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Hurrah for summer, it has finally arrived, after a long wait. Unlike last year, when summer sprung itself upon us early in the year. The wait this year has been torture. But now it is here, it brings with it a few things.

The temperature went from 6c daily average to mid 20's in what seemed like a day. Hot, sweaty, and irritable, summer me is here too! Unfortunately, the weather and date also brings with is uncertainty, anxiety and stress. More people back out and about, restless nights, and decision time.  Like my head needs much more to get in a knot about right now. Morning runs are hectic, with lots of people out and about, so today I decided on a much earlier run. Quieter roads, but less sleep. Moan, moan, moan, I know!

But front and centre of all of this is June21st. The date the UK Government has set for step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown. In turn, it is the final stage of the process before finding out what the masterplan is regarding Work From Home. Up until now, with things moving so slowly, it has been pretty bearable. However with the final step just weeks away, the dread and fear that work might say "back to the office" completely consumes my every waking moment. Or at least that is how it feels. 

There has been a lot of positive talk about a new approach to how our roles are carried out. If we need to be at a certain location to carry out our jobs effectively. If the new work/life balance that so many, including myself, have found, plays a part in the road ahead. Talk of flexible working, spending time between home and office, sounds delightful for the main part, and 18 months ago I would have ripped the hand off that offered that to me. However, now, well now is different. 

After 15-16 months or so of working from home, so many answers are clear. Can we operate effectively, yup, through a pandemic, through peak  service, and through so many other challenges. Working from home has not caused a single stumble. In fact, when the brown stuff has hit the fan, being close to my work PC, has actually benefited the company. With almost instant access to systems, to get stuck straight in. Communication between the workgroup has improved, with time now allocated on team catch ups, where as before things were less structured. And so many other positives to be found. 

I realise that is all well and good, however work are paying the wages, so get to make the decisions to best suit the business, I can't argue with that for a moment. Seeing how chalk and cheese the plans of many large companies are make me feel it could swing one of two ways, or of course just hang dead centre, and there be no change required. I say no change required, as I appreciate there are two sides to every story, and we all have our own stories of the pandemic to tell.  Some have dearly missed the contact and face to face communication of their workgroups. Feeling isolated and trapped at home, with no outlet for their thoughts. For others, working from home has posed huge challenges to the requirements of their role, making life so much more difficult. For those groups of people, I hope that the road ahead offers contact and respite from the pressures faced over the pandemic. 

But let's be real for a minute, this is my blog, and about my feelings and thoughts, so back to the nitty gritty. I simply don't want to go back to working in an office. This time of year, and the rise in temperatures just reminds me of the years gone by, squabbles over use of the aircon, too hot, too cold, windows open or closed.... Til the AC system just breaks (multiple times annually) and we are left wishing we had just agreed and left it be. Last summer and this summer so far, I open my window when I want, heating on when I want, AC on.... you get the picture. 

Although we have had lots of work done on the house in the past year, I have not had to take any time off for it, nor deliveries, and rarely for any medical appointments, as its all close to home, and can be worked into the working day. 

Anyway, enough procrastination, I think I have made my point. I am terrified that we will be told to return to the office. I have grown very comfortable with my own space, and environment, and the thought of sharing that with others again is dreadful. I am bad enough being around people I choose to be in the company of, let alone those I am squashed in with in the name of work. 

The next two weeks are going to be horrible. I am already sinking myself into a destructive cycle of running and cycling. Doing my best to enjoy myself, rather than damage myself. Sleep is getting worse, quiet moments of the day starting to be consumed by spiraling negative thoughts. The smallest thing now spins up the whirlpool of the mind, and turns it into something dreadful and scary, without even giving it a chance. 

Hopefully, in a couple of weeks time, we will at least have a solid idea of what happens next. Does the rumoured ultra flexible new system come into play? How much flexibility will there actually be? I guess time will tell now, and in the meantime all I can do is hold tight, and wait and see. 

It is good to know that some around me understand my fears, and that in general, line management are happy with work from home as it is, or at least that is how it seems. Keep your fingers crossed please, and lets hope that as much as possible, the road ahead offers everyone  what they need to keep them sane, and able to do their jobs to the best of their ability. 

It has been a long time since I last wrote an entry here, and for the most part I would put that down to the vastly improved state of mind I have had over the past year to 15 months. There have of course been lows, but nothing in comparison to what I would usually go through in my yearly rollercoaster ride of mental state. 

So much has happened in the past year, I really don't know where to start, so in no particular chronological order, I will break it down into pieces, and have a ramble. 

