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GP Locum Karen shares her experience of working during the Coronavirus pandemic and explains how her family is adapting in these complex times.

Since the onset of the pandemic, I have seen very few patients in person… instead we have had to embrace rapidly developing technology like phone consultations, video consultations and even text messaging. Most importantly, we’re also learning constantly about an entirely new illness, how to manage it, who is at risk, what advice to give, and the logistics associated with managing a pandemic.

After work, I make sure I give myself some time to wind down initially – either by listening to my favourite music in the car or enjoying the exercise and surroundings if I’m cycling.  When I get in the house, I make sure I change my clothes and wash so that I can feel ‘clean’ and safe in my own home with my family.

Although it’s not always possible, I try not to think about work too much when I’m at home so I can make the most of the things that keep me well enough to do it all again the next day.

On a personal level, it’s all change with having three children at home, not occupied with school and their other activities.

I’ve adapted and navigated my way through this unfamiliar territory like anyone, because I have to, and because on some level… you need to keep going.

I’m finding my way at home with what works – generally not worrying too much about routine, not forcing the kids into doing anything if they’re having a bad day, allowing them to follow their own play and develop their own ideas.  This largely makes for a much happier household, and if they’re happy then I’m happy, generally.

One thing I have come to realise is that it’s important to recognise when I need some time for myself, and to make sure I make space for that to happen. I’ve enjoyed finally tackling all the weeds in the garden, and I’ve always loved playing the piano and find this is a great stress reliever. As a family, we’ve planted lots of seeds too and these are starting to grow … it’s a fitting reminder that time will pass and things will eventually change.

I’ve started cycling to work more which is wonderful at the moment in the lovely weather, quiet roads and clean air.  Increased time at home means I’m spending more time considering food as well – it’s an opportunity to get the cookbooks out and try some new things. I’ve found it’s been helpful to stick to the routine of regular meal times, bed times and getting up times (more or less..!) – without this I think we’d all feel a lot more unsettled, tired and just grumpy.

There’s so many resources online to pass the time and stay active and we’ve done everything from ballet to Zumba! What I’m also trying to remember is that sometimes the best thing I can do for myself is rest, reflect and recuperate. When it comes to my emotional health, it’s all about finding the right personal balance to keep me ready to care for my family as well as my patients.

Here’s what I’m learning:

  • Take one day at a time.
  • Try and think of one thing you want to achieve each day, and work towards that.
  • Try and do my 10,000 steps a day around the house – mental health is always better if you’re physically active.
  • Give my kids lots of cuddles and tell them I love them often. Spend time with them if they want me too – we’ll never have this opportunity again.
  • Don’t worry too much about ‘home schooling’. Don’t feel stress to teach the kids anything, value the play experiences they’re having, the independence they are growing, the opportunity to develop their own ideas and the time to follow them through.
  • Try to leave work at work.
  • Follow the guidelines for PPE, social distancing, not going to the shops more than twice a week (aiming for less!). Then I know I’m doing my best to protect myself and anyone I’m in contact with.
  • Do things that you Make time for yourself… and give the other members of your household that time too!

 

If you would like to find support for any of the themes in Karen’s* story, take a look at our following resources:

The NHS have set up a new mental health hotline for staff needing emotional support during the pandemic.

Our Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Helpline – for anyone experiencing poor mental health or wellbeing challenges as a result of Coronovirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Our Free Wellbeing Toolkits – to help find ways for the whole family to stay well at home.

@StayInWorkOut on Twitter – to see videos and ideas for staying active at home without a gym or sports equipment.

*To protect her privacy at work, ‘Karen’ has blogged about her experiences using a pseudonym. If you would like to share your own story in this way, have a look at our blogging guide.

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