Keeping healthy in this brave new world
My life has changed
Three weeks ago I was a specialist in diabetes and endocrinology. I spent most of my working week seeing patients in the outpatient clinic. I also looked after patients on the wards, mainly with diabetes related problems. Every couple of weeks I took my turn being the on-call consultant supervising the admissions unit. At 10 pm I’d head home and take calls from the junior doctors overnight if there were any problems.
Then I had a strange week or two when all the routine clinics were cancelled. Cases of COVID-19 were beginning to be admitted, but not very many. They were mainly kept in isolation in the Infectious Diseases ward. As time went on the numbers gradually increased. We planned and planned. Hospital wards were freed up in preparation. We planned for the people whose appointments at the diabetes service had been cancelled. We watched webinars about COVID-19 and how to manage it.
This week has been altogether different again. We now have several wards dedicated to people with COVID-19. I’m looking after one of them instead of my old diabetes ward. I’m doing different, much more anti-social shifts. I’m even wearing totally different clothes.
The way we see patients has changed completely. To minimise exposure we are trying to phone people rather than entering the room. It feels very weird and impersonal to be talking to them from the other side of a window. Stethoscopes are a thing of the past as it’s almost impossible to use them without touching your face. We are relying on breathing rate, oxygen levels, X-rays and other measurements instead. This new world is lonely for the patients. They’re frightened of their illness, they can’t have visitors and even contact with staff is less than usual.
It’s all new
It’s new to all of us and there’s a degree of trepidation. The staff on my new wards don’t really know me or each other but one thing is for sure – we feel like a team already. This new team is sharing it’s knowledge and techniques and supporting each other. We’re reassuring patients and phoning relatives. We’re all here because it’s our duty and we want to do our best for our patients.
Without a doubt one thing we all want to do, health care workers and the rest of society alike, is to reduce our risk of catching COVID-19. And, if we do catch it we want to reduce our risk of getting it severely.
So aside from social distancing when out of work, washing my hands a million times a day, wearing theatre scrubs at work and PPE (personal protective equipment) when appropriate then having a shower as soon as I get home, what else can I do?
What can I do? – Planning my approach
Like Laura I have a positive plan and I’m doing my best to live it. I’m keeping myself as healthy as I possibly can. I know this doesn’t take away my risk completely, nothing does. But it gives me something to focus on, and you can do the same.
Our whole ethos at AYOSC is about making small positive changes to our lifestyles and never was there a time when this was more important. All the elements of well-being apply even more. I’ve been deliberately thinking through each element and how I can apply it to myself over the last couple of weeks.
What can I do? Being active
Being active means my body is healthier in so many respects. It lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and strengthens bones and muscles. It helps me maintain my weight at a reasonably respectable level. As well as that it really really helps to soothe my mind when it’s troubled. This is even more the case when I combine being active with being outside. And when I focus on nature – bird song, the sun rise, the blossom in the trees.
I’m having to make a change in my routine though. I now need to shower as soon as I get home which is usually when I would go for a run. And I can’t really face showering, going for a run with wet hair then showering immediately again. So I’m planning to get up and go for a run first thing in the morning on my work days. This is not easy for me, so I’ll see how I get on! I managed it on Saturday so it’s possible.
On my days off I’ve been taking the kids for a walk. We’ve found lovely walks really close to the house that we never knew existed.
What can I do? Sleeping well
A couple of weeks ago I really wasn’t sleeping well at all. My mind was in a whirlwind. I couldn’t get to sleep and was waking up early and grabbing my phone to obsessively check the latest news. I was on a number of medical Whatsapp groups that were constantly beeping with information about COVID-19.
So I had to make a few rules for myself. I wrote the articles on our blog about sleeping and I know that lying in bed googling information about COVID-19 is not going to help me sleep. The phone was banned at bedtime. I came off the non-essential Whatsapp groups. I read my book last thing at night instead, or listened to my favourite Podcasts (“Fortunately” with Jane Garvey and Fi Glover if you want a listen). I’m still struggling not to go straight back onto my phone if I wake up early. That’s going to be another small change for this week. That and staying off it in the evening.
What can I do? Reducing stress
There’s obviously a big overlap in all these areas. One major thing that reduced my stress was getting my kids settled into the keyworker’s school hub. The teachers have been truly amazing and the kids are happy.
There’s much I can’t control in all this so I have deliberately focused on the things I can control. I can make sure I know what I’m doing. I’ve read the guidelines, and I’m keeping up to date with emerging information. I rely on having a system at work. It helps me know that I’ve remembered everything so I’ve revamped my old system for the new way of working.
And I know from past experience what helps me relax out of work. Staying away from the phone is number one of course. Music, reading and arts and crafts are on the list. A box-set that doesn’t require too much concentration is also good.
What can I do? Eating well
I’m doing my best to get my fruit and veg in and to stick to a generally healthy diet. I’m pretty good at planning and taking all my food to work with me. I also meal prep on my days off so I just have to reheat the dinner when I get in from work. What I’m really not good at is resisting chocolate and crisps when I’m feeling stressed. It’s funny how everything’s linked together, isn’t it? I’m hoping that getting off my phone in the evenings and doing the things I know make me feel better will also reduce the amount of snacking I’m doing.
What can I do? Community – keeping in touch
This is so important. I’ve got my work community who feel very close at the moment. We’re living this experience together. We keep in close contact and check up on each other. My family are always here and support me in so many ways.
The social distancing has however made it more difficult to see others outside of the home. That said I get the impression that as a society we’re definitely making more effort. The grandparents are talking to us and the kids everyday. I think that’s helped both them and the kids. I’ve had some virtual glasses of wine and even a virtual games night with some friends. And of course the AYOSC team are all keeping an eye on each other.
Your life may be completely different from mine but it has probably also changed completely over the last few weeks. And your health is just as important as mine. Think through each of these areas of your life. How can you help keep yourself healthy? Or even better get yourself that little bit healthier?
If you want to look at any of these topics in more depth here’s the link to the summary: