The year of the ‘New Normal’?
By Louise Ballantyne // On August 4, 2020
2020. Whatever way you look at it and whatever outlook you have on life, I think we can all agree that it hasn’t been a great year. For some, that sentence will be the biggest understatement, for others, perhaps it could have been worse. I’m sure though, for everyone, it’s relatable in some way.
As the country went into lockdown back in March, we adapted in whichever way we could. For some, a rollercoaster ride of emotions meant waves of optimism followed by waves of doom and gloom. For others, a new found motivation for cooking, DIY and home workouts kept them busy and enjoying the time at home. Some even treated the time like a lazy day in the Christmas holidays; binge watching TV series or films while eating your weight in banana bread delivered to your doorstep by your friend. Virtual quiz nights became a regular treat and seeing your friends on screen kept us sane.
Working from home raised challenges for some; internet issues maybe or getting caught on a Zoom call in your pyjamas, while others reaped the benefits; working from the sofa under a cosy blanket watching Holly and Phil discuss these ‘unprecedented times’.
Perhaps you are one of the many thousands of people who lost someone close. Grief is hard enough to deal with anyway, but nothing could ever prepare you for that overwhelming loss with nobody by your side to support you. When my Dad passed away last year, he was surrounded by loved ones. Loved ones who got the chance to say goodbye to him. Loved ones who then rallied together to care for each other, support each other through those hard times. His funeral, albeit a sad day was a chance to celebrate his life with the extended family and friends. We ate, we drank, we laughed, we cried. We did that together. My thoughts go out to all of those who didn’t get the chance to do that during the pandemic.
I’m a big believer of the saying “The hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life” and truly believe that the way we deal with adversity will strengthen our ability to grow, develop and conquer obstacles in the future.
Lockdown affected me in a number of ways. I struggle with lack of social contact so not seeing my family and friends for all those months was tough. The business I’d just launched had to stop trading, I didn’t qualify for any government support and I ended up on benefits for the first time in my life. My partner Mat lost his job and he too had to start claiming benefits. As I write this, we still don’t know where the next pay check is coming from. That’s the harsh reality for much of the country.
I could have let all of this get me down. I mean, starting/relaunching a business wasn’t the best decision but when I took the plunge, I could never have known what was impending. I left a well paid job in October last year to focus all my time and energy into my business. Although the business has been running since 2014, it was always a part time venture. I’d studied hard, I’d done my research, I’d developed partnerships and was ready to go for it. October to December exceeded expectations and it was going well. We flew into the New Year (quite literally as we spent most of January in Thailand) feeling optimistic and excited about the future, working remotely from beach cafes and poolside hammocks, hopeful that this would be a sign of things to come.
February and the start of March, again, were great. A few teething problems, as you’d expect with any new business, meant long days and some trial and error but still, full of positivity, optimism and pride that our hard work was paying off.
The day lockdown was announced, I think my initial reaction was much like most of the country. A bit of shock, denial, amusement, even and worry. The uncertainty and ‘new-ness’ of it all was daunting but surely it couldn’t be as bad as they were making out, could it?
Of course it could. We are now 139 days in of gyms and schools being closed. Gyms and schools are what allowed those first few months of business to go so well, so I’m sure you can imagine the impact it had on us.
“The hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life.”
I am not yet out of the hard times but I am very confident that I can look back on this in the future and know that it led to something great. I choose to believe that. Just like I choose to make the most out of the situation.
During lockdown, I had days that I didn’t get dressed. I had days where I didn’t workout. I had days when I ate pizza for breakfast and drank alcohol for lunch. I had days that I didn’t speak to anyone other than Mat. I made sure though, that these days weren’t routine.
For the most part, I got into a solid routine; working out in the morning, eating healthy and nutritious food for every meal and working at the desk to ensure I remained focussed. I set boundaries. I got up at the same time every day, I started and finished work at the same time every day and in the evenings, I taught myself how to relax.
Pre lockdown, I was in a terrible habit of finishing work, but then continuing to work, almost subconsciously as I sat in front of the TV. I’d make a fuss about watching a film and then sit on my phone, completely disengaged and not really sure what was going on. I’d start reading a book, yet never finish it. I’d buy colouring books or magazines in another attempt to find something I could do to switch off but they’d gather dust and eventually be used to start the fire.
Lockdown taught me to enjoy my own company, to really switch off and be present in the moment. Lots of time without my phone, lots of time outdoors and lots of time spent doing random things that I really enjoyed.
My working day was very different to normal. If you know me, you’ll know that my day to day work is usually very varied. I contract in schools across Tayside and Fife so I would normally spend part of my day commuting and then working with groups of young people in school gyms or classrooms working to enhance their confidence, improve behaviour and increase team work through fitness and physical activity. I also offer personal and small group training, so travel to various gyms, sports teams or community groups to delivery fitness or nutrition workshops. Work from home was normal for me and when we returned from Thailand, I finally got my studio gym ready to take clients. This was something I’d wanted for a while so was so excited when I opened the doors in February to my first local clients. All of that had to stop immediately and so working from home now meant long days sat at the laptop; planning for the future, studying and programming for online clients.
The sudden change of lifestyle, of course had an impact on me. I’d gone from being on the go for 12 hours a day to being sat at the laptop for 12 hours a day, but I can honestly say I used my time wisely and whenever this crazy world changes enough for me to get back out there and do what I love, I am so ready. I got all the boring admin jobs done that I have put off for ages, I got myself qualified in other areas which I have wanted to do but haven’t had the time, I got my finances in order and I generally got myself and my business organised. I should add here however, that I didn’t do this alone. I got myself a coach, but that’s a story for another day.
I have no idea when I will be allowed back into schools (yes, they have a date for reopening and pupils returning but they will be treading with caution, and many want a trial run with core staff before bringing external contractors in). Gyms have been given the 14th September to reopen so I can only hope at that point, I can get back to training clients in my studio and visit other gyms to deliver training or workshops. Without sounding negative in a post that aims to highlight positivity, I am not holding my breath and am simply taking each day as it comes. The rise in cases and the delay in opening certain industries in England may be a reality check of what’s to come in Scotland, who knows? We are being told to adapt to the ‘new normal’ but how can we do that when it changes daily? How can we do that when we don’t know what the ‘new normal’ is? The unknown and uncertainty is overwhelming, but I’m just going with the flow, seeing every step forward as a positive one and making the most of what I do have. I’ll keep working hard and I’ll keep adapting to whatever is thrown at us next. If I didn’t, I’d be giving up and giving up would mean no longer believing that what I am doing is worth it.