COVID-19: A personal reflection

About hugging trees, dancing in the streets with neighbours and finding solidarity in times of crisis. Simone Heath runs Human Resources at Qadre and reflects on how the global pandemic and lockdown has impacted her life in Isle of Man (IOM). 

COVID-19 is without doubt, the most awful thing that’s happened in my lifetime.

At first it just felt overwhelming, we’re constantly surrounded by terrifying data and statistics. It left me living in fear for those I love, and for my own sanity. Everywhere you turned, it was there, as a gloomy reminder. 

It seemed to bring out the bad side of some, seeing how they bulk bought in supermarkets with little consideration for others who couldn’t afford to, or those who were too busy working on the front line to be able to shop and get the essentials they needed. People clearly ignoring the two metre rule. I still think they should have issued us all a two meter long cow prod. That would have been a very useful tool. There is still time.

The reality of what is happening was just too much. I felt consumed in a cycle of anger, worry, anxiety, and repeat, and I really felt it tipping my mental health into a not so great place, so I did the only thing I knew, I removed myself from everything in an attempt to rebalance and be present in the now. 

I am not connected to any form of social media, just LinkedIn for work.  I don’t watch or read the news.I just get my daily local update at 4pm. This isn’t ignorance or denial. I am perfectly aware of what’s going on, and the dangers. I know I cannot change it, all I can do is manage my thoughts, and change how I think and feel to make this rollercoaster as bump free as possible. 

I didn’t realise just how much time I spent on social media before I decided to close all my accounts, so all of a sudden, I had hours of time on my hands. I started to read again – I’ve always been a bookworm, so instead of twiddling on Facebook until the early hours, I refound my love for words and often found myself waking up with my face on the book I had found myself lost in the night before.  I love writing, and have been spending a lot of time on a personal project. I’ve also started crafting again, which is something I’ve always loved, so Christmas 2020 cards are all done and dusted! 

I’ve got a Tiny Buddha Gratitude Journal, I’ve had it since Christmas, and this really helps me to remember the things I felt grateful for. It can be so easy to focus on the bad things and on the anxiety and worry, but just being grateful for the little things helps to keep you present, and mindful. I’ve a lot to be thankful for.

COVID-19 has been a sad, but true reminder about how finite life is, and a reminder of the importance to never leave things until tomorrow that you can do today.

I’m not talking about housework here, I’m talking about relationships. Seeing friends, family, relatives. I won’t speak for all of you, but despite my best efforts, I don’t keep in touch with my wider family and friends as much as I should, despite all good intentions.  All of a sudden, I became very conscious of my cousin who is a nurse on the island, of my cousin stranded out in Czech on his own, my other cousin who works as a hospice nurse and was tested for the virus, luckily not positive, but all these people I love and care about, but don’t reach out to enough. So I have, and I’ll keep in touch. It’s horrid it took such an event to remind me, but I truly hope it’s not a lesson I forget in a hurry. 

I don’t know many of my neighbours that well, despite living in my little home for eight years now, but since the virus, we’ve had dancing in the street (meant to be an exercise class, but I much prefer to jump around with reckless abandon!)  every evening, and sat in gardens when the sun has been out celebrating Howard ‘O Clock, named after our esteemed chief minister Howard Quayle who delivers an update daily on the virus , and drives the nation to drink, in a nice way! I hope these new found friendships will continue.

Solidarity found through tough times is a true blessing. 

I feel so grateful for my daily escape from the house. I’ve noticed nature more than ever. Hearing the birds singing, the river bubbling, the general stillness. I go for an hour, but it’s an hour of peace that offers a sanctuary from the reality our world currently lives in. I’m choosing to live my reality with the trees and the rivers where I can.

When we’ve done the clap for carers, it’s been incredibly emotional, hearing people from afar whooping, cheering, clapping, all for the amazing NHS and carers. I have people I love working in such roles and I admire them beyond measure for their bravery.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried during the first event, it felt very emotional, it felt like a connection to all the other people out there, we’re all isolated, yet together. It felt a comfort in such challenging times.

Watching communities come together has been incredible. Our small manx (Isle of Man) community has shown it can still function in the face of adversity, small cafes, shops, restaurants, being creative, offering take out, offering delivery, all doing their best to keep their heads above water, it’s really quite remarkable, and I really hope it enables them to stay afloat until all of this is over. 

It’s also really made me think about the way I shop. I already buy many things locally, but this pandemic has made me feel incredibly grateful for all the local suppliers. Howard Quayle reported  that the IOM could self sustain for six months, simply on the IOM produce we create. That’s incredible, don’t you think? Keep it local, I say.

In terms of work too, the virus has had a huge impact there too. We’ve caught up by zoom call over day since the virus took a grip. It’s lovely to see our team, I know this sounds mushy, (but anyone who knows me well enough knows I am an emotional person at the best of times), but I feel it’s really helped us to gel more as a team. We’re split site, so half on the IOM, half in London, so this online team chat has been lovely. I’m sure it’s been responsible for saving my sanity!

Last week we did a quiz with the Qadre team, we sat together for a couple of hours answering a heap of very random questions, lots of fun and laughter, but most importantly, we learnt about each other. Whoever knew that in our team we had a crocodile wrestler, a ballet dancer and a professional cup stacker, you won’t find that on their LinkedIn profile!

We’re also doing a daily marathon challenge during April. Each day, we’re counting our miles collectively as a team, and smashing the marathon daily. Go Team Qadre! Again, this sounds vomity, but a daily marathon on your own probably isn’t possible for most of us (especially when we’re restricted to our outdoor activity and social distancing), but together, as a team, we’re achieving it. That feels great, and I’m proud of us! Can’t wait to see how well we do by the end of the month. 

I really feel that I’ve got the opportunity to be a better person because of everything that’s happened. It’s made me appreciate all I have, and I can’t wait for this to be over, everyone I love is getting the biggest hug ever. I’ve spent the past two weeks hugging trees. I need to stop before I’m arrested for breaching social distancing rules. 

I’d love to know how the COVID-19 crisis  has helped to change you too. Let’s not let this experience be wasted. 

Simone is HR, Recruitment and Executives’ Manager at Qadre. Find her on LinkedIn to share your experience of the lockdown and global pandemic.

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