• Michael Edward Stephens

How to Create Space when the world is in lockdown.

Updated: May 10

As a business owner, are you struggling to find work life balance during the coronavirus crisis? We hope to help.


Rewind a month. Did any of you go into coronavirus lockdown thinking you’d get even more work done while stuck at home? Finally start or finish those big personal projects? Perhaps be even more creative?

Balancing work, life, and wellbeing isn't easy at the best of times. And these newly imposed restrictions are making it even more challenging. Being isolated from loved ones, friends, and colleagues isn't easy. All while trying to run a business. The good news is that you're not alone.

Like a lot of people, my home used to be a place of celebration, creative expression and experimentation. A space of calm and rest, somewhere familiar that I felt comfortable in, and mostly looked forward to retreating to each day. For many busy freelancers, business owners, and entrepreneurs; the home was also a place of work, a hive of productivity and a source of inspiration.


Overnight however, that sacred and traditional setting was transformed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. With the entire country in lockdown we’re now all facing a whole host of new distractions and challenges while trying to find work life balance. You might be feeling a bit trapped, de-motivated or in a constant state of unease. And that's totally normal given what's going on. Sadness, fear, anxiety, uncertainty and frustration have decided to pay us all a visit at some point, and it’s difficult to show them the door.

That first week of lockdown, I could barely bring myself to even open an email. My projects just seemed to grind to a halt. It became a bit of a blur as one day ran into the next. And meanwhile, I was of course being presented with content on social media advising me ‘how to stay productive’, ‘how to work from home’, ‘how to get through this’. Apps I could download, tutorials I could watch, courses I could take. It was all well-intended I’m sure. But I found it quite overwhelming. I didn’t feel drawn to anything. I just didn’t feel like working at all. Which initially made me feel even worse! Because according to Netflix, I'd been very productive - I’d seen everything! 


The reality is, no one really knows exactly what I need right now. Yes, this certainly is a time to unite and come together - we're all experiencing some degree of a similarity in response to this global crisis. But even that experience is hugely varying from country to country, city to city, where we are on the curve, between different age groups, social backgrounds, or even different ethnic and minority groups.


On top of that, we're all individuals and riding waves of different emotions, at different points in the day, as we attempt to tackle a whole range of personal, financial and social challenges.



The truth is that the lockdown and our homes are there to protect us, but those four walls are beginning to feel like our own personal prison at times. Especially for those living in dense cities who have little to no outside space. Or individuals living in over-crowded accommodation with friends or a large family.

As we attempt to negotiate our way through this challenging time, it won't be uncommon for our mental health and physical health needs to get put on hold. As we're tempted to throw ourselves into our work - either trying to recuperate loses, come up with new ideas, execute crisis plans, or simply distract ourselves from the rhetoric of depressing corona news. And that's a very natural response.


However, it's worth noting that the repercussions could be dangerous. Occupational burnout is another very real potential threat we might face if we don't also balance looking after our minds, and our bodies.


It's so important that we find ways to refill our personal energy fuel tanks, because if we don't, some of our most precious attributes will begin to fade, such as our creativity, intuition and positive energy. These are the very things that make us unique, valuable and brilliant at our jobs. And may even be the very skills that will help us navigate our way out of this mess.


It’s clear that there's no one-size-fits-all solution to getting through this. I realised that I had to start to paying attention to what I needed, from myself. This initially just included having some more patience, allowing myself some compassion, and giving myself a new routine with some key anchors throughout my day.

As part of our ongoing Create Space, Repeat series, we’ve asked a select group of mental health professionals, business owners, and entrepreneurs about their new or updated self-care routine at this challenging time. I wanted to know how they planned to try and find work life balance during coronavirus lockdown.


This is intended to demonstrate the diversity of ways people are coping, and perhaps highlight some similarities in the tools and practices being used.


In a changing landscape where space and time are sometimes limited, we’re hoping to bring you some useful ways to help take care of yourself at home. So that, in turn, you'll be able to take better care of your business and your employees. We'll be looking at ways to safe-guard our personal safe space, connect with what’s important, maintain our enthusiasm for life, as well as continue to have new inspiration and creative ideas.


I'll go first...



Michael Stephens

Creative consultant and co founder of Create Space Retreats.

How are you staying CREATIVE?

