to show that they are awake but we know that in a short time they will be covered in bright green leaves shimmering and rustling in the breeze.
Meanwhile we are adapting to our life of confinement. We all understand the reasons and appreciate everything that the local authorities are doing to protect us. We worry about family and friends in different cities and countries yet are helpless to do anything to help or change the situation that we find ourselves in. We are all going to experience many different emotional stages during these times but not necessarily in the same order:
Optimism: This is great; we can spend more time together as a family; I can get all those jobs done that I am always so busy to do; I can learn/improve a skills; start a new hobby.
Determination: You feel less positive but you are determined to keep going and stick to some kind of routine and follow a schedule.
Satisfaction and frustration: Sometimes you get a lot done, other times you just cannot focus on anything or complete anything and you move between these states.
Depression: This is hard. Boredom begins to settle in. Your routine, or lack of routine, might not be working for you. You are restless, cannot concentrate. You reflect more on missing going out or meeting friends and family. You might feel demotivated, hopeless, a sense of despair.
Anger: Anger about the situation, the confinement, the lack of an end. Irritated by others in your house, irritated by the smallest things.
Acceptance: Carry on doing whatever is in your control and letting go of what is not in your control. Remembering that all this is necessary and that you are helping to prevent the spread of this virus.
Up until yesterday I thought I was coping well. I was asked only a few days ago where I thought I was on this diagram. I felt that I was well on the way to the outer rim… but something shook me yesterday and I have no idea what it was. In my role as a leader in a British International School supporting and guiding others is my focus. I send a motivational message to all our WhatsApp groups, remind everyone that I am here to listen. I answer numerous emails reassuring my wonderful team of what a great job they are doing, I continue to be a sounding board for those whose worries impact on our school community but are, in reality, much wider. How much support do I get? Good questions that is relevant for every senior leader whether in a global pandemic or not. Who do you turn to to vent your frustration, your worries, your doubts, self-doubts… I am fortunate that I do have several friends who are teachers and leaders and are willing (sometimes) to listen but everyone’s context is different and points of reference differ. Within my own leadership team there are two people that I know that I can count on – but have I ever really been open and honest with them? Yes, there are times when we can all share our shared challenges.
So what happened yesterday? It was a lovely sunny day…all I have said above stands about spring and the changing views from my window. I just could not shake the blanket of anxiety and stress that I felt around me. Try as I might I could not pin point what, who or why I was feeling this way. And then it lifted – I did nothing different apart from lie down and watch another episode of the Crown. Still self-searching I could find no reason for my feelings previously. I have woken today to a dull, wet morning yet my spirits are lifted and ready for a day or…the same!
How are you coping?