My Guide to Surviving Lockdown

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, our Product Development Team Lead, Matt Wilding-Ayre, speaks out about his mental health during lockdown and what processes he’s put in place to help him navigate the working week.

Isolation and remote working have taken a strain on me, even though I’ve done this before while running my own company with remote teams. Finding a routine that works, in these circumstances with social distancing, isn’t going to be easy for anyone.

Something I learned very early on in life is to not be hard on yourself; give yourself time to adjust and focus on a good routine that helps you identify when things aren’t working.

We’re all different in our likes and dislikes and all react differently to certain situations.

The telling reaction for me is always based on whether I balance my day with some exercise. If I sit around for a couple of days then, mentally, I will be low and probably short-tempered.

When I can manage to shuffle around the neighbourhood, even for 20 minutes, or attend one of my virtual training sessions, I find that my breakfast choice is healthier, I make more effort to FaceTime people instead of emailing them, and I even dedicate time to writing articles that hopefully people relate to.

What does a good day look like?

Alarm 7 am, that’s a lie-in for normal commuting and I appreciate it, get up and separate the cats to feed them. Loki is like a hungry hippo in the mornings, so Bella must be fed separately for safety issues.

Make a cup of tea and go back to bed. I don’t need to get up this early, but it helps me, and my family stay in a routine.

Read the news – not the social media news, the actual news. Flick through the BBC and Sky updates for a little while and then hit the social media news! Tea finished and it’s time for a run!

I must make myself do it – rain or shine. I have a couple of 3-5k routes locally that avoid human traffic and have a low percentage of electric cars (I can never hear them).

Post-run, it’s easy sailing: shower, healthy porridge breakfast, coffee pot on (with hazelnut milk), and then get comfy at the breakfast bar while checking my work comms. I like a podcast as I work through my emails and plan my day. Peter Crouch, Economist, BBC comedy, Data Crunch – anything that gives me some background noise. It weirdly reminds me of commuting, which I find comforting.

Team meeting at 10 am – always spend the first few minutes talking to everyone. It doesn’t matter that we overrun. I want to talk to people to get a sense of everyone’s balance for the day and really try and lighten the mood and have a little fun.

Getting through to lunch is easy. After lunch is when everything starts to slow down for me and the biscuit tin starts calling my name. I have no great secret for managing this, making biscuits unavailable helps, but today I eat a couple of digestives, make a cup of tea and get back into the swing of working. Pushing towards the magic end-of-day mark. Tomorrow, the tin may be empty….

During my run, I started thinking about my wider team and the lack of group contact we’ve had. This led to a brainwave to set up a pub quiz on a Friday afternoon. The bonus for me is a distraction, as pulling it together uses the creative side of my brain. That’s a win, plus it means I can have a beer after work on Friday – some normality at last!

I like to finish work promptly. Today, I have a natural stop point at 5.30 pm, and start to knock up a paneer vegetable curry. My wife works late, she tends to follow the course of the problem she is solving, which with 15,000 staff globally are many and varied in this climate.

But whatever happens, we come together and make dinner. It’s not always from scratch; sometimes we just warm something up and we might talk about work or we might not. Tonight, we talk about the pub quiz concept. She wants a copy for her team!

As we’ve recently had a lot of building work done, after-dinner is jobs and clean-up time. Following that, it’s watching some mindless rubbish on TV: MasterChef, Good Doctor, Cold Feet — just anything that isn’t intense or disturbing.

The day ends with a peppermint tea and bed, after fighting the cats again to their designated dinner spots.

Tomorrow I want to repeat this routine and use it to achieve more. It’s a good day and not all of them are this straightforward, but even the bad ones have a part of the routine and that helps me.