RCGP. I have been working with them again this year, helping medical students better understand the presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of anxiety and depression. It never ceases to amaze me how natural some are with the situation, and show genuine compassion. While others struggle a little, almost suffering from reverse stigma, and feeling uncomfortable about discussing someone elses mental health. It is those I hope to make an impression on the most. This years sessions have been very different, moving to online Teams consultations. Which in itself has taught me a lot about myself, whilst making life a whole lot more comfortable. Mainly because it avoids the commute into town to the RCGP, which in itself is hugely stressful for someone with social anxiety.

Working from home has been a complete game changer for me, I should have started with this really, as it could drag on, but here goes anyway. 

Being quite and introvert and socially anxious person, personal interactions with others can be quite draining. Over the past year or so, I have felt much more alert, and fresh throughout the working day. Not spending mental energy on social things that actually have no impact on my working day, and rather spending the extra energy I find myself with, getting stuck into projects at work. The physical aspect of getting to the office has never been an issue for me, in fact I enjoyed my daily 10 mile each way commute by bike, as it gave me time and space to prepare myself for the shift ahead. The more exhausting part was being in an office, and that was purely mental exhaustion.

That is just the tip of the iceberg for working from home for me. There are SO many pros, and at best a sprinkling of cons. Being able to work whatever hours the day demands is no longer a stress. Getting a call to say there is a sickness, or something is up and I am needed in ASAP, once meant rushing my routine (which is very important to me) and driving into work. This was always the start of a bad day. Now, the same call means walking into my home office and logging in. Be it for 5 mins, or the rest of the day, I am in effect "on call" whenever needed. 

As far as mental wellbeing goes, I can honestly say, in 15-16 months now, I have had one dip. It lasted about a week, I had a lot going on at home too at the time, and at worst it meant a slight lack of focus for me, nothing more. Even through the winter months, which we have effectively had 2 cycles of during WFH now, I have been much better than I can ever recall being in many years gone by. The much expected low simply hasn't arrived. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that working from home has been the key to this massive shift for me. 

Although as I write this, I am more than aware that the end of June is just over a month away. This is the date for the next "checkpoint" for the UK Government, and indeed my employer to consider, and detail the next stages of what is to come for the "new normal". This in itself has probably wobbled me more than anything in the past year or more. The uncertainty of what comes next. Will it be all back to the office, will there be a choice? Flexible working from home and office throughout the week has been mentioned. As has the "choice" of home or office. Personally, for me, home is the best way, and the only way I can stay on this level. 

I know it is expecting way too much, and it is far from a demand. Having worked for the company for over 20 years now, I know how important oversight is for management, and appreciate the trust put in us to work from home, and be trusted to go the best possible job we can. But you cannot ignore the fact that during the pandemic, while it has suited, it has been OK. The idea for certain departments to work from home in the past was simply out of the question, and not a discussion even worth starting. However I think, if the recent events have shown us anything, it is that it IS possible, and the outcome is probably more a more productive, coercive workgroup.

I think it is clear from the paragraphs above, what my feelings are on returning to an office environment. I simply don't want to. I am happy to be checked up on, visited at home, or whatever other measures are required to keep me safe and alone in my home office. Which I have to say is a lot better equipped than my office based desk was. Mainly through buying things at my own expense, but something I am quite happy to do in the longterm. Heck I would even consider a pay freeze for a while, How's that for an offer?

Anyway, enough about working from home, for now at least.

In other areas of life, the fresher state of mind for me has allowed me to look after myself physically too. Cutting out a lot of the junk food, which was mainly whilst in the office at work. Taking the time I would have spent commuting to take better care of myself. Getting back into running has been huge for me. Since Xmas I have gone from doing Couch to 5K, to running a half marathon distance. A distance I have never achieved before, so to day I am feeling good is an understatement. That on top of working out, and still getting as much cycling done as I can, and that all rounds up to another huge tick in the box for this new normal.

I think one of the strangest parts of the whole thing has been the social isolation. Something I crave most of the time, suddenly became something everyone was doing. No longer was it a fight to get personal space, in fact it was insisted upon. It has been quite incredible, and I know that there have been other friends of mine who have found it equally as much of a relief.  That is not to say the isolation for many has not been crippling. 

I am not going to sit here, and selfishly say how great things have been. The pandemic has been horrific on so many levels. Losing loved ones to a cruel virus, being kept apart from those we crave to be with, for long durations, business collapses and so many other horrible effects from it all. The pandemic is not one of those things this generation will ever forget. But on the flip side, some people learned what it is like to feel detached from society, unable to engage, as much as you would love to. A greater understanding has been found of what social anxiety feels like. In this case, afraid to go out in case of catching the virus, but to many like me, the same anxiety is found simply by going out and interacting with others, even when they are perfectly healthy, and of no threat.

OK, my brain is a little fried from this sudden outburst of expression, so I am going to leave it there for now. But will come back to this soon, and carry on my catch up on how things are. 

Thanks as ever for reading.

Take care