A focus on wellbeing

As December dawns, with longer nights and an extremely noticeable chill in the air, we might be forgiven for experiencing some creeping feelings of déjà vu

person hugging a heart pillow

The uncertainty that we’re once again experiencing with regards to COVID-19 is, unfortunately, nothing new. With upcoming live events postponed, Boris Johnson appearing to trot out balanced and proportionate soundbites at seemingly last-minute press conferences, and lurking questions over whether we’ll be restricted in our movements again… well, aside from the very different weather outside, it all feels a bit March 2020.

No one knows what the next few weeks or months will bring (yes, you’ve heard that one before too), but one thing that we can all be clear about is that patient and staff wellbeing needs to remain a priority.

It’s very possible that staff might change their behaviours in order to protect those around them in the near future, even if official guidance advises us to carry on as normal. Already, I’m hearing plenty of people willingly sacrificing attending their work Christmas parties to protect older family members over Christmas. It’s very possible that people will find busy clinics uncomfortable, will be more cautious about hugs and social distancing – and rightly so. It’s now up to employers and managers to prioritise adjustments, find workable solutions, and be extra mindful of sensitivities – for the good of everyone.

Whilst prioritising others, though, it’s important not to forget yourself. Work, we sometimes need to remember, isn’t everything. So, make sure you switch off, and build patient and screen-free slots into your day: a lunchtime run, a walk without your phone, a bath with a long book, a mindful hour of pouring a glass of wine and then stirring risotto or assembling a warming winter pie.

Whatever your particular mode of self-care, now is the time to ensure that it’s part of your day (ideally, every day.)

Obviously, switching off for the sake of self-care is often easier said than done. But there are practical things that you can do to set your own and other’s minds at ease. Take regular lateral flow tests, and ask your staff to do the same. Emphasise that self-isolation is important, and that no one should be expected in the practice if they’re feeling ill – whether it’s COVID-19 related or not. Reinstate a closed door policy, or limit the numbers of patients in practice at any one time. Do whatever you can, practically, to make your workplace feel as secure as possible.

We don’t know what’s coming, and prioritising wellbeing can seem like a low priority. But, as optometrist Martin Steels recently said in a still to be published interview with OT, in this line of work “you're putting on a show for people, and you can't do that if you're anxious.” And that’s true in any context, whether Omicron is looming or not.

OT  asks...

Do you think your wellbeing has suffered because of current COVID-19 uncertainties?
  • Yes

    41 80%
  • No

    7 13%
  • Not sure

    3 5%