The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic comes as many of us are still feeling the impact of recent bushfires, floods and drought. It’s very normal to not feel OK in challenging times such as these. Watching and listening to media and social media coverage and commentary can be confronting and confusing.
As we adapt to new ways of working and living during the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining connection and communicating is key – whether it be with colleagues, patients, friends or family.
Everyone reacts to the impacts of COVID-19 differently. Even though there are many things you cannot control, there are many things you can do to improve your mental wellbeing.
The current uncertainty is likely to contribute to increased worry and anxiety and impact our workloads and work practices.
If you are in quarantine or are self-isolating, it is important to still take care of your physical and psychological wellbeing.
Manage worry and stress
Increased worry and stress are expected responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Have some strategies to manage your feelings and remember what’s most important, such as:
- Don’t compare your stress with anyone else’s stress. People respond differently to stressful situations and may have different impacts or challenges.
- Get clear on what you can and can’t control. Make a list of the things you are concerned about, including what you can and can’t control. Acknowledge the things that are beyond your control. Refocus your energy on what you can control, by making an action plan to address these things.
- Eating well. It is important to be prepared if you have to isolate yourself from others. You will also be spending more time cooking and eating meals at home while you practice social distancing. Download this free Fit n Fresh e-book
- Set an amount of time where you’re allowed to worry. When that time is up (start with five minutes), postpone any further thinking until your next “worry session”.
- Write your worries down. This can help our brains process our worries.
- An Active coping calendar can be helpful when life gets overwhelming and you need a reminder to take each day at a time. https://www.actionforhappiness.org/active-april
Investing in self-care
Self-care is different for everybody. Try incorporating some of these strategies into your usual routine:
- Exercise can help our bodies to process the cortisol and adrenaline that’s released when we experience stress. It also assists us to rest and relax.
- De-activation strategies including mindfulness, meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques give our body a chance to settle, calm and self soothe.
- Regular gratitude practices and activities help us connect with nature and can help to manage challenging emotions.
- Making time to do more of what you love, such as taking up a new interest or favourite hobby.
- Netflix and chill, catch up on books, audio books, movies, podcasts and TV shows.
Keeping fit at home
Daily exercise and stretching can help us look after our physical and mental health during this pandemic.
The NSW Government and top athletes from the NSW Institute of Sport are encouraging communities to keep fit, healthy and active during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Get Healthy NSW have a wide range of health information and coaching services including seven programs. Each are designed to support your needs. So whether you're looking for support and motivation for healthy eating, keeping active, improving your health in general, during pregnancy, or would just like a one off coaching session, they have a program for you.If you're interested, find out more.
High Performance at Home is a free online resource which takes the best expertise and sporting knowledge to create online exercises for everyday families.
You might also be interested in Staying Active, which is a resource page to provide information on activities to entertain families, as well as sports and fitness tips for kids, seniors and people with disability.
Take a break from the news if it feels overwhelming. Make sure you are following reliable sources of COVID-19 health-related information, such as the Australian Government, NSW Government, NSW Health or NSW Health Pathology.
Activate your support network or reach out for professional help. Social distancing and isolation mean your face-to-face interactions may be more limited. You can still keep in touch by phone, social media or video calls.
If you’re connecting at work, try Skype for Business. If it’s for personal use, try Skype, Facetime or Zoom.
Reach out to those you know who are in a similar situation. Check in regularly with colleagues or your manager for support.
Download this “check in” poster and display in your lab, collection centre or office. (~~~DocAnnotation.type.3038~~~ ~~~DocAnnotation.size.3038~~~)
Chances are if you are feeling anxious or unsure, your colleagues may be having similar experiences.
Accessing support and staying connected is really important during this time. If you need advice and support, or are experiencing challenges, we encourage you to speak to your manager, your HR Manager or access one of the free services listed below:
Dept of Health's Head to Health Covid Support portal full of useful tips, advice, tools and resources covering all areas of mental health during this COVID- 19 pandemic.
