COVID-19 Wellbeing

Resources and tips for managing stress and managing your own health while working in pharmacy during the pandemic.

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic will be challenging in many ways both personally and at work. It is important to pay attention to your own health and wellbeing so that you can continue to care for others as a health professional.

Browse through our resources below and if you need support or a listening ear, please call our helpline on 1300 244 910 between 8.00am and 11.00pm every day of the year.

Practical ways to manage your mental health during this time include:

Allow time for wellbeing

Be aware of how you are feeling and respond to your needs for rest and nourishment, whilst keeping active. Some other tips include:

  • Take regular breaks during work hours and when at home, including getting outside
  • Maintain a regular sleep routine
  • Pace yourself as this is likely to be a marathon
  • Speak up if your workload is not manageable
  • Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • Engage in physical activity within the required isolation restrictions
  • Acknowledge your emotional state
  • Don’t rely on smoking, alcohol or other drugs to deal with your emotions
  • Find healthy ways to reduce your level of stress by doing something you like to do. For instance, relax by listening to music, being in nature, or practising yoga or meditation
  • Keep learning new things. For instance, take on new responsibilities or rediscover an old hobby
  • Be aware of where you can access mental health support if you need it
  • If you’re a manager, recognise that in this time of uncertainty you don’t need to have all the answers all of the time and that your wellbeing is important too.

Connect with others and be aware of the needs of your colleagues

Maintain your social connections with colleagues, family and friends by phone or online or with a virtual group (for instance, by using WhatsApp, Signal or other services). Here are some other tips:

  • Check in with colleagues and your staff routinely during the workday. Make sure they are taking breaks and managing their workload
  • If you’re a manager, design equitable rosters and workloads. For example, ensure that rosters provide for ‘recovery time’
  • Encourage teamwork and provide support for those who appear to be struggling
  • Consider the needs of colleagues: help each other during the workday, or when possible, swap or adjust more stressful roles
  • Listen to each other without interrupting
  • Acknowledge how each other is feeling
  • Thank each other and acknowledge everyone’s efforts
  • Do something nice for another person each day; this only needs to be a small gesture, such as asking “R U OK”.

Managing stress in pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Pharmacists’ Support Service is available to support all Australian pharmacists, interns and pharmacy students. In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, PSS will accept calls for support from pharmacy assistants and pharmacy technicians. The service is available every day of the year from 8am to 11pm AEST on 1300 244 910. Support is provided by trained volunteers who are all pharmacists or retired pharmacists.

It can be overwhelming to be an essential worker during the pandemic.

Why do I need to take extra care of my mental health during COVID-19?

Protecting your mental health will keep you functioning at your peak. Humans are hardwired to be afraid of the unknown and of anything that appears random and uncontrollable. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event for us all. Despite education and knowledge, pharmacists are just as likely to be feeling anxious as everyone else.

For pharmacists and pharmacy staff, knowledge of the risk of infection and the possible outcome can actually exacerbate fear, particularly as you read about the increased death rates in health professionals in China, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. This is a normal response in these circumstances and such feelings are not a sign of weakness and it is important to acknowledge how you are feeling.

In addition, there is a huge amount of information about the COVID-19 pandemic everywhere we turn. Pharmacy publications, social media, pharmacy organisations, workplaces, and the news are all focusing on the topic with little respite. Your usual methods of diversion and relaxation may have become less available as social isolation is put into place to reduce the spread of infection.

Be self-aware and recognise those things that may be causing you stress and your own warning signs of stress. Be aware of your own tendency to be self-critical and have some self-compassion. Don’t be so hard on yourself and others when things do not go according to plan. Be kind to yourself and to others.

Allow time for wellbeing

Be aware of how you are feeling and respond to your needs for rest and nourishment, whilst keeping active:

To relax outside work, try to do something totally unrelated to work every day. Something which distracts you and makes you smile, even for a short period of time. Intentionally take some time out to disconnect from the news, social media, politicians, constant case updates, and other sources of information about COVID-19.

Engage in your hobbies and interests and if you can’t undertake your usual activities try something new which you can do at home; for example, cooking new recipes, learning a language, or doing an online course.

If you sense your anxiety is getting a bit out of hand reach out for help to debrief and reflect on how things are going. Access your support network; these could be friends, family and work colleagues, as well as professional supports such as your GP or psychologist and let them know how you are feeling. PSS is also available every day of the year between 8am and 11pm AEST on 1300 244 910.

