Protecting your Mental Health
Unprecedented. Uncertain. Unpredictable.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been all of these and more and it has been no exception for the pharmacy profession. The closing of GP surgeries led to a mass influx of patients through community pharmacy doors with many finding themselves unprepared not only for the deluge of patients, medication and advice requests but also the increased risk to staff (and their families), from coming into contact with COVID-19 patients.
The scenes we have been witness to over the last three months have resulted in a myriad of mixed emotions and feelings for all involved; fear of the unknown, frustration, stress, guilt, grief, despair and exhaustion – both physically and mentally. For a workforce that, according to a survey carried out by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in 2019, had 80% at a high or very high risk of burnout and 60% having had their mental health impacted as a result of work, this is a ticking time bomb that will no doubt explode into a full blown mental health crisis.
Whilst we await a national Mental Health Service for pharmacists (I remain cautiously optimistic that this will happen), there are a number of things that we can start to do right now to help ourselves and to help protect our mental health. As someone who experienced ill mental health as a pharmacist four years ago and didn’t know where to go for help, I founded The Mental Wealth Academy in 2019, which works with pharmacists on precisely this. Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure (hence why efforts are being focused on a COVID-19 vaccine rather than treatment!).
My Mental Wealth program focuses on building self-leadership skills such as confidence, resilience, emotional intelligence and self-awareness, teaching you healthy coping mechanisms, how to self-regulate and how to be better leaders. Imagine a world where all pharmacy teams were able to do this, would we have such an issue with mental health in our sector? Would we be coping better with the COVID pandemic?
Absolutely. It all starts with how we think and how we let things impact us. Many of us think that this is something outside of our control but it actually isn’t. In fact, our thoughts, beliefs and actions are the only thing we can control yet we waste precious time and energy worrying about those things that we can’t control such as how long this pandemic will last or the behaviour/actions of others. Take a look at the pictured graphic that shows this more clearly.
If you focus on only worrying about the things you can control i.e. what you think, say or do and let go of everything else, you immediately let go of so much stress and anxiety. The same is true of guilt.
There are so many of us feeling guilty that we have to work and potentially expose our families to the virus or that we can’t work and have to stay at home and shield or isolate. Guilt is an emotion that will zap you of so much energy. There are so many things happening right now that are outside of our control and feeling guilty about them won’t change that. Hence why letting go of these things will not only rid you of stress and anxiety but the heavy burden of guilt too.
Imagine a life free of worry and guilt! It IS possible I can assure you. There is always a choice in how much you let things impact you and in what way.
Try it for yourself and see, make a list or mind map of all the things that you are worried about right now (dividing it into sections can help e.g. work, family, finances, home, etc). Once you have the list, take a big black marker and put a line through everything on that list that is outside of your control. And then look at it and say the words, “These are out of my control and so I am choosing to let them go because I can’t do anything to change them...” and then, take a big breathe out and let them go!
Put this list up where you can see it to serve as a reminder for when you’re feeling stressed and anxious and check in with yourself, if it’s on the list, let it go.
This is such a simple yet effective way to try and help yourself right now and by doing this who knows, maybe we can start to tackle that other pandemic (pharmacist mental illness) too!
For more tips and hints you can visit The Mental Wealth Academy website (https://www.thementalwealthacademy.com/) and do our free 7 Day Mental Wealth Workout Challenge or join the Pharmacy Wellbeing Hub group on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/groups/pharmacywellbeing.