Thrive during coronavirus lockdown 2

In part 1 of thriving during coronavirus lockdown, we heard from some of our former-military-personnel colleagues. In part 2, we get equally great advice from civilian colleagues who've lived through the likes of bomb raids and Ebola - such as why meditation and wine are excellent ideas!

Steffen Edinger

Steffen is the Managing Director of SafeLane’s German business units.  Before coming to work at SafeLane, Steffen worked in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis resulting in him being unable to leave the country for nearly 3 years.

SafeLane Germany Managing Director Steffen Edinger pictured infront of the company values

The Ebola crisis had a big impact on our operations because most of the experts we were employing were expats who left the country as a result of the crisis.  They were essential to run operations so that was very challenging. 

“I had to find ways to get consultation from people abroad using tools like Skype.  We had to build a good network and work with national advice.

“Personally, I wasn’t affected too much because I was very busy and distracted by work.  At the beginning it wasn’t realised to be a big threat.  After a while, I simply didn’t allow myself to consider it a threat and wouldn’t let myself occupy my thoughts with the Ebola crisis.  

“I decided to focus on the positive things, not stress over the threats…and I think this can work for people today living through the pandemic.

“Coping is a mental approach.  You need to own your own headspace.  There is still so much life around us, even within the coronavirus pandemic.  People tend to focus only on the negative things and forget about the wonder in their life. 

“I believe with any challenging experience in your life, when you know there is a way of coping and a way forward, it can become an opportunity.  If you are ready to adapt to the changing environment it can be to your advantage. 

“You have the opportunity to break away from your traditional ways of thinking to re-evaluate and adjust.  Any challenging situation like that really helps.

“I strongly believe you always have the ability to control your mindset and your thoughts so whenever negative thinking comes up, you’re in control of redirecting your thinking to something pleasant.  It doesn’t need to be related to the same topic.  

“For example, when living in Sierra Leone I had dogs, cats, and chickens!  Pets are wonderful.  When something negative happens, or negative thoughts or worries arose, I would distract myself with pets or nature and control my mindset with something more pleasant. 

“I also believe in meditation so if something is really bothering me, I try to clear my mind…even if that is just by focusing on the sound of the air conditioning or whatever!  Distracting the mind is a great tool for adjusting your perspective.

“If you don’t have pets or can’t get into nature, find something, anything that brightens your mind.  It might be some exercise, art, thinking of your loved ones.  Keep these things in your mind for a while then return to the more challenging topics. 

“If you really keep up your daily routines, it just helps you to feel more security on a day to day basis.  Even if there are a lot of changes around you, the security of your daily routine and the stability helps you to focus so you don’t feel lost. 

“When you’re not lost, you’re motivated because you’re not overwhelmed by the situation. I believe anything that is overwhelming you reduces your motivation factor.  To feel motivated, you need to feel some sort of success.

“Perhaps during lockdown you are finding your flatmates or family challenging.  We always have to deal with challenging situations and people in life.  If someone is being aggressive or frustrating, don’t return this negativity back on them.  De-escalate situations and do not rise to aggression.  

“Ignore it and come to it later on.  If spirits are better and moods have calmed down, talk about things in a calm, level way.  If someone is being challenging, I always try to focus on the things I respect about that person and their strengths.

“Take this time to fuel the self.  When you are comfortable with yourself it is easier to cope with other people because you don’t depend on anybody else.  Focus on the things you can control.”

Ryan Prophet

Ryan’s a Project Manager for SafeLane’s Marine team who has turned his lifelong love of the ocean into a career. 

When you work in Project Management in the Marine space, spending months at a time away from home in confined spaces on a vessel has to be part of your normal.

Young Ryan Prophet before he became a Marine Project Manager sitting in a boat looking out to sea

“I think the furthest I’ve been from home was probably Vietnam or Saudi Arabia.  However, the one job that felt the furthest was when I was in Norwegian waters, just outside of the Arctic circle. 

“We were out there for 2-month periods on a very small vessel conducting surveys.  This was one of the hardest times because there is literally nothing out there and there weren’t many home comforts!

“One of the biggest challenges was the internet connection.  It was patchy at best, good enough for an occasional WhatsApp message.  Work definitely pushed me through, it gave me a routine that drove me to carry on and forget about the other things. 

“Within my routine, I made sure to build in time to communicate with my loved ones.  Even with the challenging internet connection, I’d make the time to write an email, even if I’d have to send it later.  It’s always nice when you get something back as well. 

