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Brad's Story

NHS frontline worker Brad shares how he is looking after his mental wellbeing during the coronavirus epidemic.

“I’m a state registered Paramedic in the UK working for an NHS Ambulance Service trust during the outbreak of COVID-19. I have been a frontline employee with the service for over 6 years, and now work as an operative in a specialist support role. I work on a rolling rota shift pattern of two days/two nights, where I join a team of colleagues for a 12-hour shift, tasked by a control room to medical emergencies across local counties.

We’re thrust regularly onto the frontline of national emergencies. For me, working during the COVID19 pandemic is no different; I’m continuing to attend emergency and non-emergency calls from members of the public that need help, despite the ever-present risk of transmission from the virus that is currently gripping the world.

Before the outbreak, a typical day would be filled with difficult decisions, emotional stress and the constant unknown of what we will be faced with next. Now, tensions run even higher but it is important we keep our calm for the people we support, and do as we always have; heading to an emergency and doing our job.

Ambulance staff are pretty good at adapting to the notion of uncertainty, both with medical encounters on the road and with the people that they meet. We take the lead in some of the most dire situations imaginable and sometimes we create a shield that hides any the weakness in our own health and wellbeing. I personally have gone to bed after a 12 hour shift only to dream about patients… it is very difficult to switch off. Therefore, it’s important for me to have a good daily routines…

I use a daily tracker to make sure I am completing my short-term goals. These can be simple things like drinking a pint of water as soon as I wake up, or finding the time to read a book for an hour. I’m aware how important it is to look after my body and mind, so I actively spend every day trying to make it happen.

Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle but this is not easily achieved on a shift pattern that includes nights or waking up early. I find a slightly warmer than normal shower just before bed useful and I make sure I leave my phone in another room before heading to bed, so I can truly switch off. In terms of physical exercise, most days I can train at least once a day. I used to visit an indoor rock climbing wall but it’s now closed, so now I’m finding training videos online and following along in my garden. In my spare time I keep myself busy with DIY projects, and have a family who I adore that make all the difficult times seem worthwhile.

My advice to others would be to put on a podcast you enjoy during your daily commute, it really helps me as it acts as an interlude, a way of separating my work and home life. Being organised also makes such a difference – getting clothes ready for the next day, sorting lunch the night before, a few simple jobs can have a positive impact and set you off on the right foot in the morning!”

If you would like to find support for any of the themes in Brad’s story, take a look at the following resources:
Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Helpline – For anyone experiencing poor mental health or wellbeing challenges as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic.
Our free Wellbeing Toolkits – to help you find ways to stay well at home.
Sleep Problems – Offering practical suggestions and tips to help you get good sleep.

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