We talked to healthcare professionals who dedicate their lives to caring for others. And who are now committed to caring for their communities during a global crisis, risking their own health and wellbeing.
The pandemic has placed huge pressures on the NHS, however, as we have seen, NHS staff are highly skilled, motivated and resilient. They have great wisdom, experience and profound values of compassion. So, we wanted to find out how they have found a balance between the extreme challenges they face and compassion for themselves - from the inside out. Maybe we can all find some wisdom in what they have to say about coping and meeting their wellbeing needs. We asked them; what their biggest challenges are professionally and personally; How they take care of their physical and mental health and what self-care routines have helped.
Salma (Frontline Nurse)
Having appropriate equipment is still the biggest challenge but also being too hot, especially when we are in full PPE. The biggest fear is the constant exposure to the virus. Like everyone else its hard knowing that I cannot travel to see my elderly mother if anything happens to her.
I always make time to eat healthy meals and not a snack. I drink warm water and sometimes blend with a mixture of ginger, garlic, lemon and beetroot. I personally take Vitamin C and D every day, especially at a time when I need to boost my immune system.
I try to avoid watching the news-it’s all gloom!
Sam (Frontline Doctor)
It’s a challenge to balance the needs of patients whilst keeping your colleagues and team safe, all the while not forgetting your family at home. Being torn between looking after your patients as per your vocation, and your family’s concerns that you may be putting yourself in danger is always at the back of my mind.
I do regular sessions with Joe Wickes – The Body Coach – both adult exercises and P.E. with my 9yo and 6yo children! Spending time with my family has been a blessing, even though we seem to be watching a lot of Star Wars on the Disney Channel!
My self-care routines are really important and include taking a bath, going for a walk (whilst listening to a good podcast) and playing with my kids.
Nadia (Frontline Doctor)
I'm very grateful that I am able to still work and have a job that enables me to do so. In addition, doing a job that is contributing and helping in these current unprecedented times of COVID-19 is very rewarding. However, we've had to adapt very quickly to a completely different way of assessing and treating patients, whilst keeping up to date with the daily ever-changing guidelines.
Personally, the biggest challenge is balancing work, homeschooling, maintaining a home life and a balanced state of mind. My 7-year-old daughter is aware there is 'a virus' and that is why she is not at school. She also enjoys the fact that she is not going to school, as any child would! I try to make the most of it and remind myself that we are spending precious time with each other.
Personally, physical and mental health go hand in hand. We exercise daily whether it's PE with Joe Wickes or using the variety of exercise apps or live streams.
Self-care routines include my daily walk and my daughter's bike ride which she's getting better at. When I can, I like reading about 'self-care' for example cooking/ baking recipes, beauty care, relaxation techniques etc. It doesn't mean I actually do it all. There are good days and there are bad days. I think that's expected and it's 'normal'. This is not something most of us have ever been through and hopefully never will again. So, again I humbly tell myself to take it day by day and not to put much pressure on myself. It could be worse.
I think what we need and do not have now is reliable, validated and general testing of COVID-19 antibodies and more importantly we need to find an efficacious treatment and eventually a vaccine.
Flo (Frontline Nurse)
My biggest challenge is not knowing what will come in the future and not being able to control the situation.
I am trying to take care of my mental and physical health by doing exercises online, Zooming in with my family and friends, planning healthy meals to cook and exchanging recipes.
I have online calls/ chats with my friends from other countries, talking with my father, taking care of my son, going to work ....keeps me very busy ..and mentally stable. My self-care routines are so important and I love long baths, listening to music and experimenting with healthy food.
I am really looking forward to a holiday and massage!
Emma (Frontline Healthcare Assistant)
The biggest challenge is being careful at work and in my personal life by wearing gloves, masks and social distancing. Self-isolation has been difficult at a time when I would normally get support from my friends and family, but our boss at work has been very supportive and strong leadership makes a big difference.
I make sure to spend time outside (for vitamin D and fresh air) or in a well-ventilated room. Self-care for me includes healthy eating, good sleep (at least 7 hours) and lots of hydration. I also take vitamin C every day and make sure to exercise.
I`m a single mum who lives alone with my little girl and I’m always prepared in advanced if anything should happen. But we also spend time playing in the garden, baking and painting together. It has made me realise how precious this time is with her.
What's the low-down
Going back to ‘basics’ of wellbeing and self-care routines are the key. Healthy eating, exercise, fresh air and connecting with friends and family are top of the agenda for everyone we spoke to. Keeping it simple and consistent seems to be the way to face challenges and develop a resilient mindset.
We’d like to thank the NHS professionals from the Northwest London NHS trusts who took time from their busy schedules to help us understand how they maintain wellbeing and resilience in the face of extreme challenges.