Emotional health in the age of the virus

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By Chris Cherry, Distinguished Psychotherapist & Founding Trustee of You Okay, Doc?

A short guide for doctors on finding different pathways to managing your mind, body and emotions during COVID-19.

In my thirty years of being a therapist I have never witnessed a world event that has impacted everyone’s life to quite the same degree as Covid 19.

The meetings that I have are now about how this virus literally infects and impacts everyone’s emotional well being.

While the general population have many challenges, as doctors you are in a uniquely difficult situation, not only are you carrying the hopes and fears of the British population, but you are also having to deal with your own fears and anxieties as well as coping with the physical demands of caring for those who are literally facing death. Of course this will put enormous strain on your emotional well-being.

It goes without saying that in these challenging times it is important to take time to look after yourself. However, that is easier said than done when you are living on adrenalin, with little sleep having to make quick decisions again and again with limited time to review or process how you are feeling. In order to mitigate against some of these daily stresses, it is important to give time to your basic physical and emotional needs.

It will be perfectly normal that your mind and body will still be racing when you finish your shift – it’s easier said than done to slow down when you’ve been racing for a whole day or night.

  • Allow yourself to transition both internally and externally from your work environment to your home space reminding yourself that it takes time to slow down.
  • Focus on the activities or tasks that you know can be calming and soothing. This can be a slow walk or exercise, a bath, meditation, simple comfort food (either prepared yourself or a ready made meal). Whatever it is, focus on the activity and being in the moment. Allow your thoughts and mind to switch off from the day you’ve had.
  • We are creatures of mood and in the initial period of transitioning when we are still hyper alert reviewing the day, both the decisions we’ve made or the mistakes we think we made can perpetuate a state of mind and mood that we need to withdraw from.
  • When you catch yourself returning to the day remind yourself that it is a natural consequence of being hyper alert and that you can think about the day another time.
  • Being kind to yourself during this time is also crucial to your mental and emotional health. As well as making you more rested and calm it means you will be in a much better space to return to your front line duties the next day or week

Over the coming months I will be writing about the various emotional challenges you might face and shall offer you some advice and guidance which I hope will be of use to some of you.

You Okay, Doc? is a charity that is about building a community where you can share your own individual stories with others who are in similar situations to yourself. Everything is welcome, from the smallest of incidents to the moments when you just want somewhere to sound off.

Please just share your personal story of being a doctor at this time or feel free to raise some questions on particular subjects or themes so that I can cover them in future blog posts. You can email us on [email protected]

About Chris Cherry 

Chris is a founding Trustee of You Okay, Doc? and a qualified integrative psychotherapist with over 30 years’ experience. He is fully registered with the UK Council of Psychotherapy and has worked in the NHS, the Crown Prosecution Service, as well as founding a number of organisations. He has appeared on TV & radio programmes including ‘The Truth About Men’ on ITV, Radio 4 and BBC Radio Berkshire.

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