I’ll be honest, I struggled to even be creative initially. It was a skill that I’d assumed I could just tap straight into when this all happened. And I guess it is. But I expected to be AS creative as I was before. Do all the same things, to the same standard, when realistically that just wasn't possible. That tsunami wave of exhaustion I’m sure we all felt really hit me. The shutters came down, and I was forced to stop. The way that I felt, and some of the symptoms I had, could actually be compared to burnout. Tiredness, demotivation, lack of concentration, and reduced creativity levels. But creativity is also a useful tool. I talk about this a lot - the act of creative expression has really powerful meditative benefits due to its mindfulness qualities. I had to start small. So I started singing - at home, on walks… It calmed my mind, gave me a creative output and released some internalised energy. I am certainly no Adele, but you can catch some of my grammy winning performances on my instagram. Anyway, from doing that small little act every day I’ve slowly built myself back up to writing, drawing, and even creating things I’ve never tried before. 

How do you find SPACE?

On a practical level I've had to set myself some rules, boundaries and even alarms on my phone. All of which are there to help me avoid falling into the black hole of social media or Netflix (been there, done that!). I give myself specific time slots for both these things though. I also try to always meditate in the mornings when I wake up (otherwise it won't happen), take regular breaks from work on the computer (I notice a big difference when I don't), and spend some time each day with my parents (with whom I am living with and caring for during this period). I am also incredibly grateful to have my dog, SouSou, who will regularly get me up off my seat to chase him to retrieve one of my socks that he's managed to get his paws on somehow.

When and where do you RETREAT?

I am very lucky that I'm quarantined in the beautiful English countryside and we have a garden. Like many people I am retreating outside when I can - whether it be for my daily dog walk, or doing some weeding in the garden to help my parents (I haven't been promoted yet to dealing with actual plants!). I find nature the most formidable tool at our disposal in terms of health and wellbeing. I really hope that more people discover that during this strange time, and that we enter this next chapter with a new found respect for our environment.
@michaeledwardstephens @createspaceretreats

Rob Stephenson

Founder of inside-out.org, CEO of Form, as well as a mental health keynote speaker, campaigner and consultant.


How are you staying CREATIVE?

It's interesting how differently people respond in a crisis. As a keynote speaker and mental health campaigner, I’m on a mission to inspire mentally healthier workplaces. I needed to get creative from the start in order to adapt what I normally do, and keep the conversation going. I entered into a state of ‘hyper-creativity’ and, in the last four weeks, have actually managed to implement a whole bunch of new initiatives, including G24, the world’s first global 24-hour remote mental health summit.

How do you find SPACE?

I find space within music and exercise. DJing for me is both a creative outlet and a very mindful activity and I have started to a Facebook Live set every week (Fridays at 4pm). I've also launched a virtual lunch club every Wednesday on a remote conferencing platform I use, which helps me feel connected to business contacts and friends. One of the highlights of my day however, is definitely a kick-about with my six-year-old lad and a football.

When and where do you RETREAT?

I'm fortunate in that I live on a converted farm in the country so can step outside and go for a walk whenever I need to retreat. I'm also a cyclist so can go out on my bike if I need to get away for a while. I'm super grateful for both of these things. On a practical note, I think it's important to construct a buffer between work and family, something we perhaps used to get through our commute to and from home.
@robbiedelaj @robstephenson g24.world inside-out.org


Philippa Richardson

Founder of The Circle Line and certified psychotherapist in training.


How are you staying CREATIVE?

I’m quarantining with my mum and we're writing her life memoirs together. We sit down in the early evening, press record and she tells me about her long and varied life. This is a special opportunity to create, and to connect in a whole new way with one of the most important, influential people in my life.

How do you find SPACE?

I’m keeping up yoga/ballet (self-discipline, urgh!), and talk to my close friends a few times a week over a G&T. I chat with my sister and niece via video call most days; the authenticity of my two-year-old niece is just magical! I’m connecting to myself through my psychotherapy books - reading slowly - plus my regular therapy sessions.

When and where do you RETREAT?

I moved my desk to the window and I’m retreating into nature on my daily walk. There's a wood leading up to an open hilltop just ten minutes from home - every time I step into the space an alive quietness surrounds me. Then I wander. With no rules. Bliss.
@thecircleline thecircleline.co.uk

Daryl Woodhouse

An award-winning adviser, entrepreneur, speaker and trainer. Helping individuals and organisations improve mental fitness.


How are you staying CREATIVE?

My main challenges are not being allowed to visit a close relative fighting terminal cancer, balancing work around my three kids and re-working the future of my business after a huge loss in revenues. To tackle this, despite current pressures, caring for my mind and body are key to unlocking my creativity and coming through this stronger.

How do you find SPACE?

I've adapted my routine to include a number of daily habits and a healthy work-life balance. Things like eating well, good sleep routine, daily exercise, meditation, and gardening which find therapeutic. I’m concerned about the impact on our eyes and brainsfrom an increasing reliance on tech - for work and staying social. So, every 20 minutes my alarm goes off, and I stand up to do some stretches whilst looking away from my screens for 20 seconds, towards an object outside more than 20 feet away. The 20:20:20 model. Staying social through isolation is crucial for maintaining strong mental health of friends, family and myself. Having several video calls each day is the next best thing to seeing them in person.