Beyond Blue have a dedicated COVID-19 online forum for people to share their concerns and connect online to support one another.
ReachOut have online youth forums and online parents forums for COVID-19 offering peer support in safe and established online communities.
SANE have an active online forum focused on unpacking fact from fiction about COVID-19 and providing self-care strategies.
24/7 Support Lines
The below support lines are available 24/7 if you need to talk.
Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Line 1800 512 348
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
MensLine 1300 78 99 78
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
Visit the NSW Health website for a comprehensive range of mental health services.
At a time when we’re being asked to physically distance ourselves from one another, we can make use of freed up diary time and our digital devices to stay connected. It is now even more important that we all promote a sense of community, reach out and ask our friends, family and colleagues, “Are you OK?”.
Staff and their immediate family members can also access advice and counselling through the free Converge International Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with both online and phone support.
EAP provides a 24-hour, 7 day a week counselling support. The offer phone and videoconferencing facilities, so you and your family can still get the support you need, even if you’re at home.
Call 1300 OUR EAP (1300 687 327) or visit the EAP intranet page.
EAP also provides free and comprehensive webinars through our EAP Portal.
To access, visit https://www.convergeinternational.com.au/
NB: all lowercase
Mental Health First Aiders
We have a strong and supportive network of Mental Health First Aiders throughout NSW. If you are feeling low, reach out and have a chat. Click here for a list of Mental Health First Aiders.
Violence, abuse and neglect services
Sadly, in these times our vulnerable communities are not only at increased risk of infection, but some are also at increased risk of family, domestic violence or personal harm.
If you need support in these areas, read NSW Health’s Violence, Abuse and Neglect and COVID resources.
Please be extra vigilant in looking out for people in need of psychological or physical care at this time.
Advice for Junior Medical Officers (JMOs)
Our EAP provider Converge International has a JMO Support Line to support our JMOs. You can call 1300 JMO 321 to confidentially speak to specially trained senior medical officers.
JMOs also have access to Are you ok? – which is an online platform for JMOs to complete a self-assessment and obtain addition support for their health and wellbeing.
Pandemic Kindness Movement
The Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) has launched the Pandemic Kindness Movement (PKM), a multi-state initiative to support all health workers across Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s so important we keep the focus on caring for ourselves, caring for your team and caring for our patients, carers, families and communities during this time.
It’s another great tool to promote kindness and wellbeing in our workplaces, while we are all facing our own unique pressures and demands.
The clinical leadership group developed a pyramid of health worker needs, based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, to reflect the potential challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health workforce.
The pyramid includes basic needs; safety; love and belonging; esteem; contribution; and the importance of leadership actions. Each section includes helpful and relevant resources that will support health workers.
The website is hosted by the ACI and is available for all NSW Health Pathology staff to use.
Tap into the HETI caring resources
The Health Education and Training Institute (HETI) has launched a series of really helpful resources. Whether you are caring directly for patients and carers affected by COVID-19, providing support in a new role or work setting or continuing in your current role, you are invited to explore the education and training resources provided at HETI.
The Beyond Blue
There are also useful links from respected mental health and wellbeing services. For example, Beyond Blue has a 24-hour coronavirus wellbeing support line on 1800 512 348.
website also has a range of resources, information and strategies on maintaining the wellbeing of you and your family, including advice on the importance of self-care for health workers at Beyond Blue.
Caring for your family
For many, family can be a great source of comfort. With current social restrictions, this can mean being together more than usual as a family group and needing to find ways ton entertain each other (or not) and manage each other's coping styles.
We are also now living in a world where change has been thrust upon us and we are expected to work in some cases full-time hours while also home schooling children. It is an overwhelming expectation and here you will find some great tips and resources to support you during this busy and different period.
You and your children are going through a major worldwide event, nothing like we have ever experienced before. There is a lot of change and uncertainty. Be realistic, not pessimistic. Most of us are not trained teachers and are potentially working from home for the first time. No-one is expecting you to get it right the first time, so be kind to yourself and your children. Give yourself and your kids time to adjust to the new lifestyle.
