21 April 2020
Looking after your mental health
by Rebecca Owen
It’s reassuring that there is so much attention being focused on mental health and wellbeing during this pandemic. The recognition that anyone could be struggling with stress and anxiety, and the importance of looking after our mental health. There are so many tools available to us but today I wanted to tell you about a few that I have personally found helpful. I was introduced to Mindfulness a few years ago, during a time when I was experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety. It worked wonders for me so it’s something that I’ve recommended to family, friends and patients over the years. Here are a couple of my personal favourite resources.
Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World
I bought the book which came with a CD of guided meditation exercises. That seems quite old-fashioned now! The same exercises have been made freely available, and who could resist a chocolate meditation?
‘A clinically proven online mindfulness course for better mental wellbeing’. The course costs £30 but the Be Mindful Team provide a free introduction so you can get a feel for what to expect on the Pathway. There is no obligation and you can unsubscribe at any time.
21 days of free meditation – Finding hope in uncertain times
With Deepak Chopra & Oprah (yes, the Oprah!)
I’m part of a group doing the 21-day Abundance Challenge. I’m only a couple of days in but so far so good. It’s no longer available free of charge though unfortunately:
And finally, a great ‘top tips’ resource from the Journal of Diabetes Nursing
‘Looking after your mental health during COVID-19: Six tips for healthcare professionals’
Based on WHO advice, tips for healthcare professionals on looking after their own mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis.
Tip 1: Accept that feeling stressed is normal in these circumstances
- Feeling stressed and under pressure is a likely experience for all healthcare professionals working at this time.
- These feelings are by no means a reflection that you cannot do your job or are failing.
Tip 2: Seek support from family, friends and colleagues
- Unfortunately, some healthcare workers may experience avoidance by their family or community due to stigma, fear or illness. In such cases, staying connected with loved ones, including through digital methods, is one way to maintain contact.
- Turn to your colleagues, your manager or other trusted persons for social support – they may be having similar experiences to you.
Tip 3: Try and use helpful coping strategies and avoid using unhelpful ones
- Try to:
– Ensure sufficient rest and respite during work, even for short periods, and between shifts.
– Eat sufficient and healthy food.
– Engage in physical activity. Learn simple daily physical exercises to perform at home, in quarantine or isolation to maintain mobility and reduce boredom.
– Stay in contact with family and friends.
– Use strategies that have worked for you in the past to manage times of stress.
- Try to avoid:
– Using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs as coping strategies (in the long term, these can worsen mental and physical wellbeing).
Tip 4: Minimise consumption of news and social media
- Seek information only from trusted sources such as www.gov.uk, www.nhs.uk and www.nhsinform.scot. Seeking facts, rather than rumours and misinformation, can increase your sense of control and minimise fears.
- Seek information mainly to receive practical advice.
- Seek updates at specific times, and only once or twice per day.
Tip 5: Try to amplify positive and hopeful stories
- Share stories of people who have recovered and are willing to share their experience. Remember that the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 will experience only mild symptoms and make a full recovery.
- Share stories of positive acts and human kindness, such as the half-million people volunteering to support the NHS in one day.
Tip 6: Take pride in your work
- Acknowledge the role you and other healthcare professionals are playing to save lives and keep your loved ones safe.
- Avoid feeling guilty for taking time off for rest or sickness: this is a marathon, not a sprint.
31 March update: Bonus tip! Free access to wellbeing apps for all NHS staff
NHS staff have been given free access to a number of wellbeing apps until December: visit https://bit.ly/3bBPUP5 to learn more.
Reference: Journal of Diabetes Nursing 2020, Vol 24, No 1
Access the resource here: