Due to the growing threat of the Coronavirus pandemic and following in the path of many other European counties, on the 23 March 2020 the UK was put under a Government enforced lockdown. For many, the news their world was about to get a whole lot smaller was beyond anything they’d ever experienced. Here we share our experience of confined living.
In stark contrast to most of the general population, the prospect of confined living wasn’t quite as daunting for us. In our role as saturation divers when we head subsea, our world is reduced to a 8m cylindrical metal chamber for up to 28 days at a time. Together with up to 6 other divers, we are locked in dive chambers located at the bottom of a DSV (Dive Support Vessel). The chambers are pressurised to the depth we work whilst subsea and returning back to surface involves a lengthy process called decompression which can take days, (and depends on the depth we are working at). There is no opportunity to head out for a breath of fresh air and social distancing proves somewhat impossible given the space we are in. Boredom is inevitable and your mental strength is truly tested.
Since the lockdown was announced people across the globe have been trialling a new way of life; finding how best to work, school and entertain children, stay fit and active and remain positive. Like most and in those first few days of lockdown, there was a lot of negativity, worry for what might be and this is the same in sat. In fact, we often talk about ‘sat depression’ in those first few days of our lock in, where we have gone from the comforts of our home and being surrounded by family and normality to a stark, cold, inhospitable environment.
When you are busy days and weeks can disappear in a blink of an eye. However, days can feel like years when you aren’t busy. Similar to when we are in saturation, days can feel like they are standing still when we aren’t diving. Clock watching sets in and is enough to drain you mentally and physically.
We thought using our experience, we’d share with you our top tips on staying productive and focused when your world gets a little bit smaller.
1. Routine, routine, routine
Maintaining a routine and a structure to your day is key. Start your day at the normal time… get up and get dressed. Break your day down into sections allocating set times for meal times. For most, a good meal or a cup of tea can be a real morale boost.
Between each meal set yourself manageable tasks and activities. Whilst through boredom and a slow down In life, the lure of an afternoon nap may be tempting, avoid these as they will affect your night sleep. The impact of a poor night’s sleep is a downward spiral.
Schedule in time to read, learn something new or watch a series. Also encourage regular conversations with whoever you are ‘locked in’ with. In saturation your team are the only human contact you have, so a chat or game of cards is a welcome relief and helps pass the time.
2. Never underestimate the power of a friendly voice or face
Whilst unable to pay a visit, we are constantly being reminded to keep in touch with loved ones. Whether it’s a text or voice message, or a call, be sure to remain social.
Whilst communication is somewhat limited when in saturation (and challenging due to our helium filled voices), nothing compares to when you speak to friends and family, or receive a picture message. A planned call or a text chat, you will look forward to all day – so be sure if you promise to call, follow through and get in touch. You may be the only person, someone speaks to all day.
In saturation, conversations can feel somewhat one sided as days and weeks roll into one, and with nothing much to report on – however just hearing that one persons voice can lift you by a million miles.
3. Stay physically active
Exercise is key so be sure to plan exercise into your day. Whilst the physical benefits are obvious, the mental benefits vastly outweigh anything else. An exercised body is an exercised mind and can instantly lift your mood.
At the time of writing, people in the UK are allowed 1 hour of exercise outdoors – grab this opportunity with both hands. Go for a walk round the block or head out for a run. In saturation, space is minimal and any chance of heading out for fresh air is impossible.
For us workouts are confined to any space you can find (normally the toilet) and the only chance of a leg stretch is when you head subsea to do the job. Plan your workout and stick to it. Not only will you benefit from a stronger and more focused mind, with a greatly reduced activity schedule, it helps aid better sleep.
4. Approach each day as they come and avoid looking too far ahead
When we first enter saturation, we don’t know how long we will be in there for. Work schedules can be changed, days added on or taken off, so planning for the end is impossible. Similar to the current situation, no one knows when lockdown will end. Trying to mentally deal with the not knowing is hard.
Keep the long term goals in mind, but for now adjust your thinking to the short term, as you have a constantly moving goal post. Take each day as it comes and a hurdle to get over. It’s a marathon not a sprint.
5. Appreciate the small things (as they are always the big things)
Time spent with friends, a hug with a family member and even freedom to do what you want… The most simple of human needs and which day to day, we all probably took for granted. But now, like time spent in saturation, we are all being deprived of. That first hug, that first impromptu trip out the house… for us that first breath of fresh air, feel of sunshine on our face and returning home… it’s the best feeling in the world, we promise. Let this surreal time be a reminder to not take them for granted.
Whilst we all love the excitement and challenge our job offers, time locked in a metal chamber and away from every home comfort, is hard – physically and mentally. We hope by sharing our experience, it goes a little way in making lockdown that little easier.