EC Cares – A chat with Anne-Marie Sturrock – Head of faculty

When head of faculty for Health, Wellbeing and Social Science Anne-Marie Sturrock reflects on this year and the coping mechanisms she has used throughout the pandemic, she is reminded of the concern she first felt, and the many things that kept her busy during the spring and summer months when the country was in lockdown.

We caught up with Anne-Marie to find out about her professional and deeply personal experience of dealing with the pandemic and asked her to share her thoughts on what has helped her the most during a very challenging year.  

Responding to the lockdown at Edinburgh College

“When lockdown began, on a professional level, I was concerned that Edinburgh College might not be ready or equipped to engage with remote and online delivery of our courses. Would we be able to deliver the practical aspects of moving to remote learning? Would teaching and support staff have access to the resources needed to continue to support our students? It turns out that we were ready!

“The College was quick off the mark in establishing processes to get staff the resources they needed to work from home, and provided access to campuses, where needed, to best support our current students and prepare for the new academic term.

“Though I was worried about how the College would function during lockdown, I was also relieved for the safety of our staff and students – as the purpose of lockdown was to keep everyone safe.  Our faculty team were amazing in being solution-focused and worked on creative ways to ensure our students got the necessary support to finish their course successfully.

My personal experience

“On a personal level, I was concerned for a number of reasons. My daughter has a significant underlying health condition and I was worried that her treatment would stop. My son is a nurse and my brother is a paramedic so at the beginning of lockdown (when there was a national shortage of PPE) I was worried for their safety.

“My mum was really ill in Ireland and sadly passed away during lockdown. I didn’t get to her funeral and I found this sad, unfair, lonely and deeply upsetting. My brother-in-law also lives in a residential care setting and all his activities stopped, which was devastating for him, as his care provider ceased all visits (for the residents’ safety).

“With all that was going on, throughout the pandemic, I felt the best way for me to cope was to follow the public health guidance and keep in (virtual) contact with loved ones. I spoke to my family in Ireland every second night, and kept in regular contact with my son and step children.

“I found it was also important for me to stick to a routine and keep fit and exercise as much as possible. I stopped watching the news at night, and made sure I planned Zoom quiz evenings with family and friends instead.

“I managed to go through a fair few bottles of my favourite tipple but cut down when I saw the number of empty bottles in the glass recycling bin. I also developed a new found love of dark chocolate crispy cakes and had to stop that after a while as I was the only one in the house eating them.

“After I found myself hoovering out my wardrobe one Saturday morning, I decided I needed a new challenge and interest. In May, I was part of a team which entered the College’s ‘Step Count Challenge’ and to say the team and I got competitive is an understatement! Prior to lockdown, any time I put on my walking shoes, my dog (Ozzy) would go and get his lead, but during the Step Count Challenge, anytime I put on my trainers, Ozzy ran upstairs and hid under the bed.

“I walked an average of 11 miles a day (and lost about 3lbs J). My target each day was a minimum of 28,000 steps. I have managed to keep some of this up. I also started jogging again and set myself little targets. I am a ‘fair weather and no hill jogger’, and during lockdown I started to add hills (well really tiny inclines) into my route.

“My husband and I managed to convince our 13-year-old daughter to come on a two-mile walk with us every second night, this was one of our major achievements as a family and I do believe moving Mount Everest to the left would have been easier!

Working from home

“Adapting to working from home was a challenge and the first two weeks were particularly difficult, especially when managing meetings, initially, it is fair to say, I kind of took over the house but after a while I moved my home-office location (to save arguments) and this worked out better for all at home. It was especially difficult getting my daughter into some kind of ‘home schooling routine’ while working.

“At the beginning there were more questions than answers (from staff and students) and it was difficult to manage expectations. The staff team were amazing and solution-focused. Once I figured the difference between remote and online, things managed to settle down and new routines were formed.

“Working from home is not my first choice and I prefer to keep work and home separate.

It has been more difficult for my daughter and husband as both of them usually had music blaring and they both were unimpressed when I asked them to ‘turn it down’. My daughter explained that her ‘age group’ studied better to music. My husband also started a daily routine of bringing me a coffee wearing some kind of a mask on – which kept me entertained.

My tips for looking after our wellbeing

“Ultimately my top tips for coping during the pandemic are to, irrespective of the weather, get out and about (if you are medically and physically able to do so). Your mental health is equally as important as your physical health so make time to do the things that you enjoy and are important to you.

“Remind yourself that you are making a difference and spend some time doing things for others.

Finally, don’t eat chocolate when watching the news as you don’t realise you’re eating it!”