'Routine is key to lockdown survival': Military surgeon uses submarine experience to give advice

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06 May 2020

RCSEd Military RSAs Commander Adam Stannard has given advice about surviving lockdown. 

Source: gazettelive

Vascular surgeon Commander Adam Stannard is no stranger to spending time in isolation.

As a military surgeon he has often had to spend months away from his friends and family, particularly back when he was appointed to submarines, and more recently with the Royal Marines.

“I guess the most extreme version of lockdown you can get is being a submariner,” he said.

“You deploy for prolonged periods, you don’t come to the surface for several months at a time and you are surrounded by the same faces.

“Back then the level of isolation was really quite significant in that you could not connect back home with anyone. You only got 28 words a week from home and two of those were your rank and name.

"They used to come through on a little bit of paper and were very precious at the time.”

During the current situation Adam is continuing to perform urgent vascular procedures at the James Cook University Hospital, while back at home in Yarm his challenge is to keep his teenage sons entertained during lockdown.

Given his past experiences, Adam’s advice for everyone during lockdown is to stick to a routine and to set achievable short-term and long-term goals.

“Routine is really important, that’s what keeps people relatively happy and functioning well. Keeping yourself fit and active is also important," he continued.

“When we were working away people would give up smoking or would set a goal to get fit, and we did have a small gym on board.

“Your physical goal might just be to get out a bit further each day as part of your daily exercise. It does not matter how old you are, everyone can get better, even some 100-year-olds are walking around their gardens!

“When you first leave time drags, but you adapt to this and you get into a routine. It is the transitions at the beginning and the end where time tends to drag.

"Once in a steady state time passes relatively quickly - just think how quickly the Thursday night clap for the NHS seems to come around.

“We were working two six hour shifts a day so I would always wake up 6 o’clock. I used to wear an analogue watch so sometimes I would wake up and not know if it was time for breakfast or dinner!

“In fact, one of the ways we knew what day it was when we were away was by what we had to eat, for example Wednesday was always curry night.

“You get into the flow of being away and, as I’m sure people are finding now on lockdown, the time goes very quickly.

“The key is not to try and do too much, to be happy with what you have got and to try and make week days different to the weekends.

“I have spent a lot of time away from my family over the years so it’s nice to have this opportunity to spend more time with them now.”

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