Dr Charlie Coffey

Wellbeing for GPs during the Covid crisis

Trailblazer GP blog

Dr Charlie Coffey (Trailblazer 2019/20)

Charlie going open water swimming

On the 17th April the Trailblazers attended a Zoom meeting led by Jaimee Wylam, a Public Health doctor and Martin Billington, a GP. The seminar couldn’t have come at a better time whilst we are all in lock down as the emphasis was placed on how, as doctors, we can take better care of ourselves.

I found that the openness of Martin and Jaimee really helped facilitate how we are all feeling during the COVID pandemic. Initial discussions unfolded the general feeling that we all felt quite restricted, anxious and caged in. As GP’s we are doing mainly telephone consultations and when needed will see the patient face to face.  This is an unprecedented working environment and with that brings it’s own stressors, the main one being managing more uncertainty. We discussed how stress impacts on us both physically and emotionally and whether we had good awareness of when we were stressed.

Martin took us through a lovely breathing exercise “square breathing” as collectively we were starting to feel a little stressed just by the very nature of discussing the impact of it.

Something that had a positive impact on me personally was the category setting in light of the pandemic. Martin asked us to categorise things that we enjoyed doing into 3 groups. Group 1-things that we could do now without restrictions, for example gardening or going for a walk. Group 2-things that we could do with some modifications, for instance swap the swimming pool and go open water swimming -this is something I have enjoyed so much and I intend to keep it up even when the pools are open.  Group 3-things that we couldn’t currently do such as eat in a restaurant or go on holiday

I found this a particularly beneficial exercise as it displayed still so many things I could still do and also how many new things I had placed in the first category. Prior to this pandemic I rarely stayed at home doing arts and crafts with my 2 young boys, instead we would be out in parks, spending money on lunches or expensive days out. Our life now was slower and more simple and in some ways less stressful. I enjoyed just being at home with them not feeling like we “had” to go out. I am also one of the fortunate ones-we have garden. I have never felt more grateful for this

To continue with the positive theme we talked about things we were grateful for. For me, it was again, having a garden and my health, to still be able to go running, enjoy my children. Having a support network we all felt was quite fundamental in how we dealt with stress. We reflected on how we could improve our support networks-some of us were leaving jobs to hopefully move into a more supportive environment. We were helpfully given links to the NHS and BMA sites available to NHS workers who may need additional forms of support for their mental health. Zoom has also provided us with a form of support, through this technology, which was new to most of us, we are able to stay in contact and keep the trail blazer program going.  Up and down the country family and friends are taking part in quizzes, chatting to their grandchildren, work colleagues, taking part in exercise challenges.  The NHS has also become more tech savvy, video consults were alien to me prior to this pandemic but now it is the new normal.

We agreed that self care and being kind to ourselves during the pandemic was vital. Yes the majority of us are going to gain a little “Corona weight” but is now really the time to place pressure on ourselves or to start restricting our treats? Well done to those who are perfectly home schooling their children, or have learned how to play a new instrument, my sense of achievement is getting through each day, perhaps with the help of Disney Channel (best £5.99 I’ve ever spent) or if feeling inspired, some arts and crafts. I have learned to stay away from baking, it rarely ends well.

Arts and Crafts in the garden

This discussion on well being made me feel less alone and very much part of a strong connected group of individuals who were honest about how they were feeling and managing during this really difficult time both personally and professionally.  I ended the meeting feeling more confident due to the new techniques and exercises that we were shown that we could utilise when felt stressed or anxious. Thank you Martin and Jaimee for your time it was a truly valuable experience.

Further Resources

To find out more about wellbeing sessions like these check out Jaimee or Martin’s website

Also please see our Surviving and Thriving at the Deep End e-learning Module