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Some thoughts on life and study in lockdown

By Jon McFarlane - Posted on 29 July 2020

PhD student Jon McFarlane is naturally an outgoing person and worried about being away from university when lockdown began. Here, several months on, he explains what has helped him and how he has adapted to changing circumstances.

My name is Jon McFarlane, I am 23 years old and have cerebral palsy. I started attending Bobath when I was two not being able to walk. Now I have international caps in CP football, and this is thanks to the hard work that the fantastic team at Cerebral Palsy Scotland do every day. 

Working from home 

I am currently studying for a PhD in economics at the University of Strathclyde Business School. My research and my university are something that I am passionate about and genuinely have missed being on campus every day. Our department has been very supportive both before and during this situation, and this has been important in transitioning to working from home. 

I struggled to work from home at first as I enjoy working in an office environment with others. I am a people person and like to have a conversation at any given time. However, the thought of working from my room alone, isolated, was worse than the reality. I still have regular catch-ups with my peers on Zoom and meet with my supervisors online a few times per week. Dr Grant Allan and Dr Gioele Figus have been fundamental in supporting me to adapt to working from home, and I cannot thank them enough. Their ideas about working from home really inspired me. 

Recently, I was given access to the office to get my desktop computer home, which has made working from home more comfortable. This is important. The best adaption that I have made was to keep a record of the work I have done weekly. This allows me to see visually if I have been productive. I set myself a deadline at 5 o’clock each Friday to get everything done. This is because humans tend to procrastinate on non-deadline events. If you set short term goals frequently, then this can increase productivity. 


Without football and golf, I started to look for new sporting ventures. I got myself a bike, got all the gears switched to the left and off I went. Cycling since lockdown has been great. When I have needed a break away from work or needed time alone to let off some steam, cycling has been the ideal remedy. It provides exercise, Vitamin D and a challenge. 


Another opportunity that lockdown has given me is time to relax and read for enjoyment. I have used this opportunity to learn about the brain in a lot more detail than I had previously known, and this has helped me understand cerebral palsy more. This understanding genuinely has made me feel happier and content, and without lockdown, I would never have had the time to do this. 

Some helpful tips when you are stressed/sad/ anxious/needing support:

Tip 1: Don’t watch the news 

The media thrive on negativity and portray negative images of the deaths and infection rates of COVID-19 etc. Although this is important to know and understand, if you are feeling down it is not a good idea to see any negativity – as my granny says “out of sight, out of mind.” 

Tip 2: Use technologies available 

Apps like headspace and calm are fantastic for both adults and children at helping calm the mind and guiding yourself through stressful times. Mindfulness and wellness are essential right now. 

Tip 3: Reach out to your friends and family 

These people are there for you. Although you might think “they have their own worries, I won’t bother them”, it is beneficial for everyone to know that everyone else is doing okay. 

Tip 4: Ask for help if you need it 

As I said, I’m happy to chat to anyone - parent, carer, or someone who has CP themselves! Also, Cerebal Palsy Scotland have weekly Zoom coffee and catch ups and are there at the end of the phone or the computer to help, so please reach out if need to. 

Please stay safe, look after yourselves, enjoy life as much as possible and I will see you all around Strathclyde soon!

Contact details

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