When and where do you RETREAT?

We live a five minute walk from a beautiful War Memorial Garden. It's really peaceful there and a great place to be mindful and appreciative of what we have. I fuel my creativity and give my eyes and mind a break from a phone or laptop screen! Some positives from the virus lockdown are that we get more time with loved ones in our household, and that we've been forced to use time away from usual in-person client delivery to bring forward plans that will future proof our business and make it more scalable. For example, I have an App ready for BETA testing in June and have already developed two virtual delivery products.
Facebook Instagram Twitter Linkedin Youtube darylwoodhouse.com

Jodie Cariss

Jodie is a creative director, and also Founder of The Self Space.


How are you staying CREATIVE?

I actually find the therapeutic relationship very creative. Both with my clients and my own therapist. So actively participating in that work is helpful for me. Playing with my kids is creative - when it’s not challenging! Refocusing the business to operate digitally. 

How do you find SPACE?

Making lists. Tidying. Sleeping eight hours and doing yoga when I can. I also find space in conversation - the pictures in the space between. It can really help you find space inside what might initially feel overwhelming or congested. Sharing things that feel especially heavy can give you space. And asking myself everyday 'what do I need?’. Practising self compassion too.

When and where do you RETREAT?

In the sun when I can! Also yoga and running. Boundaries are really important for mental health at times like this - particularly within relationships. And work/home boundaries also need creating so that you can define where you put your energy.

We asked Jodie a few more questions. Click here to read the full interview.

@theselfspace theselfspace.com

Suki Thompson

A serial entrepreneur; co-founder of the award winning Oystercatchers, executive director Xeim/Centaur Media, and founder of Let’s Reset


How are you staying CREATIVE?

We had to think creatively at the beginning of the shutdown, as all our work was face-to-face. I’m proud to say that we now have three special online workshops for remote workers to support their wellbeing at work. And every week, as the working environment evolves, we are adapting them. I've also interviewed a different leader each day; discussing their commercial focus, their culture and how they are looking after their own wellbeing. Through doing all this I’ve managed to learn some new skills, while focussing on what matters most.

Workshop 1. Your Secret Weapon - Emotionally connecting at work (remotely) and creating an environment of mental wellbeing.

Workshop 2. How to rise like a Phoenix - How to become more resilient and use your grit. 

Workshop 3. Coping with Stress – How to create mindful calm to make better decisions (We are offering companies that are helping key workers in any way, a free workshop.)


How do you find SPACE? 

My daily commute used to be 1.5 hours. Now every day, instead, I run across the beach with my dog. Then I do a yoga class that is run by my second cousin, Jeny, for just our family. I get to see my family (even my 76 year old Mum) take part and learn how to do yoga. It’s really important that I start my day, refreshed, invigorated and loved.

When and where do you RETREAT?

I've always practiced meditation, but it’s now an even more important part of my daily routine. I started over Easter a distance learning course on Understanding Anxiety, Depression and CBT by FutureLearn and I relax with my two children Jaz and Sam. Jaz had left home, but is training in Cornwall as a clinical psychologist and so I am making the most of her being with me. We have all discovered it’s fun to play board games, make VLOGs, walk across the beach and just chill together.
Instagram Linkedin letsreset.com


Jonny Benjamin MBE

An award-winning mental health campaigner, film producer, public speaker, writer and vlogger.


How are you staying CREATIVE?

I'm staying creative by learning the guitar. I expect myself to be at the standard of Brian May by the time lockdown ends! Seriously though, I’m getting taught how to play by a friend and we’re taking it gently. Music is my remedy. It’s really helping me through this period.

How do you find SPACE?:

Practicing meditation, relaxation and visualisation have all been extremely helpful during this time. I tend to use the app InsightTimer or tune into a Zoom class when possible to practice. I'm also keeping in regular contact with family and friends. I’ve truly never been more grateful for technology!

When and where do you RETREAT?

I currently live alone which has its challenges. But it also means I can create my space how I want it to be. I’m buying lots of flowers, constantly lighting candles, and regularly visiting my yoga mat. I’m also getting outside into the Spring air as much as I can. I appreciate being able to do this more now than I ever have before.  
@mrjonnybenjamin Youtube jonnybenjamin.co.uk

Matthew Shaw

BBC news editor and co founder of Whole Man Academy.


How are you staying CREATIVE?

I’m very lucky that I still get to go to work a couple of days each week. That's certainly keeping me creative. In my 25 years as a BBC journalist I’ve clearly never experienced anything like this before - but all of us in the newsroom have a real sense of purpose. We all know we’re doing something important and really want to do our best. We’ve also launched a new podcast series at WMA, so this has given us some time to brainstorm ideas and create some new episodes. Given that we can’t host any events at the minute it’s important we continue encouraging the men in our community to stay strong. 