“Routine is equally important with your downtime too.  Whether you’re planning to do some exercise, watch a movie, or read a book – schedule it in and stick to the plan.  I’ve been really unlucky in some cases where there hasn’t been much space, so you need to be inventive. 

“Keeping motivated is also important when you’re isolated.  Everyone has tough days, when I’ve had these, I’d make sure to remind myself why I was there and who I was doing this for. With Covid19, think about the NHS, your loved ones who may be vulnerable, and remind yourself that you’re doing this for them. 

“To people who are struggling to adapt to this new normal, be creative.  With the internet there is so much you can learn and do in the time you have!  If you’re not able to work, think about something you’d like to learn and approach it like a full-time job.  If you’re stressed, build boundaries, don’t overwatch the news, keep active and take some time for yourself.”

Åsa & TeKimiti ‘Gilly’ Gilbert

Åsa Gilbert has been working on mine action projects since 2004 and is now SafeLane’s International Business Development Manager.  Her husband, TeKimiti ‘Gilly’ Gilbert is an Operations Manager for SafeLane Global.

Gilly’s past experiences have meant he’s been locked down in active war zones.  This incredible couple explain how they have had to regularly adapt to ‘new normals.’

International Business Development Manager Åsa Gilbert on a field visit to a project in Kuwait. Pictured in a desert.

Asa: “Thinking of being away from home is odd, because where you are becomes your home right?  You take it with you.  My first job with the UN was in Sudan.  This was before there was a North and South Sudan and I was in the middle!

“The peace agreement was actually signed while I was there.  I was in a very remote, restricted area.  The internet was new in this region, so we were much more dependent on satellite telephones.

“We worked for 6 days of the week and there wasn’t anything else to do really, apart from go for a walk.  So that year, routine and work were important.  I went for a walk every morning, I’d do a couple of field trips every week.  My schedule had some variety. 

“Make sure you do something different on the weekend!  If you’re still working right now, you need a way to differentiate between work time and down time.  On a Friday morning – my day off – I walked to the market and bought these coca cola bottles that were filled with fresh milk and eggs, then I would make pancakes for everyone.

“A lot of our off time was about good food and barbecues!  We made it as nice as we could. It was different from the rest of the week, it is important at the weekend you do something festive.

“We’d often have a drink at the end of the week with the teams.  I’d also make a big fuss of birthdays or any celebrations.  I think as well, this sort of lifestyle makes the things you normally take for granted so much more exciting. 

“For example, tomato or mango season – we would get so excited by these things.  We made sure to really notice what we normally took for granted. 

“The culture we built meant that we had clear, open communications with each other.  This meant if we had issues they were aired out and didn’t snowball.  I think all of this experience applies to the situation we are all in today.”

Gilly: “In stressful situations, and this is a stressful situation for many, you can develop closer relationships with people because you’re experiencing these things together.  Each little family unit is having different challenges.

“The scary thing right now is facing the unknowns and what we can’t control.  In 2006 I was in Lebanon working for the UN, when the Israelis then bombed South Lebanon.  I had my 7-year-old daughter with me at the time.  She was there with me for the first 9 days of the bombings. 

“A lot of the buildings in the town were bombed.  Airports and bridges were bombed on day one.  The only way families could be evacuated was by ship.

“I put my daughter on a UN chartered ship to Cyprus with friends to be collected by her mother, but a colleague and I stayed in Lebanon to monitor the situation and provide on the ground information to our headquarters.

“We couldn’t leave the town because cars were being bombed, and so we were basically trapped.  I moved into my colleagues’ apartment and we lived together for 6 weeks. At the time we didn’t know for sure how long we were going to be there.

“We’d watch the news and what was happening on the ground and try to figure out when it was going to end.  We didn’t know the ceasefire was coming until 3 days before it happened.  Then the real work started, the clearing of millions of unexploded cluster bombs left behind throughout the towns, crops and schools.

“We managed to keep our internet and telephones working the whole time, so communication was never broken.  The most difficult thing was the uncertainty and the odd bomb landing close.  We were the only 2 internationals left in town with a small number of locals.

“We were kept pretty busy and there was a lot of communication backwards and forward and luckily, we were able to have a cold beer!  Then we’d sit and chat.

“The other difficulty was food.  There was one little shop that stayed open – there was no fresh food.  There was a lot of tin cans and pasta.  

“I think the only way to deal with uncertainty is to accept that there are things out of your control, but you can take control of what you can and deal with the issues as they come.  Try and prepare yourself the best you can, remember – it will end eventually.  Try and prepare as best you can for that.

“Also, don’t feel guilty if you’re buying more wine than usual!”

You can read part 1 of how to thrive during coronavirus lockdown here.