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Taking care of you

Firstly, we’d like to say thank you for your amazing efforts during this extremely challenging time.  We are so proud of you all.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put healthcare professionals in unprecedented situations, having to make incredibly difficult clinical decisions and work under extreme pressures.

You may have been feeling a variety of emotions over the past few weeks; anxious, scared, overwhelmed, numb and even angry. It’s important to acknowledge that these emotions are completely normal, and you are not alone. Unfortunately, managing your emotions during a global pandemic isn’t a subject explicitly covered during your nurse studies, but one thing that we did learn about was the importance of self-care.

Take regular breaks, during and in-between shifts: whilst on shift it is important to eat and drink properly. We know how busy you all are, but it is equally important to look after your own health whilst caring for others. We discourage working back to back shifts without any breaks so make sure you take a few days out here and then to rest and recuperate. Looking after you is not selfish, it’s essential.

Stay connected: When we’re feeling down or we’ve just finished a difficult shift, the first thing we want to do is see our family, friends and loved ones. But with social distancing guidelines restricting contact with anyone outside our household, it’s important that we embrace alternative contact methods to stay connected. Whether it’s Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp or Facebook, there are many virtual ways to reach out to your loved ones.

Keep moving: As gyms and leisure centres remain closed, it’s important that we discover new ways to stay active and keep moving. If you’re an avid gym-goer then there are plenty of ways to reconnect with your gym classes online, through social channels like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. If breaking out a sweat isn’t for you, then take a relaxing walk to your local park for some fresh air. 

Routine: Is it Tuesday Or Saturday? Sometimes, we’re not sure what day of the week it is either, but that’s why it’s so important to maintain a routine, particularly those of you who are currently self-isolating or shielding. Try to wake up at your normal time, eat as you ordinarily would and go to bed as usual. Avoid spending large amounts of time watching, reading or listening to the news. The information overload could leave you feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

If you do feel overwhelmed, it’s important to seek support, talk to your colleagues, manager or someone you trust about how your feeling. You are not alone. Your colleagues are likely to be experiencing the same emotions and you can support each other through this. Be compassionate to yourself and others. It’s OK not to be OK.

The aftermath

When we reach the end of this pandemic, it’s just as important to reflect on and manage our emotions. The stress, fear, anxiety and shock experienced throughout can be overwhelming. This can be particularly challenging for our mental health.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by suffering or witnessing a terrifying event such as an accident, natural disaster, violence or a disastrous pandemic. It comes as no surprise that health professionals and other frontline workers are expected to have a surge in trauma-related illnesses, particularly PTSD, once we come out the other end of this pandemic. It is important that you seek help and advice if you believe you are experience PTSD.

Here are some of the people who can help:

Cavell Nurses Trust
01527 595 999
Send a message here.

NHS 111 wellbeing support line
Text FRONTLINE to 85258 – available 24/7
0300 131 700 – available Monday to Sunday, 7am – 11pm

Frontline 19
Free and emotional support for front line workers

RCN counselling service
to make an appointment phone: 0345 772 6100

Northern Ireland

0800 808 8000 – available 24/7

RCN COVID-19 helpline
02890 384 616 – available Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm

Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH)
0344 800 0500 – available Monday to Friday, 9am – 6pm

INMO member helpline: 1-850-670-4077 – available 24/7

Wellbeing apps

NHS staff have been given free access to wellbeing apps such as Headspace and Unmind.

Headspace has also designed a free section within their app called ‘Weathering the storm.’ This section is available to everyone and includes meditations, sleep, and movement exercises.

Wellbeing apps Sleepio (to help improve sleep) and Daylight (to help with symptoms of worry and anxiety through cognitive behavioural techniques) have offered free access to NHS staff. Non-NHS healthcare workers should also be able to sign up too, as you don’t need an NHS e-mail to register.

The My Possible Self mental health app has been made free to all during the COVID-19 emergency. Use the simple learning modules to manage fear, anxiety and stress, tackle unhelpful thinking, record your experiences and track symptoms to better understand your mental health.

Take care of yourselves and remember, although we’re not all in the same boat we’re all experiencing the same storm.

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