If you are one of those who has to leave your house to go to work during the Covid-19 outbreak, it can be one of the most distressing and one of the most difficult times you’ll have to face. Filled with massive amounts of anxiousness, stress and so much more. The most important thing is taking care of your mental health and your body.

All the keyworkers around the world, ensuring that they save as many lives as possible, that the vulnerable are looked after and making sure the whole country is kept up and running. These are the heroes, who are constantly working day in day out to make sure that we tackle this virus.

What classes as a keyworker?

Keyworkers are those whose jobs are vital to public health and safety during this lockdown because their work is so important the Government want to make sure they’re able to carry out their jobs whilst keeping protected at all times.

All NHS staff, cleaners and more, any frontline staff: doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, carers, pharmacists, mental health services and other support and specialist staff in that sector. Nursery teachers, teaching assistants and social workers.

For many keyworkers, they would have to send their children to school to ensure they can carry out their daily jobs. Which is where the essential staff of the education sector are vital. Postal workers, bin worker, charities and those workers doing key frontline services, journalists and broadcasters who are providing news for the public to keep them updated.

Food production, processing, sales and deliveries. Public Safety, Police, support staff, fire, rescue services, Ministry of Defence, National Crime Agency, border security, prison, contractor, armed forces and probation staff. Transport staff, including air, water, road and rail passengers who are operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

Essential financial services, the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors. Workers in civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications, also including supermarket staff who have to go into work to ensure that the food shops are fully stocked up.

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Feelings that may arise

If you’re going into work during the outbreak, you may experience a variety of feelings that you will find difficult. These feelings may be ones you’ve never felt before or something you’re used too.

For many keyworkers going into work, might mean that their family or friends aren’t having to work which makes it difficult to be able to talk to someone about how you’re feeling because they’re not in your shoes. It may be that you feel a heightened amount of anxiety, this situation could occur because you’re concerned for your own health and putting yourself at risk of the virus, but not only that the health of those around you, in regards to family also.

The anxiety might be more overwhelming because your job may involve working with people who have the coronavirus or coming into close contact with those who may be ill. For example, those in the health and social care sector, have to stay close to the patients they care for, so often sticking to the 2 metres apart guidelines can make it extremely difficult to abide by. Even more difficult if they don’t have the correct amount of PPE so are doing their job with no protection. Which can make you feel extremely anxious.

Another big one is stress, you may experience huge amounts of stress about having to go into work during the outbreak. Being in a rushed environment, having loads of patients flooding through the doors with symptoms, those in the public not listening or perhaps colleagues not listening. All of this can cause you to be extremely stressed.

Another feeling you may endure is guilt, which is one that will be very common around now and one that can be distressing. You could be worried about spreading the virus, you have had to take your children to school whilst other families are having to stay at home, you’re worried about whether you’re doing enough.

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Maybe the way you work and deal with situations is different from others, working under a lot of pressure might make you feel stressed but then others may seem fine. If you looking after a patient who has the virus and their health keeps deteriorating you might blame yourself, when in fact you’ve done everything you possibly could and it’s not your fault.

You might feel anger, that some people aren’t taking it serious enough no matter how much it is stressed just about how dangerous it truly is. It will make you feel angry that the public isn’t abiding by the government guidelines and pleasing yourself yet you’re working so hard every day. You’re constantly risking your life day in day out to ensure you do your job but it can be so difficult, due to lack of support, not having the right equipment and there is so much stress to do with life added to it.

How to cope with mental health and wellbeing

If you’re one of those who is having to go out to work during the Covid-19 outbreak, then it may be difficult to even find the time to focus on yourself due to having to show your support to others. Which means it can be hard to be able to take care of your mental wellbeing.

Maybe you’re having to isolate on your own, as you don’t want to risk your families lives if you do happen to catch it.

Don’t ever feel like you’re alone and always speak out, it’s ok to not feel ok and what matters is that you speak out about it if you’re feeling low and struggling to cope. It’s ok to want to take a time out to focus on yourself. If you’re having to isolate on your own, it may be super lonely and you’ll be missing interaction with loved ones.

person walking on hallway in blue scrub suit near incubator

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For those working in healthcare and emergency services, hospitals, pharmacies, doctor surgeries, care homes or police and ambulance services. You may have to face challenges of seeing patients extremely unwell, you may lose those you’re caring for, or lose others that are close to you.

What you go through is extremely difficult, you might be dealing with sadness and depression, shock, panic or anger and grief. All of this might hit you at the same time, which is why it’s important to speak to those you trust or a professional, you do not have to suffer any of this alone.

For emergency services support: The Police Federation has a support programme, Police Care UK provides practical, emotional and financial support, Head First a free online mental health resource for the ambulance service.

For NHS support: A hotline operated by Samaritans has been set up for NHS staff. Free of charge to call on 0300 131 7000 seven days a week Or text FRONTLINE to 85258 for 24-hour support. Apps such as Headspace have given NHS staff free access until December 2020.

Health and social care workers support: King’s Health Partners has a collection of resources regarding mental health and how to cope.

