This pandemic has seen each of us needing to adapt to new ways of living working. What was familiar, in our personal and professional lives, has changed almost overnight. Doctors, of course, are adept to change (after all we have to change jobs, rotas, teams, IT systems, and much more throughout our training), but this level of change is unprecedented and unwanted. Doctors are also used to certainty and to have answers readily to hand. We work with guidelines and protocols; we audit and adapt to new evidence as it develops. However, in this new climate doctors do not readily have the answers they seek and the whole system seems to be in a constant sense of flux and change. This creates anxiety and adds to the exhaustion we feel. The new levels of uncertainty can also create helplessness and even hopelessness as the scaffolding of knowledge, competence, and routine fall away. These emotions are to be expected, but by investing a little time in caring for ourselves, we can mitigate against undue emotional turmoil.
These simple tips can help with psychological and emotional wellbeing over the coming months.
- Accept what you are feeling: Feelings occur for a reason and are linked to emotion, for example, the nervous feeling we can feel in the pit of our stomach is linked to anxiety. By understanding your emotions, you can connect with them, acknowledge them and are better able to process them. This allows you to be more present with yourself.
- Build your resilience reservoir. Reflect on the resources used when you overcame a trauma or stressful event in the past. These might be sharing your experience with family members or friends, engaging in mindfulness or exercise. You might need to adapt these given the current restrictions, but you can still draw on many of your past techniques. By being mindful of your strengths, you are better able to rely on them and utilise them.
- Allow yourself to be human: Doctors are hardwired into putting others first, in working hard and sacrificing their own needs. Remember, you are a human being first and a doctor second; allow yourself the right to be vulnerable.
- Be grateful: By both noticing and appreciating the things you are grateful for you become more attuned to positive events, further fostering positive emotion.
Amrita Sen Mukherjee is a GP in South London with a special interest in Occupational Health, Wellbeing and Physical Health. Amrita is a medical educator at Kings College Hospital Medical School and the First5 Wellbeing Lead at RCGP.
Clare Gerada is a GP in South London and is Clinical Director of the Practitioner Health Programme.
Competing interests: None declared
|NHS Practitioner Health is open as usual (albeit we are now working remotely). We are now able to see medical students who are involved in clinical practice and retired doctors who are returning to clinical practice.
At NHS Practitioner Health we are aware that healthcare workers face stressors and difficulties at the best of times, but in these times of Covid19, these feelings may be heightened by worries over uncertainty and the unknown. These feelings are perfectly normal and a healthy reaction to a very abnormal situation. We have gathered information and resources together to help you and signpost you to routes for support. We will be providing a twice daily online Doctors Common Room, smaller and more confidential support groups, peer support, free access to online modules for well being and much more. Visit our website for information.