NSW Health has produced a children's book to help explain the coronavirus. Dr Jan from NSW Health also answer's kids coronavirus questions each Friday at 2pm on the NSW Health Facebook.
Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety
Staying healthy in isolation
Tips for managing distancing or self isolation
HETI - tips for caring for yourself and your family
Healthshare NSW/eHealth working remotely and parenting advice
EAP Coronavirus portal (Coverge International)
Getting the most out of working from home
Many staff are now working from home or from another work site that might be closer to home. This might be the first time many of us have worked remotely. Don’t underestimate the adjustment this will take as you get used to your new environment.
NSWHP has a Flexible Working Guideline to give advice to staff and managers, along with handy resources for working remotely. There is also lots of information about using Skype for Business.
When you’re working from home, it can be trickier than ever to separate your work and home life. Make sure your family knows your work schedule. Do you have a space you can separate from the other parts of the house to work? If not, don't worry. Try wearing noise cancelling headphones to stay focused on your work.
People in your team, or yourself, may be working different hours than usual to suit their individual needs in this new work environment. As a team, suggest setting expectations on communications and expectations on who is online when. Just because someone sends an email at 9pm does not mean they expect a reply until your next shift starts.
Working from home: A checklist to support your mental health during Coronavirus - this is a short guide developed by the Black Dog Institute.
Once you have signed off for the day try to take some time to switch gears into being at home. Move into a different physical space in your home, change clothes, spend 10 minutes practicing mindfulness. Some other tips include:
- Communicate more often. It’s essential managers and workers get the communication right.
- Reduce the feeling of isolation by staying in the loop. Schedule regular meetings and connect with people via Skype or phone
- Keep to regular work hours, and ensure you take regular breaks as if you were at work.
- Ask for help if you need it
- Dress like you are at work
- Create an at-home office and set up your workspace so there’s separation from work and home.
- Check the work space ergonomics and technology (see below for more tips)
- Plan your workflow and priorities for the day
- Keep work time and personal time separate
- Practice self-care, like eating healthily, connecting with a loved one or practising meditation.
Setting up your home workstation
- Use a chair with good lumbar support, backrest, seat pan and height adjustability.
- The best-seated posture has a reclined posture of 100-110 degrees.
- If using a laptop, use a stand, with a separate keyboard & mouse.
- Sit at arm’s length from your screen.
- The top of the monitor or laptop screen should be 5-8 cm above eye level.
- Centre the screen and keyboard in front of you.
- If using two screens, ensure that the main screen is slightly more in front than the second screen.
- Keep your arms and elbows relaxed and close to your body.
- Make sure your wrists are flat and straight, and forearms horizontal.
- Your thighs should be parallel to the floor, with feet on the floor or a stable footrest.
- Maintain a space between the pan of the seat and knees to prevent pressure on the underside of the thighs and knee.
During challenging times, making financial decisions can feel overwhelming. There’s support and services available to help you, as well as Government financial support to help you manage the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Converge International – Money Assist
Money Assist is provided by Converge International and is independent of NSW Health Pathology.
Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) recognises your financial situation can impact on your mental health and wellbeing.
Learning new financial habits and skills can help to reduce your stress, improve your wellbeing and your relationships, as well as enhance engagement and productivity at work.
A consultant can work with you to develop a realistic action plan to help:
- Pay debts sensibly and without facing extra costs
- Manage stress caused by personal financial challenges
- Learn new financial skills that improve your confidence when managing your finances
- Build new habits to better manage money, minimise stress and reduce personal conflicts
- Negotiate with creditors to obtain achievable payment arrangements
Call 1300 OUR EAP (1300 687 327) or visit EAP.
NSW Government COVID-19 financial support
The NSW Government has set up a website to outline the support that is available if you’re experiencing financial difficulty.
Click here for more information.
The Federal Government financial support
The Federal Government announced new measures in March 2020 to provide support to affected workers, businesses and the broader community.
Click here for more information.