COVID-19 Editor's Column

Let’s make this new normal permanent

By Fiona Bugler • 8th April 2020

The new normal? When I wrote this article in April 2020, at the peak of the global pandemic, it was all we were talking about. From how we were living to how we were shaping our working life. 

Chris Evans is on the radio talking about something you may have noticed, too. More people running. He’s said that it seems as if London is relaxing. They don’t have to go to work, they can get up earlier, and they move. Just one of the many positive stories from our ‘new’ normal.

On this morning’s show, Chris also talked today about being able to see a cloud of smog clearing from London (the Virgin Radio studio is on the top of the News International building in London Bridge), after just two days off traffic and pollution. “Nature is brilliant if you give her a chance,” he said.

Trump wants to get everyone back to work. And in China, things are returning to normal. But can we learn from this — can we create a new normal before the old one returns?

I’ve had the virus. I’ve not been tested but my symptoms were dry cough, temperature, no taste or smell, aches, pains, earache, chest pains, back pains and exhaustion. I spoke to my doctor about something else, he was pretty convinced and told me to take seven days in isolation. I’ve done that. I’m still not fully recovered (a little tired), but I’m coming out the other side. I was one of the very lucky ones. I fared well, but I’m not under-playing the severity of this thing (or that I felt really rubbish at times). I was featured in the Daily Mail in an article by the zone contributor, Jo Waters, you can read other stories in the link.

The new normal features wellbeing

My world is looking a little different now. As a freelancer for more than 20 years I’m very used to uncertainty, but like everyone stepping off my very own treadmill has given me time to reflect. I’m in the process of launching a new business in wellbeing (November 2020: i-wellbeing.com). I’ve been focussed on health, fitness, and running all my life — but I feel more determined than ever to do my bit to put wellbeing at the top of the agenda.

We’ve lived in a crazy world, working hard, consuming, working, consuming, getting stressed, not able to work, consuming more. What’s missing? Simple things, moving, taking time to do things, not rushing, being in the moment. Less really is more.

I feel more sure than ever that in the longer-term wellbeing at work needs to be prioritised. I also appreciate that being ill has actually given me time to reflect and that others don’t necessarily have this. I’m not on the front line, I’m not working 12-hour shifts, I’m not responsible for lots of employees, I’m not looking after elderly parents or sick people. And a priority now is to do something practical (i.e. volunteer) to help others once I’m fully recovered.

Take time to read in the new normal

If you do have time now that you didn’t have before, just check-in and see how taking time out to read a magazine, a book, and enjoy that time isn’t some old fashioned luxury. Take time, turn pages, enjoy print responsibly (i.e. don’t over-consume, overprint). We live in a digital world, and physical products are now moving back into our lives in a new and refreshing way — a joy returning. (You can read more about why we started a print magazine in this article I wrote for Linked-in.)

We can’t all volunteer now or be on those front lines, but we can be kind to each other. We can also operate a laser focus on what we do well and do it better. It’s a great time to be in the business of fitness, health and wellbeing and to make some kind of impact. I’ve just seen on my iPhone news app, home workouts from the NY Times, trainers tested for your daily run from Runner’s World, Instagram is busting at that seams with home workouts. It’s brilliant.

As offices close and working from home frees us up, many of us have discovered more time — but guess what we’ve always had time? Now that exercise is valued and seen as a restricted commodity, we all want it. These weird times have also highlighted that we are personally responsible for what’s going on. As everything is out of control, only you, I, we can change things — from the inside out.

Wellbeing in small steps

Big change always happens in small steps, incremental change, the Japanese call it Kaizen. That one bicep curl, that step outside, the home workout the meditation, volunteering, delivering one meal to one neighbour, sending a text to one friend.

Like me, many of us will discover, or be reminded of how running, walking, exercising, sets the body and mind for the day. I believe we need to prioritise moving, but also stillness.

New normal rules: make exercise non-negotiable

On moving: can we make Joe Wicks workouts compulsory at school and in old people’s homes? Let’s make exercise non-negotiable and remember that a fit and healthy population is a good thing for all of us. Don’t make it something else to acquire. Exercise shouldn’t be something we use to fix our broken bodies and minds. Neither it should be something we do to create an illusion of happiness — a healthy over-fit body isn’t always housing a healthy mind.

Mindfulness, relaxation, meditation — none of this is new. We used to pray and go to church, now’s the time we took ownership of our spiritual void.

When you get back to your offices, you’ll be returning to a different place, and you may still be managing a crisis. But the dust will settle. If you’ve been running, reflecting, ill… remember what you thought, what you said you were going to change. Being physically and mentally strong will help get business back on its feet. This is an opportunity to try a different way with a focus on wellbeing – and embrace the new normal.

updated November 2020

Fiona Bugler

Fiona is the creator of all things editorial, she’s a journalist with a life-long passion for health, fitness and wellbeing. For more than a decade she worked with business leaders and large groups as a personal trainer and running coach and this background informs the content she creates.

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