What I learnt from my last 6 month lock-down

Hi everyone, I’m Mel Cunningham. I’m VPM for both Oxford Orators and Didcot Speakers clubs, and I’m in the process of completing level 5 of the Dynamic Leadership pathway. I’m a headshot, event and scientific conference photographer and like all of us, my working and personal life has recently been jackknifed into lockdown.

This weekend, I was delighted to deliver a keynote speech at District Joy’s International Speech contest via zoom. It was the story about how I survived a medically induced six month lock down several years ago.

I was forced to let go of the hectic life I had, and make some seriously drastic changes to my attitude, outlook and priorities. I had to battle with months and months of being unwell, fear I would never recover and many unhelpful suggestions.

I’d like to share what I learnt then, to help you persevere through our current lockdown to prevent the spread of COV-19. I have also written the full story for you to fully understand my journey or you can watch the video of the speech.

Lesson number 1: Accept that this is the now. Now is all there is. There is no fighting or changing it. It’s a realisation that will come to you in an instant or gradually. 

Reading or rereading Eckhardt Tolle ‘The Power of Now’ is my best suggestion.

Lesson number 2. Establish whether you are a moving or a still meditation person. And practice that every day. Doesn’t have to be crack of dawn nonsense, just when you need it. Now, I am a crack of dawn person, but that’s my superpower. 

Try a few tai chi or qigong videos and discover if you need gentle movement to still your mind and breath into a meditative state.  

Lesson number 3: Celebrate and appreciate the simple in your surroundings. Find something joyful, peaceful or uplifting every day to celebrate. 

I’ve started a private instagram account to select one image of peace that I share with my lock down buddy, Mackenzie, my dog. I would encourage you to do something similar, like 100 days of happiness or the daily moments of calm instagram projects. 

Lesson number 4: A bucket list. Though I liken it to something that sounds very similar.

When this is over, I’m spending as much time as possible walking and protecting the elephants. That was how I celebrated the end of my last lock down and I intend, if possible, to do the same, this time. Figure out what is truly important for you to do, change or prioritise.

Lesson number 5. Always ask your best friends and family for help. Or strangers. Inbetween doesn’t seem to work when you are struggling.

My life during my first lockdown wouldn’t have been anything without my two best friends who lived with or next door to me, and my two best friends in foreign countries, staying in touch virtually. You’ll be amazed at the support, advice and love you receive, if you ask. 

Lesson number 6. When it ends, there is SO MUCH JOY, it’s almost hard to contain. But there is also one final trap we all need to prepare for upon release. There will be alot of anger, resentment and frustration at having to rebuild your/our lives again. 

This is my personal lesson, because in the end, I needed alot of counselling, therapy and support to recreate my life again.  We will all going need to invest in this to recover and rebuild.

Lesson 7. Nurture and maintain virtual relationships, to be as strong as in person ones. They aren’t the same, but they are currently the best we have. It’s an opportunity to embrace technology to support and supplement our relationships.

Total plug here: With my professional photographer’s eye and some surprising hacks for tricking the crappy computer camera, there’s so many ways to ensure that your virtual connection continues to be strong. 

It’s all in the quality of the image you share, because we rely on someone’s visual cues to connect emotionally. If you can’t be seen clearly or see someone else clearly, it might cost you some of that connection, the relationship or your business or job. 

If you are struggling and would like a ‘light me up in the zoom’ session, please do get in touch. It’s already proving to be incredibly effective for doctors working online, academics sharing their research and simply keeping families connected. 

Lesson number 8. Go back to Lesson 1. Repeat, especially when we are not in lockdown.

My experience was personal, but not unique. There are many people who have been through a similar experience for various reasons, and many who are still suffering, with no possibility of their situation changing. I was fortunate to have escaped, and have had a chance to reflect and now another chance to put what I learnt back into practice. I believe this current global situation has many personal and universal lessons for us all, if we are prepared to embrace them. I hope one or all of my personal lessons will help you now.

Mel Cunningham – mel@vivaciousmelphotography.com www.vivaciousmelphotography.com

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