How do you find SPACE?:

I actually live by myself, so the space is my own - but I do live in a small London flat so I've been very careful to create different spaces around me. Cooking, exercising, ironing, working and sleeping each have their own obvious, yet very defined, places in my home. It feels like a proper commute each time I do something different!

When and where do you RETREAT?

I’ve found it really important to create special moments in my day and week - to make things feel different and meaningful. Cocktail hours, weekend walks, food treats on a Friday, online exercise classes, reading hours in bed, and only TV at night. It makes the days more exciting and sometimes brilliantly self-indulgent.
@matthewshaw1 @wholemanacademy Podcast wholemanacademy.com

Shahroo Izadi

Behavioural Change Specialist, speaker and author.


How are you staying CREATIVE?

I’ve been able to dedicate more time to keeping myself up to date with the new approaches emerging in the behaviour change field. Many evenings have been spent reading the articles I’d bookmarked for months, and never managed to get to before. I’m also doing some proper research into what makes an effective online coaching course, as I continue to develop my own. Learning has certainly helped make up for the much quieter evenings! 

How do you find SPACE?:

Keeping my phone off - and out of reach - between 9pm and 9am helps me enormously to carve out space out for myself. Considering how much I use it throughout the rest of the day, I really do notice a shift in how calm I feel when I know it’s simply not able to interrupt or distract me. I’ve previously got into the habit of reading the news first thing in the morning, before coffee and a stretch; or replying to an email that came in overnight before I’ve had a shower. Over time I’ve learned that habits like these deprive me of a golden opportunity to start and end the day feeling more peaceful, calm and positive.  

When and where do you RETREAT?

Breathwork practices often provide a great reset for me, especially during the evenings and weekends, when I don’t have work on my mind and I can take time to create the best environment for them in my flat. I often come away from 40 minutes of listening to a guided breathwork recording feeling as though I’ve had a mini retreat. 
@shahroo_izadi shahrooizadi.com The Kindness Method The Last Diet

George Hodgson

Mental health campaigner, speaker, founder of Maison de Choup, and ambassador for Young Minds and MQ.


How are you staying CREATIVE?

I’m very fortunate that I’m in quarantine with my whole family, who are a completely bonkers creative bunch, we’ve been doing lots of different things together to keep occupied. My sister and I have actually dug out and planted a wild meadow patch to see if we can brighten up the place, or even soon grow some vegetables! The process of tending to it and watching it flourish is very calming and therapeutic.

How do you find SPACE?:

Sleeping is the single most important thing for me to stay mentally healthy, if I am tired everything starts to fall apart, so I aim to get enough sleep and eat enough. I have started enjoying Yoga with my sister to keep my muscles active and flexible, as well as this, going on daily walks to clear my head. Catching up with people on FaceTime helps to stay in touch, as I’m very social, I find it important to stay connected and share ideas. 

When and where do you RETREAT?

We’ve been rotating cooking in the house, so every day a different family member will cook lunch, it’s been exciting, fun, and rewarding. But at the end of the day we all regroup and retreat to the lounge for 5pm film club, when we all enjoy a different film each day. The recent highlights have been High Society, Atlantis and The Big Sleep. It’s nice to unwind and enjoy some escapism from what is currently happening. 
Instagram georgedavidhodgson.com Podcast

A big thank you to all those who contributed to this piece. Stay safe.

Please note we do not provide medical advice, but if you click here, you can find organisations in your area that will be able to help. If you need immediate help and support please contact The Samaritans (UK). For worldwide information about where to talk to someone please visit befrienders.org.

Are you a UK business owner or company director?


Have you thought about how you're going to bring your team or workforce together once the lockdown has been lifted? We at Create Space would like to support you transitioning into this next chapter - to come up with creative solutions that inspire a new way forward, for you and your employees.

After months spent in isolation, we will all eventually return to work. We're not sure when exactly, but it's clear that when it happens, the world as we knew it has changed. And with it, the working landscape also shifted.

There will be a unique opportunity for employers, and businesses - to redefine how you engage with your employees, customers, and the environment.


How do you want to show up post-corona? Have your values changed? What is your strategy to move forward effectively and authentically?


The collective pain, sadness and loss that the world has been experienced as a result of coronavirus will show up at work whether we like it our not. From low productivity and engagement to depression and burnout. It’s now more vital than ever for businesses to take an active role in building resilience across your organisation.


Find out more here, get in touch to request pricing examples or arrange a call with one of our team.


Let's Reset, Regroup and Reconnect.


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