Coping with stress during lockdown – in conversation with Marc Bannister

Time To Change


Marc Bannister

Operations Director
(Northern Region)



What was your life like before the lockdown? What would your typical day look like?

I wake up at around 5am, and then I listen to the shipping forecast. After that, it depends on what the day has to offer. Understanding what the tasks for the day are and prioritising them. After that I’m normally on the road travelling, meeting clients or managing the team in one way or another. A lot of my time was being dedicated to travelling.

What were your stress levels like on a normal working day?

My particular career path has led to a life of continually dealing with uncertainty, so uncertainty is a very comfortable place for me to be. Of course, everyone gets stressed sometimes and it would be foolish to deny that. Predominantly I feel I sit between 4.5 and 5.5 out of 10 for my stress on a daily basis. I’m an introvert by nature so, over time, I’ve developed coping strategies including placing things into mental boxes. I feel I’ve got to the point where I do feel stress, but I have a coping mechanism to deal with it.

What was your daily routine like during the peak of the lockdown?

Life wasn’t particularly interrupted for me apart from the travelling, so I’m finding that I’m much more productive now that I don’t have to travel. I have more time for fitness and focusing on other activities outside of the business which I think is useful. I’ve also been much stricter about shutting off for a period of time in the evenings. I make it a priority now to have supper and then sit down and read about something that interests me and will take my mind away from work.

These seem like quite healthy changes to make. Are you going to try and keep them up when things get back to normal?

Absolutely. I suppose one other thing that I will do is not travel unless I really need to. So less travel and making sure that I get enough sleep as it definitely does help.

You said that dealing with uncertainty is quite comfortable for you – does that come from your time in the Forces?

The Forces absolutely places you in unconventional situations where you have to adapt your leadership skills and thought process. That transfers quite neatly into civilian life and therefore when we move into what people would normally call a crisis, to me it’s actually never a crisis. Coming from a background where I would deal with crisis situations every day, the pandemic and lockdown hasn’t felt like a crisis to me. Coupled with that, I’m blessed with a fantastic support network at work both with my immediate team and across the business.

Most people have been seeking relaxing beach or city breaks after the lockdown, but you’ve just returned from two weeks of mountaineering in the French Alps. Why did you choose an adrenaline break over a relaxing one?

I think it takes your mind away from everyday things and you really have to concentrate on what you’re doing otherwise it can very quickly become “dangerously interesting”. There’s also a second reason being that my working life has been so full-on, there’s still an area that needs fulfilment in terms of travel and excitement. I suppose I’m happiest in what most people would consider a hostile environment or an extreme situation.

Was the trip a success in terms of relaxation and feeling refreshed?

Yes absolutely, it gave me plenty of time to think things through, allowed me to have a much more strategic view of things, and gave me time to work through issues more efficiently. Having adequate time for your body to recuperate is also fundamental. I found that I was working at the same pace as I was in the forces, but without the three-month break you would get which is just physically and mentally exhausting. I’ve come back to work with a completely different perspective and with some fresh new ideas.

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