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Reflections from the Principal: Moving During a Pandemic

Simon Mann
Simon Mann (13 posts) Principal View Profile

Given I work in the area of well-being and I am moving countries and experiencing a significant change in life along with undertaking a 14 day quarantine period, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on how I cope. I saw this as an opportunity to see if what I ‘preach’ will work for me in ‘practice’, or hopefully what would work for me.


I have moved to Singapore for 6 months to take the role of interim Principal at Dover Court International School - something I’m really looking forward to. However, Kim, my wife/partner of many years is not travelling with me. For family and other reasons we decided it would be better for her to stay in NZ, unfortunately with Covid 19 changing the way we expected the experience to be, this means not seeing each other in person for this period. So arriving in Singapore I am on my own and as people who know me will attest this is not something I’m used to, nor like. I am also beginning my time quarantined in a small serviced apartment for 14 days and normally I try to live my life outside as much as possible. As I know how important exercise is to me in normal circumstances, in preparation I brought my bike and set it up on a trainer that I was kindly loaned.

So it was time to put some well-being approaches into practice. I know the approaches but how useful would they be? Could I get into some really good sustainable habits? What would I learn about myself? How would I get through it? Will the blogging help or harm?

The Start

I think it is interesting to reflect on how I felt on my first day - this is what I wrote:

Day 1: A little jet lagged I woke up early feeling rather anxious about the next two weeks - quite claustrophobic, not because of the size of the apartment but more the idea of 14 nights here. I engaged in some mindfulness, it helped but my mind was wandering significantly. During the morning I was really struck by the silence and found this added to the claustrophobic feeling. Spoke to Kim twice over the day which was good, familiar and supportive, she suggested background music - which has helped. I did two bouts of exercise over the day, bootcamp and static bike work, definitely important. I worked, had a couple of meetings - again positive. Used my journal with some effect. Cooked dinner and watched a bit of TV. A long day but OK, still some anxiety and not a huge amount of joy. However, as I know I will adjust to the new normal.

I am now 10 days in and just read that back - I’m in a much better space and here are how the different approaches went for me:

Blogging - I started this as a daily blog and it was not great, just left me feeling rather anxious about the whole experience, possibly made me focus on what was coming next too much. Hence, why you are reading just one blog. So question one answered. With four days to go I’m feeling happier about writing, possibly because I’ve sorted my routines and possibly because I’m 4 days from finishing my time. Verdict - didn’t work for me. 

Journaling/Savouring - Has been good whilst engaging in the journaling but has not been something I have felt a real need for. This may be because I have got much better at slowing down and ‘enjoying the good stuff’ from my first experience of lockdown. I would still advocate it as a practice, particularly when you are down. Verdict - good but not central to my well-being.

Work - Work has been useful from a 'keeping busy' perspective. It has given shape to my day, taken up time and supported my routines. I’ve moved a table so the view is the outside world as I work. Verdict - necessary

Working with Others - This has made a much bigger difference and I think this is for two important reasons. The connection with others, which is so important for me, and secondly the feeling of making a difference or in well-being terms having meaning in my life. Verdict - very important.

Connection with family and friends - Connection has been central to getting through this time, especially with my wife Kim. The world of Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp has come into its own over the past week and probably since the Covid 19 experience began. This connection has lifted me when I have been down and given me the opportunity to be open and honest with others about how I have been feeling: Verdict - essential

Dover Court International School Singapore Mr Manns Bike Moving during a pandemic

Exercise - This has been essential but no surprise because this has always been essential - I don’t function well without exercise. However, where I thought I would engage two to three times a day in short sessions, I have found one session of exercise a day has been sufficient. Small spaces have made ‘boot camp’ style workouts and Nike Training Club my best forms of exercise. The bike has also come in useful. Verdict - essential

Mindfulness - Interestingly I thought this would be a go-to. Over the first few days I was really struggling with focus. After a chat with my daughter she suggested I start trying Yoga first thing in the monring. This has become the most significant find of my time in quarantine. A short easy session of yoga - 30 mins, followed by 10 mins of mindfulness has been fantastic. I use the Headspace app. Since I began this routine it has set my day up. I use a couple of free YouTube videos of Yoga with Kassandra and she is now my best friend! Verdict - yoga followed by mindfulness, my single biggest take-out. Amazing!

Living in the moment - I had got better at this through the Covid experience - the continual change made this a really useful approach. My ability to avoid thinking forward has dictated my mood. Moments when I turn over in bed and realise Kim is not next to me, worrying about how many days I have to go in quarantine, or missing family and aspects of my life in NZ have been the toughest times and it will be this way for some time. However, they have not been constant and I have been mindful and successful in bringing myself back into the present. Verdict - essential

Has it been easy? No, it has been filled with ups and downs but so is life. 

Have I learnt anything? Absolutely, all well-being practices work to some degree and how much they work is very personal. I now know more about what works for me which can only be a plus. The upside is by viewing these experiences as a journey they have the potential to make us stronger and better prepared for our next challenge. 

Would I do it again? Well I think I’m going to have to when I return to NZ but that is thinking forward which I’m going to avoid.