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27th March 2020

Living in a World Turned Upside Down

I was trying to think if there is anyone or anywhere in the world today not affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and I drew a blank. Lives across the world, as we know have been turned upside down in the blink of an eye. The effects and implications are beyond anything we’ve ever lived through, and at times are hard to comprehend.

Stress and anxiety across all walks of life are palpable – be it the increased (and increasing) volumes of work and poorly patients for frontline NHS workers or extensive working hours for staff in the supermarket. As well as people confined to their homes and away from loved ones, those who are now out of work and whose livelihoods are under threat. Not to mention those who should be sitting exams this summer and wondering what their futures hold.

Dramatic changes and uncertainties have become the norm in a short space of time. Yet, most people need routine and job security to feel comfortable. Therefore, while the measures that have been taken to protect life and slow the rate of infection are absolutely vital, I cannot help but wonder the mental health of our nation, in the longer run.

Once we have won the physical battle against Coronavirus, how much work will be required to restore the mental health and well-being of the population? I cannot help but worry about the impact of financial pressure and stress from over-working to individuals and families. Social isolation can come at a heavy price after the battle unless we take steps to prevent it.

However, I always try to live fully by finding a positive in every negative, even for now. Aside from the selfishness of panic-buying and stockpiling, people in different communities are helping each other and the most vulnerable, despite the difficulties in social distancing. I would like to believe that this strong community spirit will continue after the current situation!

And as one who works in the NHS, the silver lining around the Coronavirus cloud is that this has accelerated integration and collaborative working. For example, Practice Nurses from routine management of long-term conditions are now available to support their District Nursing colleagues. There has also been a rapid implementation of digital solutions which I believe will be embedded in the patient conscious by the time we get through this. With the patient acceptance of this, digital solutions can ensure that they are cared for in the right place and at the right time by the appropriate healthcare professional.

In the meantime, we all need to find ways to manage the inevitable stress and anxiety due to social distancing and isolation. Since having to work from home more, I make sure that I plan each day in the evening before. I make an agenda for the things I need to do for work and stick to it, building in time to do some exercise – be it a walk, a bike ride, or a virtual exercise class. Planning is vital to bring back some degree of control and routine.

Thanks to technology, we can still talk to and see our loved ones, in this particularly challenging time. So, make sure you take time each day to connect with people you would normally spend time with, as well as people that might be the most vulnerable.

For me, this is not just about delaying and reducing the physical impact of Coronavirus but also detaining and minimising the effects of the disease on our collective stress levels and overall mental health. We all have a critical role to play, and the question is - ‘What proactive action are you willing to take?’

 

 

 

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Sarah Cousins

Sarah is a Management Consultant providing support to the NHS, having worked in the NHS in primary care for over 25 years, both as a commissioner and as a front-line provider. During Sarah’s 12 years at the practice, the town was one of the Department of Health’s Integrated Care Organisation Pilot sites. As part of this, she had the opportunity to lead work in a truly integrated way across primary and community care and see the positive impact that this had on patient care and outcomes, as well as the better and more efficient use of scarce resources.

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