COVID-19: your wellbeing

Looking after yourself

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 9 June 2021
Topics: COVID 19, Your wellbeing

When caring for others, remember to take a moment each day to consider you and your own needs.

Even a few minutes to breathe, stretch or walk outside can make all the difference.


Tips for looking after yourself

  1. Stay connected to friends and family.
  2. Take regular breaks from your phone and computer to avoid information overload.
  3. You may experience upsetting incidents. It's normal to find this difficult. Help is available, free and effective. Get it as soon as you can.
  4. Turn to your colleagues and supervisors. Remember: you are not alone - your peers will be having similar experiences and it may help to share your thoughts and listen to others.
  5. Sleep is your best friend. After work, ensure you have some wind-down time away from screens and bright lights, so you have the best chance of sleeping well. 
  6. Stay well-hydrated and eat as healthily as you can. Always take snacks to work – fruit/nuts/cereal bars. Plan and prepare meals ahead of time and batch chill or freeze when you get the chance. Take your time and enjoy your meal. Try not to multi-task while eating.
  7. Use this list of supermarkets, restaurants and cafes offering extra support/discounts to NHS workers.
  8. Avoid unhelpful coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
  9. Doctors have healthcare needs too, so attend to these promptly and use your practice-supported app to order repeat prescriptions and manage your appointments wherever possible.
  10. Try a wellbeing app – some are free for NHS staff in the pandemic.


Tips for those who manage staff

Whether you are a line manager, a GP employer or a senior member of staff, there are things you can do to ensure the wellbeing of those who work under you.

  • Look out for signs that someone is struggling and may need support.
  • Ensure you know what sources of support are available – have phone numbers to hand.
  • Rotate staff between high and low stress activities.
  • Check staff are taking regular breaks.
  • Consider pairing up less experienced staff with more experienced staff.
  • Stay visible and provide regular updates; demonstrate that it's okay to sometimes not be okay.
  • Regularly highlight to staff that you’re available if anyone needs to talk, or if they would prefer, signpost them to another service.
  • Offer safe physical and supportive spaces for down-time, including quiet areas and small informal support groups.
  • Doctors may experience trauma due to the situations they will come across, and decisions that they will make in an extremely pressured and challenging environment. Consider PTSD training where appropriate.

The BMA has produced a mental wellbeing charter which outlines practical steps employers can take to support wellbeing in the workplace.


Wellbeing support services

The BMA offers a 24/7 free and confidential wellbeing support service for all doctors and medical students in the United Kingdom. You can speak to someone quickly and in confidence.

You can access brief counselling and peer support via phone or video. Regular appointments can then be scheduled, and you can request to see the same counsellor for support across a range of issues.

Doctors already work in an intrinsically stressful profession and the COVID-19 pandemic may be a particularly stressful event and a potential source of anxiety and fatigue.

  • Whatever your reasons for needing support, the BMA’s wellbeing support service would like to help.
  • If this isn’t for you, the BMA can point you in the direction of other sources of support.
  • Your employer should be able to signpost you to local wellbeing support services - including counselling and employee assistance programmes.


Free apps, helplines and webinars

Consider using the below tools to support your wellbeing:

  • a suite of free guides and apps (including Unmind, Headspace, Sleepio and Daylight) provided by NHS England and NHS Improvement.
  • a wellbeing support helpline for NHS staff on (including coaching, bereavement care, mental health and financial help) on 0300 131 7000, available from 7am – 11pm seven days a week. Or alternatively, you can text FRONTLINE to 85258 for support 24/7.
  • taking part in wellbeing webinars from NHS Horizons. These are held every Wednesday between 4pm and 5pm. Previous sessions are recorded.
  • Public Health England’s Every Mind Matters platform with tips and apps to help you look after your mental and physical health.


Peer support

Peer support can be incredibly valuable at times of considerable strain.

  • Check in with colleagues and let someone know if you are struggling.
  • Look out for signs your colleagues might need support.
  • Make use of talking groups such as Schwartz Rounds.
  • Consider a ‘buddying’ or pairing system - especially if you are a returning or redeployed doctor, or a medical student recently inducted into an NHS role.


Your wellbeing

We have a range of services to support you.

  • Counselling
  • Peer support
  • UK wellbeing support directory

Call our free and confidential helpline on 0330 123 1245

View our services