Talk to them, talk to someone you trust and tell them about how you’re feeling. It can help you feel a sense of control over your emotions, even if they can’t change anything you’re experiencing. It will help to get it off your chest. Maybe talking to another colleague, who shares similar experiences to you. Or if you don’t want to worry others, talking to a professional, like a counsellor or someone in the mental health sector who’re always willing to help.

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Video call where you can, try and take your mind off things. Perhaps if it’s with family, have a quiz or a fun game. If it’s with your significant other, just chat about the future and what your plans are. For friends, maybe have a get together as a group and have a good old laugh together. Stay connected with people as much as possible. Maybe join an online support group so that you’re talking to other people and getting their views on the situation.

Stay up to date with current events but be careful where you get your news from, with loads of fake news going around at the moment, it may leave you feeling unsure as to whether the news you’re reading is true or not. If you want accurate information, see the NHS coronavirus page and UK government webpages.

However, with all the negativity on the news, it may do you more harm than good to look into it especially after a long and hard day at work. Then coming home and browsing the news might make you feel worse. If it does make you feel anxious then limit your time to what you look at or maybe get someone you trust to keep you informed only with news that is relevant and important for you to know.

woman holding a cup of coffee at right hand and reading book on her lap while holding it open with her left hand in a well-lit room

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Taking time to yourself is so important, you might find it increasingly difficult to be able to find the time to take to yourself whilst you’re working long hours, when it comes to having a day off you may feel guilty about being able to relax whilst your colleagues are working or you could be.

But it’s so important to be able to know that it’s ok for you to take the time you need to rest and recover your body after all the stress it’s been battling with for the past week or so. It’s not selfish and you need it to be able to make sure that not only your body but your mental state is able to recover. Find ways to relax: take a break, just step away from what you’re doing and breathe deeply. Just taking them a few minutes to calm yourself down. Relax on the sofa, watch a movie, take a relaxing bath, read a book, cook something yummy, do some yoga or cuddle up with a pet.

Read more about coping with anxiety during lockdown.

It may not feel like the best time to go out and exercise after you’ve been to work and worked a lot of exhausting hours, but just going out for a short walk can do you a whole world of good. Of course, remembering to keep that distance between others, go at your own pace, relax and breathe, feel the wind through your hair and soak in the views.

If you’d prefer to stay home, look at classes you could try, yoga, pilates, HIT, cardio, Zumba a lot of personal trainers are now taking classes to online video calling software such as Zoom.

Another key thing to do is focus on your breathing, in through your nose out through your mouth. Relax your shoulders, count as you breathe, breathe deeply and release and a sense of calm will loom over you. Why not get creative? Get in touch with your creative side it will help keep your mind focused and relaxed. Painting, crafts, cooking, sewing, painting, writing, DIY anything that you enjoy or you can do something different.

three silver paint brushes on white textile

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Turn your phone off for a bit, even if it’s just a short amount of time. Listen to music, turn the volume up and block out the world and maybe close your eyes and get lost in the sounds you listen too. If you’re so used to being stressed and in a rushed environment then it can be hard to just escape that scene in your head even when you do go home, all the distressing things you’ve had to do throughout the day.

Try and take your mind somewhere else, think of a beach or a relaxing woodland cottage somewhere, close your eyes and really piece together each detail, let your mind just drift into what you’re thinking off and let your body relax.

Try and stay as active as possible, maybe clean your house and organise your closet, dance to music, online exercises. It’s always important to exercise when you can and as much as you want too, it’s up to you what you do. It can be as simple as a walk or seated exercises especially if you’ve had a hard day. Just keep your body moving.

Improve your sleep, it may be hard to get to sleep but having that rest is important for not just mentally but physically also. Try having a tech-free time before bed, avoiding any bright screens or scrolling through social media. Doing breathing exercises before you sleep, make sure where you’re sleeping is comfortable and the right heat for you to sleep.

Drink water regularly, try to get your 5 a day, you’ll need all the energy you can get, vegetables and fruit. Eating regularly so making sure to have that breakfast filled with lots of fibre in the morning and all the other meals throughout the day. You may want to reach for that coffee in the morning or halfway through the day and whilst that’s ok, to be able to give you that short energy boost but then you might crash and feel anxious and it can disturb your sleep massively.

happy new year greeting with white flower

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Other helplines that offer support:

Call Samaritans on 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org

Call Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774 or text 07537 416 905

Call Mind on 0300 123 3393 or email info@mind.org.uk

Men’s Health Forum 020 7922 7908 for 24/7 stress support by text and chat.

The keyworkers are the ones getting the country through this awful time we’re experiencing right now, constantly fighting this virus of every day, saving lives, delivering food, caring for the vulnerable, keeping the country running, keeping bins emptied, letters delivered, food stocked in supermarkets, food production and so much more.

Without these people everything would fall apart, we have to abide by the Government rules to ensure that the NHS and all other key workers can do their jobs. So thank you for continuing to do a magnificent job. 

Stay home, protect the NHS and save lives. 

Website: https://www.counsellorwhocares.co.uk

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         Journalism Student