Draw on skills you have used in the past to help manage previous life adversities or difficult situations. Think about what has helped before and how you can apply these strategies now. This could be as simple as breathing techniques to slow your heart rate and stop you becoming over-whelmed. Other stress reducing activities may be regular walks in nature or some physical exercise.

Speak to a psychologist or counsellor if your usual methods of managing stress are not working; they can help you develop other strategies to manage your own personal stress.

Be nice to your colleagues and patients. Treat them well and with respect and show them you care. Practise kindness and compassion in all aspects of your life.

Managing your mental health while in self-isolation or quarantine

There are a number of ways to support your mental health during periods of self-isolation or quarantine:

  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to protect others in the community avoid contracting the virus
  • Maintain your connections with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video conferencing, telephone or services such as WhatsApp
  • Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing
  • Maintain a regular sleep routine and eat healthy foods
  • Try to engage in some form of physical activity
  • Establish routines and maintain wherever possible
  • Try to view this time as a new experience that can bring health benefits
  • For those working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated workspace.

Working from home can make it harder to maintain a healthy balance and can make it difficult on family members who are not working or studying. Going to work requires some discipline that can be lost when working from home. Find a way to keep that discipline by:

  • Scheduling everything, including meals, time with family, etc., and enforce that schedule. Make time for your family.
  • Limiting work activities to one location in the home if at all possible. For instance, having a ‘work location’ that is visibly and audibly isolated from the rest of the house.
  • Maintaining many of the usual rituals including ‘dressing for work’; ‘going to work’; ‘being at your desk at a certain time’; and ‘coming home from work’.

Even if you are going out to work during COVID-19, you may still be experiencing feelings of isolation and loneliness. You may also feel that others do not understand the stressors you may be feeling while working in healthcare during a pandemic. It’s absolutely normal to be feeling this way, especially with restrictions that may limit you from socialising as usual with family and friends. If you live alone or away from family, this can also be a difficult time.

Here are a few ideas of things you can do while at home:

  • Establish a routine! This will help give your days structure and purpose.
  • Make time for exercise and hobbies.
  • Prioritise getting a good quality sleep – you could try an eye mask or play white noise in the background if this is difficult for you.
  • Don’t rely on alcohol or drugs, especially as a coping strategy to deal with your emotions.
  • Find a good and positive support system! Check in with each other.
  • Stay connected with loved ones. This is really important if you are in an isolated living situation. There are many ways to stay connected now, e.g. Facetime, Zoom, WhatsApp, and more. You could organise a regular virtual games or movie night using some of the apps that are available now.
  • Do things you enjoy! Cook something you like to eat, or watch a movie you like. Care for yourself.
  • Practice mindful activities such as reading, walking, or meditation.
  • Try to avoid scrolling through news and stressing about it! Take some time away from your devices if you tend to do this.

Above all, if you are feeling isolated, reach out to someone. The PSS helpline is available 365 days a year, from 8am until 11pm on 1300 244 910. You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for support. It is important to acknowledge your feelings and to look after yourself.

Creative ways to work from home

If you have to isolate or quarantine but you are not unwell, you may wish to try to do some work from home if possible. While you should relax and enjoy your time off if you can, if you are a manager or Pharmacist-in-Charge you may wish to complete some administration or other tasks at home, especially if your workplace is short-staffed during this time. Of course, this is something you would have to work out with your workplace. We have compiled a few ideas of tasks you can do remotely. While it is important to have a routine during a period of isolation, it is also important not to overwork yourself! Keep that in mind while you look through the list below.

  • Work on Quality Care Pharmacy Program (QCPP) requirements
  • Work on your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credits
  • Complete any mandatory online training assigned by your organisation or outside organisations
  • Update policies and procedures
  • Take telephone enquiries to free up shop staff – for instance, by providing counselling and medicines information
  • Chasing up owing prescriptions or owing accounts
  • Placing orders, if your system allows for this to be done remotely

With all the technology that is available now, you might be surprised at what can be completed remotely if needed. Discuss options for flexible work with your organisation, but keep in mind that if you are on sick leave you should be caring for yourself and working on getting better!

Working in Pharmacy during COVID-19: some helpful videos

Watch the PSS and AJP webinar “COVID-19: from surviving to thriving” by clicking the link below.

Watch the PSS and AJP webinar “COVID-19: Leading teams through unprecedented uncertainty” by clicking the link below.

Watch the AJP webinar “Staying afloat on the wave of COVID-19 and beyond” by clicking the link below.

Watch the PSS and AJP webinar “Mental Health in the Pharmacy Profession’ by clicking the link below.

