Getting through Lockdown- hear from Sarah, Learning & Development Supervisor.

We asked Sarah, our L&D Supervisor, to share how she’s been coping with the change and uncertainty that coronavirus has brought over the past few months.

Sarah’s been really honest about the challenges she’s faced as she adjusted to lockdown- working from home, managing childcare and keeping her own mental health in check.

Despite the challenges, there are some positives she’s been able to take from the experience, and she’s now using her experiences to connect with and support colleagues across the organisation (read on to find out how!)

Here’s Sarah’s story…

The day I left the office and my colleagues for lockdown was 18/03/20.

I said goodbye to my colleagues and wished them ‘good health’. Like so many others across the country, I packed up as much essential equipment as I would need to continue working, but from home.

As I sat in the car park with my stuff packed into the back, there was a moment of reflection and realisation.

I was leaving a place of significant importance to me.

I could feel it. I felt sad. I don’t think I had ever paid much attention to how much I actually enjoyed coming to the office. I simply took it for granted.

Two weeks passed. Organisations began to shut down due to lockdown measures. I found myself as not only a training supervisor but a teacher to my youngest child. I began to feel the pressure. My coping mechanisms and social support such as my gym classes, Monday night maths class, family and friends, I could no longer access- at least not in the usual ways.

I bypassed ‘anxiety’ and literally fell into a pit of ‘panic’. This was of course exacerbated by news clips of the mounting death tolls & economic impact that the pandemic was causing, not only in Britain but globally. I felt sad, unmotivated, anxious and a little lonely.

I decided I needed to find new ways to seek out social support, so I began regular FaceTime with family & close friends. I put all my friends in a WhatsApp group. I facilitated 6 weeks worth of video quizzes, we sent each other memes, laughed and bickered a bit too. It was all very normal. I posted about our quiz on my facebook and others asked to join, which was great! We all felt the same and for me it was comforting just to be once again engaging with others.

I don’t believe my experience of lockdown is abnormal, strange or extraordinary. After talking to others, I believe quite the opposite. I think we all have shared similar feelings of disconnect, sadness, lacking in motivation and feeling a little bit lost. For some, I know it’s much worse.

I recently took part in a Mental Health Livestream with colleagues from across the Citizens Advice network, who like me, want to share personal experiences, and raise awareness of those who, due to their mental health, may feel particularly vulnerable during this period.

This was extremely important to me because whilst I am so many other things- a single mum, a daughter, a friend, a learning and development supervisor and (after two gins!) an excellent dancer. I do have mental health issues. I have bipolar and in 2014 I suffered an extremely debilitating psychotic break. Thankfully, I have remained symptom free during lockdown.

The key for me is social support. A sentiment echoed by those on the panel of the Livestream. Therefore, I have started a Peer Support Group on workplace for staff and volunteers who, for whatever reason, feel particularly disconnected.

The group provides an opportunity to share your experience, offer support to others, share things that make you happy, whether that be art, music, cooking or tapestry.

I would be super interested to see your creative skills.

As the Peer Support Group is user led, it’s our space to use and design how we please. If anyone has any ideas or would like to showcase their skills. I would love to hear from you!

As I was writing this. I realised whilst lockdown has been a strange experience, there have been positives. The positive I’m taking forward is that it’s been an opportunity to learn and develop different ways to connect to others. My favourite is video calling, or it became my favourite once I got over my cats making their sudden appearance at the screen, my children dancing in the background and the untimely knock on the door by the Amazon delivery driver!

Stay well everyone

Sarah x

Comms and Engagement Lead working with Citizens Advice Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale and Trafford