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Six rules for coping with the COVID-19 crisis

Post date: 04/06/2021 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 07/07/2021

Dr Rachel Morris shares some tips for adjusting to a new way of working 

Even as we come out of restrictions, life is far from normal. Some of the changes that took place during the height of the pandemic are here to stay, so it’s vital that we manage ourselves for staying mentally fit and well for the long term. 

RULE 1: Look after your biggest asset

Pay very close attention to your own wellbeing. You are no good to anyone if you burn out and are unable to function. You already know what you need to do to feel better (it’s often the first thing you stop doing when you get too busy!) – so put this in your diary and plan a time when you can do it every day. 

RULE 2: Proactively manage your own anxiety and stress

Here are our top tips:

Limit your exposure to social media and the news. 
Yes, we need to know what’s going on. No, we don’t need to obsessively check our phones. I suggest you watch one news programme a day and limit yourself to ten minutes twice a day on social media. And even then, only choose to look at helpful stuff.

Get the help you need
Access your Employee Assistance Programme if you have one. Many of these provide a 24-hour counselling hotline. Doctors can access the Practitioner Health Programme or the BMA Wellbeing service. The NHS people website and MIND has some really good resources too.

Medical Protection members can also access a free counselling service as part of their membership for work-related issues such as stress, burnout, anxiety and conflict. Members can book a free session by calling ICAS on 0808 189 4385 and quoting your Medical Protection membership number.

Make a list of what you are grateful for
Keeping a gratitude journal and writing down three things you are thankful for every day will help you to notice all that is good in the world and is a powerful antidote to anxiety. For more about how our brain reacts in times of stress you could read The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters. 

RULE 3: Isolate but don’t be isolated

Whoever coined the term social distancing got it pretty wrong. We don’t need social distancing, we need spatial or physical distancing. Who do you connect with regularly who re-energises you? Make a point of connecting with them wherever possible face-to-face, or if that’s not possible do it virtually – and more often than you otherwise would. We need each other. Make use of WhatsApp and other social media channels. Share hope, share joy, share jokes (it’s OK to laugh). 

RULE 4: Keep calm but don’t carry on

We have all needed to do things differently over the past year. You will already have made changes and yet will still need to make more; you will need to continue to be flexible. Above all, you may need to stop doing a few things if you’re feeling overwhelmed. This is OK. 

Work out what brings you joy; read a book, take a bath, play games with the kids. Make sure that you delineate boundaries between work and home (even if you’re working AT home).

RULE 5: Be kind…to yourself and others

Many of us are operating with a low (or high!) level of anxiety and stress. This means our thinking can be clouded; we might be forgetting things and on a very short fuse. If you find yourself reacting in ways that surprise you…

THIS IS OK. IT IS NORMAL. Forgive yourself.
Other people (particularly the ones you are living with!) might also be a bit more irritable and tetchier than usual. 

THIS IS OK. IT IS NORMAL. Forgive them. 
Give them a lot of rope – and sometimes a wide berth! We’re in this together.

RULE 6: Keep looking up

It may feel like many things have been stripped away in the last year so now is the time to focus on what makes life worth living. Now is the time to connect with something greater than yourself and outside yourself. Now is the time to connect with your purpose and your place in this world. 

For some of you, this will mean making a special effort to schedule in time for prayer and meditation. For some this means watching inspirational talks, or listening to podcasts (how about the You Are Not A Frog podcast (youarenotafrog.com), which shares life hacks so healthcare professionals can beat burnout and work happier).

For some this might mean attending live-streamed or face-to-face acts of worship, prayer or meditation. For some this might mean spending some time in nature and being thankful. 

Keep looking up, we are all connected – our sadness, our joy and our hopes and fears. 

Stay strong. We’re in this together.
 
Dr Rachel Morris is a GP and speaker turned executive and team coach and host of the You Are Not A Frog podcast for GPs, doctors and other busy professionals in high stress jobs. She co-runs the Permission to Thrive CPD membership for doctors and has created the Shapes Toolkit, a programme of productivity and resilience tools and training for healthcare and other high stress organisations. 

For more details visit permissiontothrive.org and shapestoolkit.com or email rachel@wildmonday.co.uk

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