Like most, I hadn’t heard of the term “furlough” before the pandemic. That changed when my employer informed I was to be furloughed for the month of May. My first instinct was “Hurrah! A whole month off and being paid for it!” shortly followed by “What am I going to do for 31 days when I can’t go out of the house. And will I have a job to go back to?”
Some colleagues chose to use their time off to volunteer for other charities. Because I had private consulting work, along with IoF activities and family commitments, this wasn’t a viable option. Not being one to sit about and watch telly, I set myself four personal goals each day or “My Furlough Four.” These goals aimed to keep my mind and body engaged, and to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. Those family members locked down with me were “included” in my quest and we discussed my progress around the dinner table each night.
1. Learn a new fact – My family moved house in December, and our new home is surrounded by farmland. Before I moved here, I was sure that I knew quite a bit about all-things-country. I know now this is not true. Eight of my learned facts were about animals, including squirrels sleep in dens called dreys (fact 1), reindeer’s eyes change colour depending on the season (fact 10), and a family of peacocks (and peahens) is called a bevy (fact 21). My husband and sons are scientific, so I also learned several facts about science, including that Alfred Nobel not only gave his name to the infamous 5 prizes but also invented dynamite (fact 4). Many of my learned facts were about food (and drink) because they seemed to be the few pleasures allowed during lockdown.
2. Minimum of 30 minutes of activity – Because government guidelines allowed for only one hour of activity outside the house each day, my activity primarily consisted of taking walks. I walked just shy of 70 miles during the month – nearly far enough to get me across to the other side of the country (though I’d have to catch a train back!) I also spent a good deal of time in the garden and even got on the bike a few times.
3. 10 minutes of Yoga – Working from home in April had caused me some lower back problems – I blame the endless Zoom calls – and so yoga helped me focus on my posture and strengthening my back. But more than that, it helped clear my mind and concentrate on the now. Over the month, I spent 6 hours in total doing yoga.
4. Connect with friends and family – Feeling the strain of being socially distanced from others during this time, I felt it important I didn’t become socially isolated. So with the aid of Zoom, WhatsApp, HouseParty, and the telephone, I reached out to 25 different friends, family and work colleagues. It was a great opportunity to catch up and to make a genuine connection.
As fundraisers, we are conditioned to think and plan ahead. Through my “Furlough Four” I set myself daily goals, concentrating on the here and now. I didn’t beat myself up if I didn’t do all four every day, but it did give structure and a sense of achievement.
Learning a new fact each day reminded me to seek out clarification, especially for those things I might have taken for granted. Research shows that keeping physically active supports healthy brain function and can improve moods. I’ve lost count the number of hours I’ve spent hunched over a desk filling in an applications.
From now on, I’ll make the time to get up and take a walk. Reaching out to friends and family reminded me of the value of relationships, and how, in the time of need, it’s even more important to stay in touch. As I return to the hustle and bustle of work, I’ll strive to remember what I learned, and apply it my daily activities.