The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Kelly Hannaghan

Coping with change and moving forward with hope

Kelly Hannaghan shares her lessons learned during the coronavirus pandemic and explores ways to adjust to the new normal in education and life.

Photo by Florian Bernhardt on Unsplash

As I sit in my local community library reflecting on 2020, it dawns on me that I haven’t really taken the opportunity to give thanks to myself for getting through the last few months. At times it has felt like a tornado has ripped through my life, taking all that was pre Covid-19 with it.

Looking back with fond memories

It’s easy to forget where we have come from in the grips of a world pandemic. We certainly remember what we miss, such as control and freedom over where and with whom we spend our time.

The world of education has been turned upside down. I clearly remember the feeling of togetherness in the school environment before we were told to socially distance. This message can portray a need to be emotionally distant too, when in fact it’s only physical distance that’s needed to keep us safe in these times.

Tricky transitions

Some of us may have been forced into transitions that have moved us into a new and different world of learning. For me, I started my new job as the Mental Health and Wellbeing Consultant for The Education People in the pandemic.  

I have had the opportunity to get quickly acquainted with a new strand of learning and living in the context of Covid-19. For some people, this experience may be a traumatic transition; however, it will provide you with the life skills of adaptability and resilience to take forward.

People have developed a level of resilience which may have been unthinkable in the past

Education as we now know it

School leaders and staff are now working in new, more distanced ways. This sparse environment can often leave people feeling isolated and missing things like the staff room banter, or that space to pause and recharge with the hustle and bustle of laughter, life events and shared interests.

How can we recreate self-care in a meaningful way without breaking the guidelines?

My top five self-care tips

  1. Start small and learn to take mini breaks! Give yourself permission to stop multitasking.
  2. Limit your to-do list to five things. How many times do you hit the pillow with the satisfaction that you got everything done on your list?
  3. Book a meeting with yourself for time out. Other people don’t often disturb or question you when you are in a meeting.
  4. Make a list of self-care activities that resonate with you and shorten the list to 10 things.
  5. Take micro breaks throughout the day, even as short as five minutes, and try a breathing exercise.

Caring for others

We must consider how the stopping and starting of education impacts the emotional health of staff, pupils, and parents. Let us not also forget our vulnerable pupils in phase two of this pandemic. These could be:

  • children of keyworkers
  • pupils who have transitioned
  • SEND pupils
  • pupils whose families have had their financial wellbeing suffer because of the pandemic.

It is easy for people to feel they are space hopping from one space to another, from safe environments to what may feel like unsafe environments.

My gift in lockdown

I have found creative ways to connect with people, such as in my local community library. Spending time here has given me the opportunity to offer support to our elder generation and work in the local community to build community spirit.

Use this time to celebrate how you have embraced these exceptional experiences that have armed you with flexibility and adaptability. Without knowing it and without taking time to reflect, people have developed a level of resilience which may have been unthinkable in the past.  

We are creating a human race of people who are upskilled to deal with life and learning.

Celebrate you

Have you stopped to think about how far you have come? Stop and reflect, with self-compassion, on how you have managed to get through.

You are armed with tools to manage any future tricky transition that you may face, because you have been upskilled with a new resilience towards change, and you may not even know it.

Helpful resources


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