COVID-19: Taking care of yourself

At this time, you may feel stressed for many reasons such as the amount of work, being uncertain about the future, having to make difficult decisions about patients’ care, worrying about taking the virus home with you and infecting others, and/or less contact with family and friends.

Stress can lead to feeling overwhelmed, finding it difficult to think clearly, feeling exhausted and/or tension in working relationships. This is a marathon and not a sprint. To make it to the finish line you need to look after both your physical and mental health. You can’t look after your patients unless you look after yourself. So:

Take care of yourself

  • Take regular breaks and find time to unwind between shifts.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Eat enough healthy food.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid using tobacco, alcohol and drugs to cope.

Be kind to yourself

  • Make room for your feelings - feeling upset or worried is not a sign of weakness.
  • Think about how you usually cope at times of stress and use these strategies.

Stay connected

  • Keep in touch with family and friends – by phone or social media if necessary.
  • You may unfortunately experience avoidance by family members or the community due to stigma or fear. This can make an already challenging situation far more difficult. If possible, stay connected with your loved ones including through digital methods. Turn to your colleagues or other trusted persons for social support.
  • Check how your colleagues are doing and support each other.
  • Recognise that different people will cope in different ways.
  • If possible, consider setting up or joining a Balint Group to discuss difficult cases and find support from your peers. This may be operated virtually using e-mail, phone, Skype etc as well as meeting with colleagues face to face where social distancing can be carried out.

Manage information

  • Too much information can be overwhelming. Keep work-related COVID updates to key times.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news.
  • Obtain information from trusted sources and focus on facts not speculation.

Make use of available support

We listed below a number of resources which can help you get the support you need. There may also be local support services available in your area. Please contact your Trust for further information, as it is very important for you to know who to contact in your own Trust if you are unwell or if stressed/distressed.

1. Psychiatrists’ Support Service (PSS)

The RCPsych Psychiatrists’ Support Service (PSS) provides free, rapid, high quality peer support by telephone to psychiatrists of all grades who may be experiencing personal or work-related difficulties. Our service is totally confidential and delivered by trained Doctor Advisor College members. It is available during office hours Monday to Friday. To contact the support service:

  • Call our dedicated telephone helpline on 020 8618 4020
  • Email us in confidence at pss@rcpsych.ac.uk

2. NHS Practitioner Health

Practitioner Health is a free, confidential NHS service for doctors and dentists across England with mental illness and addiction problems, who are working or looking to return to clinical practice. The service can help with issues relating to a mental health concern, including stress or depression or an addiction problem, in particular where these might affect work. The service is provided by health professionals specialising in mental health support to doctors and is available in various locations across England.

In the COVID-19 context, Practitioner Health offers “Doctor's Common Room”, a positive place to come together, to connect and to establish a safe, containing space in which to think and reflect. People can join the group when they wish and there is no expectation that people will attend every group. See their calendar to check when the next Doctor's Common Room webinar is.

3. #OurNHSPeople Wellbeing Support

The NHS has developed a wellbeing support package to help NHS workers manage their health and wellbeing. In addition to the health and wellbeing services and employee assistance programme already in place, the offer includes:

  • a free wellbeing support helpline, providing confidential listening from trained professionals and specialist advice, including coaching, bereavement care, mental health and financial help on 0300 131 7000, available from 7.00 am – 11.00 pm seven days a week;
  • a 24/7 text alternative to the above helpline (text FRONTLINE to 85258);
  • online peer to peer, team and personal resilience support, including through Silver Cloud, and free mindfulness apps including Unmind,  HeadspaceSleepio and Daylight.

There will also be weekly webinars on workforce wellbeing every Wednesday at 4pm.

4. MindEd COVID-19 Resilience Hub 

Supported by Skills For Care, MindEd have drawn together the best advice and tips from a large panel of international experts to guide everyone on the front line health and care services.

5. Other resources

External support resources can be found on our dedicated webpage as well as the dedicated NHS Practitioner Health webpage on workforce wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis.

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