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A Day in the life of a sales assistant during lockdown

Clare Ely is a sales assistant in her family's business in Carmarthen where she works 9-3pm in Cogan's newsagents. As we are all aware, retail staff are a major part of our survival through these times as they help us to carry on our shopping, by staying open and serving us. I caught up with Clare during a zoom chat to see how she is coping during these times.

AL: How has lockdown affected you?

CE: My routine hasn't changed as I'm still working the same hours. Things have, however changed in the shop as we have implemented social distancing rules to ensure the safety of staff and customers as well as wearing gloves and washing our hands every 2 minutes. In the first couple of weeks, everything went through the roof, everyone was in the shop panic buying and the phone was ringing non-stop. We've taken hundreds of new calls for deliveries and we've started food orders for those who can't get their food deliveries from their usual store. The majority of customers are being really helpful towards staff and each other and are very aware of the situation. They will wait for other customers to leave the shop before coming in and they've been disinfecting their money as we are still accepting cash.  

The busyness has been quite difficult because I'm worried about catching something myself and bringing it home to the rest of my family so that's constantly in my head. You become paranoid as well, you can see people touching things, you're scared to touch things after them and I'm conscious not to touch my face or mouth. The paranoia is quite draining as it can all play on your mind afterwards. 

My youngest son is home from school so he's doing school work online, my husband is working from home and is trying to keep our son busy as well as working. My oldest son was working for the family business as well, however as he has epilepsy he decided to stop working as he's read that if he gets it, his temperature will go up and that could cause him to have fits. He was quite nervous about this so chose not to risk it by working in the shop. My daughter has her own home and she's not working at the moment as she normally works at a Crèche which is currently closed. It's difficult not seeing her as often as I'm used to as she used to come up for food in the evenings and now we are chatting on WhatsApp, Zoom or Skype.

AL: How are you coping and are there any tips you would like to share with others? 

CE: I use mindfulness everyday before going to work and then whilst in work. I don't read any newspapers or news on my phone as that can easily make me more worried about what is going on. Customers want to talk about everything and I try to move the conversation on to other things to be a bit more positive to help them. When I feel myself becoming overwhelmed with how busy it is in the shop, then I'll stop and take a break so I'll breathe whilst focussing on sounds and what I can see rather than avoiding my feelings.  I accept whatever the situation is rather than worrying.

In the morning I meditate, when I finish work we will go for an hour's walk talking through our day to bring about happier thoughts whether that is in planning for the future or having happier conversations. In the evening, I eat mindfully rather than rushing, try to focus on what I'm doing and read to take my mind off things. When I meditate with my youngest son then I'll choose ones that I think he will enjoy. 

When the customers want to chat then I encourage positive thoughts for them and chat to them about setting up my business 'Mindfulness and Me'. I'm making the most of the time available to develop my website and work on things I wouldn't normally find the time for. The Zoom sessions I've been involved in have shown me that I can offer my business online as well as in person in the future. As I know the benefits of practicing Mindfulness, I want to

help more people experience it too. 

AL: What have you learnt during this time that you may take forward afterwards? 

CE: We are usually really busy and out of the house a lot. My son plays football 6 evenings a week as he plays for 3 different teams so I'm working all day and then out in the evening.  I've learnt how nice it is to just be at home. Other times, I'm always planning the next holiday. When I reflected about why I want that so much I realised it's only when you're on holiday that you're chilled and relaxed. So knowing how I can be in that mindset in my own home then I don't need to be away as much now.

I've also enjoyed checking in with people I wouldn't necessarily be in touch with so often. Now I'm making a conscious effort to be in touch with them more each week to make sure they are ok and that's something I would like to continue. 

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