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Being Productive During Lockdown: A Graduate’s Perspective

Charlie Denning is a graduate of BA Fine Art and started a new role as a Co-ordinator for the NUA Art Collection just before lockdown started. 

Charlie shares what it’s like to start a job during Covid-19 lockdown and how she is keeping proactive and adjusting her focus and expectations.

Charlie Denning

Mental health and the ‘new normal’

‘Normal’ for a lot of people, myself included, is currently not an option. Our ‘normal’ behaviours and way of thinking is currently non-existent. But there are strategies we can adopt to help our mental health: answering the three questions below can help start your day.

Before lockdown, I had mostly good days, and could answer the following questions positively: “can I get out of bed today?”, “can I shower?”, “can I get dressed?”.

In lockdown, it’s more difficult for me to do these things, whilst suffering with depression. But it’s about the little victories; helping ourselves into as much ‘normality’ as possible. 

“You’re busy when you’re dressed. You don’t have to wear what you wear at work, could you imagine sitting at home in a suit, or a company-embroidered polo shirt? Me neither.”

Charlie Denning

Bletchley, Charlie Denning

So what do I do to stay productive?

For me, getting dressed in the current situation is incredibly important as it helps focus the mind into ‘get up and do something’ mode (I do miss pyjama days though).

You’re busy when you’re dressed.

I also separate my workspace from my relax-space which is important for managing a work-home balance psychologically.

I’m lucky because my house isn’t full of people; I live with my partner and my dog, both of whom are supportive during my bad days and help lift my mood. I create and currently work from home in my spare room; my desk is next to a large window so I can have fresh air and sunlight (the downside is the lack of a view and the distance from the kettle!). 

Charlie Denning's lockdown workspace

Does it always work? No.

Making sure that I don’t do any ‘relax’ activities when at my desk (like playing Animal Crossing) is very important for my creativity. But silence is deafening so I turn music on because I can sing along terribly and create at the same time.  

These strategies aren’t fool proof. Living with depression isn’t black and white. I can answer ‘yes’ to my morning questions, only to find myself staring out of my window for hours. Looking at work in progress and deciding that it’s not that great or opening a sketchbook for a new idea and losing motivation completely.

“It’s not forever, just for now. “

Westlegate, Charlie Denning

If you are struggling, reach out to your support network.

Video chat is an amazing way of helping us connect with those closest to us. Social distancing is only physical.

Losing time, motivation, or self-confidence because our mental health is currently not where we do our best is natural in the current situation and is nothing to feel guilty about. 

Neither is having a self-care day. Personally, it is better if I find something mindless to do; crocheting, reading, or playing video games.

You do not have to constantly be creating and will be forgiven if you wake up and answer ‘no’ to the first three questions, spend the day in your pyjamas, drink 40 cups of tea and only eat chocolate biscuits. Because we all need a day like that every once in a while. 

As one of my old counsellors told me: it’s not forever, just for now. 

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