From Disconnect to Reconnect

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Surviving 2020 and positives we will take into 2021.

As part of this year’s International Women’s Day IWD) Salford CVS hosted a “Stronger Together Event” bringing women from across Salford to come together, share our thoughts and get inspired for 2021. There was a range of inspirational speakers at this online event with workshops exploring home schooling, Social enterprises Coaching and the one I facilitated “Surviving 2021”.

In planning the workshop, I reflected on my own experience of 2020, both the ups and downs and thought about what, if anything have I learnt or experienced over the last 12 months which will stand me in good stead for 2021. Like many women, my personal and professional life was sent into a total tailspin in 2020. There was home working, Zoom calling, online training not to mention getting my head around the safeguarding impacts of the pandemic.

I faced lots of personal challenges too, with family bereavement, caring for my elderly mum, close friends hospitalised with Covid, feeling isolated from family and friends and going through the painful early stages of divorce and separation. Despite all that – like many other women -  I came out the other side of 2020 “OK” -  with continued optimism for what lies ahead.

Whilst we know the pandemic has impacted everyone, it seemed apt to use IWD this year to think about how women in particular have coped. With gender pay gaps, questions about gender health inequality it’s no surprise to see articles such as this recent one in the Guardian women and the pandemicwhich highlighted that woman:

  • have taken the brunt of increased caregiving
  • have been more likely to lose their jobs
  • have seen a sharp rise in domestic abuse
  • did two-thirds of the extra childcare in the first lockdown
  • were more likely to be furloughed

Planning the Workshop

I pondered my own experience and started to think about how best I could facilitate this type of discussion with the women attending our event. Zoom is great for bringing people together, but let’s be honest it’s not always the best medium for generating meaningful discussions. The online tumbleweed is often just out of camera waiting to roll across the screen whenever a question is posed to a screen full of faces. So… I needed something to help me to not only prompt people to share their thoughts but also to keep the conversations flowing.  My solution was Mentimeter – a simple to use online tool that is not only perfect for generating polls and ideas at events but, as I have now learnt - is also a brilliant resource to aid important discussions such as this.

Once you get your head around how best to use it I think it’s a great tool to use. Especially online,  when in your role as facilitator there is that awful mental block when trying to juggle technical stuff with those essential communications and people skills required for community engagement. Mentimeter proved to be an excellent tool to ask the questions record the answers and to use the responses from our guests to generate a bit of discussion. Mentimeter gets a massive thumbs up from me!

Below are some of the questions and the main themes to come out of this IWD discussion:

What springs to mind when you think about 2020?

Women spoke of feeling disconnected, trapped and isolated – painting a pretty grim picture of what we were all going through. Despite the difficulties of feeling cut off from family friends and our workspaces, technology served as both a help and a hindrance as we navigated through this strange way of living and working.

On a super positive note people spoke about spending more time with family and loved ones – including their pets and also finding time and space to get creative and take up new hobbies.

Who helped you through 2020?

Unsurprisingly it was loved ones; family, friends partners, colleagues and once again our pets – who kept us grounded and gave some sense of normality during this difficult time. Despite the feelings of disconnection, there was a real sense of valuable connection to those who mean the most to us.

Getting in touch with friends and people with whom they had not been in touch for years was mentioned – making good use of social media and digital platforms to have conversations to socialise and share our lives with became so important.

What were your positive experiences of 2020?

It was clear from the start of the discussions that the past year had been a huge challenge for all the women present  Yet this question prompted some wonderful examples of positive memories that will be taken away.

For me it was the family birthday “drive by’s” when my nieces would visit outside our homes to sing happy birthday or post out pictures and homemade cards to cheer us up and wish us well. 

Also the daily walks with my dog and capturing mindful moments with a bit of amateur photography.

Photos from Debs walk

Photos captured on some of Deb's walks around Salford.

Others too shared a new found love of the great outdoors, of really appreciating the beautiful parks and countryside near home

Creativity was a common theme, as hobbies such as sewing and quilting were enjoyed and explored – some being re-visited after many years and some connecting with activities for the first time ever.

Academic achievements and more precious time with family members were also shared as examples of positive memories in 2020.

There is much evidence to support what we were sharing – the national charity MIND highlights the importance of nature on our health and wellbeing“Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing”.

Going into 2021 what positive impact has 2020 had on you?

The conversation really helped us to acknowledge the difficulties the sadness, the anxiety the isolation that we faced in 2020 but it was also an opportunity for a reframe; What are the good bits that we can harness and use to our advantage in 2021.

This was a wonderful end to the discussion as everyone, despite the hardships faced was able to take a positive away from the challenging year we had all lived through.

Some key themes from this final question were about:

  • Having control over their health and wellbeing
  • Keeping up with exercise, daily walking  
  • Knowing and appreciating the benefits of working from home
  • Understanding the importance of having a  work /life balance
  • Appreciating the Great outdoors – getting outside enjoying the green spaces
  • The importance of connection
  • Learning new skills!
  • Recognising and acknowledging the fantastic response from our VCSE sector

I personally found it extremely enlightening, and a great testimony to all the women there-  even though they were facing great challenges each and everyone found ways to maintain some stability for themselves and, as is so often the case for women, for those around them.

ConnectGiveKeep learningBe activeTake notice

It was also interesting to see how the coping strategies we found the positives that we are taking forward are all so intrinsically linked to the 5 ways to wellbeing:

  • Connecting
  • Giving
  • Learning
  • Being active
  • Being aware (the importance of Mindfulness)

The workshop provided a really useful discussion – great examples of women finding resourceful ways as effective coping strategies to our new - and hopefully temporary - way of living.

Women finding what works and how to cope in ways that take us from disconnection to reconnection.

"When women take care of their health, they become their best friend" Maya Angelou, poet

For further quotes like this one go to 12 quotes reminding women to care for themselves in the time of coronavirus.

Salford CVS
Author: 
Deb Drinkwater, Safeguarding Development Worker

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Salford CVS is the city-wide infrastructure organisation for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector; providing specialist information, advice, development support and opportunities for influence and collaboration.

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