Watch the video below or click through to watch on Youtube for help with how to respond effectively to the Coronavirus crisis and tips for grounding yourself during times of stress.

Articles and other resources

Read the Beyond Blue article ‘On the frontline: how healthcare workers can support themselves and each other’, which contains information about working in healthcare during the pandemic, by clicking the link below.

Black Dog Institute has many resources available to support mental health. ‘TEN – The Essential Network for Health Professionals’ helps healthcare workers find resources and support to manage burnout and maintain good mental health. Click below to visit their page.

The Pandemic Kindness Movement was created by clinicians across Australia, working together to support all health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click below to visit their page.

COVID-19 wellbeing resources

Many organisations have created resources specifically to provide support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Browse through the links below.

Australian Psychological Societywww.psychology.org.au/COVID-19-Australians
Beyond Bluecoronavirus.beyondblue.org.au/
Black Dog Institutewww.blackdoginstitute.org.au/coronavirus-anxiety-resources
Phoenix Australiawww.phoenixaustralia.org/coronavirus-covid-19/
Multicultural Commissionwww.multiculturalcommission.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-mental-health-and-wellbeing

Information about COVID-19 collated by other pharmacy organisations

PSA web resourceswww.psa.org.au/coronavirus
PGA web resourceswww.guild.org.au/resources/business-operations/COVID-19-Information
SHPA web resourceswww.shpa.org.au/news/covid19-information-hub

We have provided some further resources which are available for other issues that may arise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It may feel overwhelming at times, especially as a frontline worker in pharmacy, but there are resources out there to help you.

Financial Support during COVID-19

There is support available for those who have suffered financially during the pandemic. This may include income loss due to quarantine or isolation if your workplace has become an exposure site — be aware that this may depend on your state government guidelines. Available support may change as the situation develops. Be on the lookout for scammers and follow the advice from a reputable source such as your state government website.

National Debt Helpline
ndh.org.au/debt-problems/covid19/

Australian Government
www.australia.gov.au/work-and-financial-support

Victorian Government
www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/financial-and-other-support-coronavirus-covid-19

New South Wales Government
www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/financial-support

South Australian Government
www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/school-and-community/financial-support-for-individuals

Queensland Government
www.covid19.qld.gov.au/government-actions/financial-support-for-individuals

Tasmanian Government
www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au/families-community/financial-services-and-support
www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au/families-community/emergency-relief-support

There is also an article here with general advice about reducing financial stress for healthcare workers.

There are helplines for other areas available on our Useful Links page.

Dealing with Racism

Unfortunately healthcare workers may sometimes experience racism and harassment while at work. Have you experienced racism at this time? It can be very difficult and hurtful to experience racism and you may not know who to turn to if this happens. Explore these resources for some advice on how to proceed; while some of them are based in a specific state, the advice may help you regardless of your location. If you need information on when or how to lodge a complaint these resources may help you with this. You can also call our helpline for emotional support and advice.

The Multicultural Commission
www.multiculturalcommission.vic.gov.au/experienced-racism-heres-what-you-can-do

Beyond Blue
www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/the-invisible-discriminator/respond-to-racism

Victoria Police
www.police.vic.gov.au/prejudice-and-racial-and-religious-vilification

Australian Human Rights Commission
humanrights.gov.au/our-work/commission-general/covid-19-information

ReachOut Australia
au.reachout.com/articles/what-to-do-if-youre-experiencing-racism

There is also some information available regarding discrimination laws in regards to illness, race, disability and more.

Tasmanian Government
www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au/families-community/covid-19-and-discrimination-law

Studying during a pandemic

Perhaps you are a pharmacy student or studying while in your intern year. Regardless, it can be overwhelming to juggle things like study, work, home life, and more, especially with the added stress of COVID-19. You may have questions and concerns about working in healthcare during a public health crisis. If this is you, you may be able to find support from your institution or student groups – reach out for help if you need it! The National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association (NAPSA) is a great association that enables pharmacy students to find support and advice from peers. We have also provided some resources here which may help. Remember, our helpline is also open to pharmacy students and interns. If you are feeling overwhelmed, give us a call!

ReachOut Australia
au.reachout.com/collections/stressed-about-study-during-coronavirus

Coronavirus Vic Gov
www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/students

Study Australia: Information for International Students
www.studyinaustralia.gov.au/english/study-in-australia-student-support/financial-support/welfare-support

Student Wellbeing Hub – Resources for Students
studentwellbeinghub.edu.au/educators/covid-19/