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Working from home and keeping up wellbeing - how did the GCPH team find the balance during the pandemic?

21 Dec 2021 | Sheena Fletcher

The GCPH team was, and continues to be, very fortunate that we are able to work flexibly and from home without too much disruption. This is a privilege we recognise that many do not have and one which we greatly appreciate. 

Despite the relative ease with which we were able to transition to home-working, the upheaval that the pandemic mitigation measures have on people’s everyday lives, plus the mental health impact of living through such a globally stressful time are not to be underestimated.

The ways in which we are looking after our health and wellbeing started as an internal team conversation but we thought it would be nice to share how staff cope with these pressures and what they do to help themselves in these very odd and unsettling times. 

Bruce Whyte 

Almost every day over the last 16 months I have begun the day with a walk around our local park with our collie-lab cross, Lola. Doing this so regularly, I’m much more aware of the seasons and the weather. Maybe surprisingly for a wet place like Glasgow, it has mostly been dry but there have also been days of extremes, including hailstones and blizzards!

Sunlit winter scene with trees and a frozen pond

I have got to know a lot of fellow dog walkers, something that would never have happened had I been commuting to work each day. For me, and I think for many people I have met, being able to have a chat and share our lockdown experiences, uncertainties and anxieties has been a welcome bit of normality throughout a difficult period. 

Carol Frame 

Having spent the first few months of lockdown doing very little exercise, I decided to buy a fit bit to hopefully get me moving more. I aimed to do 10,000 steps every day come rain or shine and I surprised myself by actually doing it most days. I feel it really clears my head just to get out of the house and walk in the fresh air.

Carol standing in front of scenery including mountains and a loch

I also try to go rambling in the countryside and do a bit of hill walking as often as I can where I find the stunning scenery really improves my mental health. 

Monique Campbell 

Taking photographs of nature every day makes me feel better – calmer, more hopeful and inspired. There’s a whole other world that opens when you look at everyday things from a different angle.

A rainbow in a moody sky with a house and tree in the foreground

Shruti Jain 

Like so many others I found lockdown tough, really tough. I found that establishing a routine during the week that included plenty of exercise helped me to not only stay active but also mentally strong. I started Tai Chi where I was able to join a new community online. This helps me to incorporate controlled breathwork into my day, which helps to calm my mind and ease anxious feelings. I also enjoy long walks where we stay, and this allows me the opportunity to listen to my books, catch up with a friend or just relax and have fun outdoors all whilst enjoying breath-taking views of the Pentland Hills.

Shruti standing in a field of yellow flowers

Picture of me re-enacting scenes from the 1995 Bollywood film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in nearby fields much to my husband's amusement.

Jennifer McLean 

For me, like many of my colleagues, walking has been my ‘thing’ during the pandemic and during my time working from home. Walking alone or with friends has really helped both my physical and mental wellbeing, along with an appreciation for the beautiful place that I live in.

A path surrounded by fallen autumn leaves and tall trees

At the end of a day in front of my laptop the opportunity to get some fresh air, to plug in and listen to some music, to take the time to process the day and the opportunity to get some gentle exercise has been my saviour in so many way. I even took on my fourth ‘Kiltwalk’ with friends along the south Ayrshire coast in April, a day focused on charity, friendship, sunshine and sore feet by the end! 

Mairi Young 

I’ve always loved gardening but in 2020, it became everything to my family. It meant we could keep our 3-year-old occupied (and out of our work Zoom calls) during the nursery closures, we’d often have neighbours round for an evening drink so we didn’t all feel so isolated, and even in the dead of winter at -4c, we’d be out there with the blankets and firepit: something we’d never have done in the past. It gave us a sanctuary to escape to, physically and mentally.

View of Mairi's garden with a cup of coffee in the foreground held in her hand

I took up the C25K challenge in Autumn 2020 and have been running 2-3 times a week ever since. Being in the fresh air, on my own, listening to podcasts, really helped to reduce the anxiety I didn’t even know I had. 

Cat Tabbner

Before the pandemic, I’d walk in my local park fairly often. Since Covid and lockdown restrictions, I have been walking in my park as much as I can. At first, I went to my park for practical reasons – fresh air, some space, exercise and sunlight. These reasons are still important to me, but I have also encountered surprises that keep me getting out and about. I have spotted wildlife I haven’t seen before, like kingfishers, and I have unexpectedly seen friends and colleagues. Wildlife sightings and socially distanced catch up chats with people have been a real joy and have brought some spontaneity back – little moments that have made a big difference.

Snowdrops in bloom

Seeing seasonal changes has also been a bonus. Snowdrops in February this year were a welcome sight as I knew it meant spring was on its way, with longer light hours and hope for some summer sunshine. 

The importance of local environments

A common theme running through all of this is the importance of our local environments to support physical exercise and both physical and mental health – an issue that has featured in much of our research over the years. 

The next transition to some form of hybrid working will bring a whole different set of challenges, however with our learning from the past two years we can approach these with perhaps less trepidation than the initial lockdown. And now we’re off for a walk!

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