There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has made an impact in people’s lives on a global scale. From falling gravely ill, losing loved ones and the harsh restrictions, we have had a lot to cope with over the last two years. Perhaps those most greatly affected by these uncertain times are healthcare workers on the frontline.
Medical facilities in the UK have been overcrowded since the start of the pandemic due to the number of infections. We have never been equipped to deal with this number of patients. General practitioners (GPs) face mental stress, physical exhaustion, separation from their families and losing patients and colleagues to the virus.
As a GP it may be difficult to put your own wellbeing first, especially when your patients are fighting for their lives. However, to be the best possible doctor to help your patients, you need to prioritise your own basic needs and protect both your mental and physical health.
Every individual is different. While certain strategies may work for some, they may not be a good fit for others. Here we will share several different approaches that GPs can try to optimise your own wellbeing during this challenging time.
Acknowledge that times are tough
It’s essential that you acknowledge that, right now, you are facing an incredibly difficult situation and that this is bound to influence your wellbeing. Acknowledge that those around you are also struggling with the challenges that overcrowded hospitals present.
Find someone you feel you can confide in and take time to express yourself openly. If you feel you need it, do not hesitate to reach out for support from a psychologist or counsellor. As much as you help others, you may need help too.
Realise what you can and can’t control
There is a lot that will be out of a doctor’s control while treating Covid patients. Feeling like you cannot control what is happening around you is the quickest way to become stressed and frazzled, which could affect how efficiently you work. Reach out to your professional adviser rather than bottling it all up and trying to deal with everything yourself.
It’s important to take time to remember where you do have the autonomy to make decisions and where you do have control.
Get some movement in
It may seem like the last thing you want to do after a long session of seeing patients, but the benefits of getting physical activity in your routine are endless. As a doctor, you will know what the positives are of walking every day. But the benefits of walking that are specific to the work you do include an improved mood, lowered stress levels, better sleep and higher immunity.
Maintain a work-life balance
Under normal circumstances, it may have been somewhat easier as a GP to strike a healthy balance between work and life. Now that the demands are greater and you are likely spending a lot more time at work, it may be harder to achieve a work-life balance.
Balancing work with your personal life gives your mind and body time to recover from long and taxing shifts, it also helps you to cope mentally and emotionally and makes your rest more restorative.
Maintaining a work-life balance includes spending time totally disconnected from the responsibilities of work – including turning off your electronic devices – and focusing on spending time with friends and family, doing activities that make you happy, or relaxing with an enjoyable book.
Take care of your body
You will need to keep your body fuelled while spending prolonged periods caring for patients. Ensure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated; your body needs it to perform even the most basic functions. Take regular breaks to eat, even if it’s just a quick snack, but do avoid snacking on sugary foods as a quick fix. It’s also advisable that you try getting fresh air and sunlight by taking frequent short 2 to 10-minute breaks.
Keep up good hygiene and safety practices
All the chaos that you may be facing during the pandemic can make it easy to forget to protect yourself by maintaining good hygiene and safety practices. The speed at which you need to operate while attending to patients may also make it easy to forget about washing your hands between each consultation, for example.
Remember that by practicing good hygiene, you’re protecting yourself, your patients and your colleagues – three very good reasons to keep it up. Diligent hand hygiene, cough etiquette and knowing how to properly put on and take off PPE have a huge role to play.
At Primary Care Surveyors we care about your wellbeing, particularly while facing the challenges of practising medicine in the middle of a pandemic. Ensure you get the help you need from a professional if you need it.