Are you feeling the pandemic dip? It’s perfectly normal, it’s all part of the pandemic challenge curve…

This week feels like a bit of a momentous week in a lot of ways. I don’t mind saying that I was dreading my 40th birthday this year, but actually, I had a fantastic day. Now that it’s all over, I can relax and get stuck into the next decade and what the future holds.

I feel it’s not just me starting a new era.  We’ve had the announcement this week with new government recommendations that we go back to working from home as much as possible. We’re told it’s likely to remain the norm for the next six months or more.  It feels like we’ve moved into a new phase in our pandemic journey.

I think there’s a few different camps of people.

There’s those, perhaps like myself, who have worked from home for a long time. In some respects, it was never a big upheaval, although the home schooling, sharing my office with my husband etc, was not easy!  As lockdown eased, I’ve very much enjoyed being able to get out to the coffee shop for a couple of hours every week. I’ve even managed one trip into the office to catch up on six months of post!

But then I know there’s another camp of people who were really looking forward to going back into the office. Particularly those who live alone or haven’t got family commitments, many very much wanted to get back into the office. The recent announcement has left them disappointed that they’re not able to go back into the office and they’re going to be at home again, feeling a bit isolated.

There’s a third group of people, I think.  Those who were mostly happy working from home, but they really thought that this situation was coming to an end.  Not only the work situation, but the restrictions on seeing family, going out, on living their lives again.

I’ve heard the pain in people’s voices this week when they’ve said, “I really thought that we were moving forward and that we were coming to the end of this.” And this now jolt into accepting that this is our reality for the next six months, is difficult and even the most positive are struggling.

I really thought we were moving forward and we were coming to the end of this…

 anI think we might all feel a bit like this at different points in time.

You may have heard of the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, also known as the grief curve.  The wonderful Rachel Flower talks about this in some detail on my podcast episode you can find here. We’ve certainly seen this emotional curve throughout this pandemic.

There’s the high feeling, “It’s great. I’m spending time at home. The sun is shining.” And then we’re down because we haven’t seen our friends or family, or we’re struggling with having children and other halves at home and still trying to do a full-time job.

Feelings are up and down like a roller coaster, and I think this latest announcement is just another wave of that. In March, we were told we’d be in lockdown for perhaps three months.  I personally thought “We can do this for three months. It could be exciting. It could be an adventure. It’s something different.” But now we’re six months in and we’ve been told this is potentially a situation that’s going to go on for another six months or more. We’re looking at a year.

A year is a huge part of any of our lives.  For our children, and even for us. It’s a large part of our lives and our careers/businesses.  There’s still so much uncertainty about what the future is going to hold.

As human beings, we’re not great with uncertainty. As lawyers, we’re even worse with uncertainty.

It’s part of the nature of our jobs that we create certainty for clients, and without that, we perhaps feel a bit lost. I think there’s a lot of people who will at one point or another, feel stuck and lost again. That we can’t see where the end is to this situation.

I’ve read the comments of Dr Aisha Ahmed who is familiar with working in disaster zones.  She had some really interesting observations about the life of a crisis and how people cope. It was note worthy that at six months into a crisis, is when people really hit a dip, and that of course is exactly where we are now, six months into the pandemic in the UK. Now with no sign of things changing anytime soon.

The six month point can feel difficult and challenging especially when you can’t see the future anymore. You can’t see a way out or when things are going to change again.

But on the positive side, Dr Ahmed predicts that this six month dip, lasts about four to five weeks or so.  Then we start to be able to see yourself coming out the other side, to see the future again.

I wanted to share that with you. Because if you or someone you know is in that dip right now, this might give you a bit of hope that firstly, this feeling is normal.  It’s part of the normal life cycle of a challenging pandemic!  In a fairly short time, we will all start to see a bit more light at the end of the tunnel.

Secondly, what can we do to help ourselves in this fresh challenge to keep as positive, upbeat and as in control of our own lives as we possibly can?

My top tip would be always go back to the basics. When we’re struggling, stressed out, when we feel that everything is out of our control, the very first thing we need to do is go back to the basics of human survival.

Trying to get enough sleep, drinking enough water. Making sure you’re eating throughout the day, getting some vitamins and minerals. Getting out and for some fresh air, spending a little bit of time in nature.

They seem so obvious and when we’re busy and hard at work, it’s easy to push these things to the side, but they are the basic blocks of what keep us going. It’s really important when we’re struggling that we try and make time for these simple things, and sleep would always be the first one for me.

We can cope with anything better if we have enough sleep. So that’s really, really important.

Another thing that we can do is to keep connected with people that we know help us to feel better. So whoever that is for you, it could be a networking group, your friends or your family. It could be your team at work. Who keeps you feeling afloat, who keeps you feeling positive?

I saw an article this week about lawyers (especially family lawyers) feeling isolated. This got me thinking about what tips I would give to them. Obviously there’s what you can do within your own team, but if you find you’re not getting the support that you want from within your team, what else can you do?

There are some fantastic resources out there.  I want to give a big mention to Sally Penni and her organisation, Women in Law UK.  Sally is doing fantastic work in relation to supporting and keeping people connected by providing really useful trainings as well as networking. I would recommend having a look at some of the webinars available here. Some amazing connections have grown over the last six months.

I also have a Facebook Group for members of the legal profession where we share our highs and lows of the week, again do some networking and be a source of support for each other, you are welcome to join us here.  

So, those are some of my thoughts, on where we are right now, as we start the next phase of our pandemic journey. And once again, it makes me wonder about what the future has in store for our profession. If we’ve all been working from home for a year, potentially by the time we start to come out of this, what will our profession look like? What will the office environment look like? Will we all be so used to working from home and that we don’t want to go back? Or will we all be desperate to get back the first chance we get?

I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens. But at the same time, I understand there are so many challenges, right now and to come. Whatever I can do to support, please do get in touch.

As always, I’d love your feedback, comments or questions so do feel free to get in touch at hannah@authenticallyspeaking.co.uk. In the meantime stay safe and take care. 

Don’t forget to check out my podcast #FridayConversations the law in lockdown and beyond and the new podcast Build Your Legal Business

Hannah x

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