We all feel fear - I am just like you…

- I am training as a health psychologist: this means I am interested in psychosocial health factors (psychological and social interactions).
- I work for the NHS on a secure dementia ward: My role is to provide meaningful activities and engagement to empower, nourish and support a person’s sense of self. In my mind this is underpinned by my training (psychosocial needs).
- I am a parent, partner, child, sibling, colleague, friend…I am human…I am just like you.

Yesterday at university we had a fantastic online lecture and discussed therapeutic interventions which help with a myriad of health conditions, many based around stress and anxiety.

This morning I read the 1.5k comments in response to the question ‘is anyone scared?’ on an online support group for health workers. After carefully reading the comments, almost all of which answered ‘yes’. The more specific details underpinning their fear got me thinking.

I shared my thoughts with my husband who works in motorsport and discussed fear and how working in a risky environment can impact your performance and sense of self. He was quite adamant that fear ‘isn’t experienced’. However,after we picked apart his answer (because that’s what couples do!), it was quite simple. Of course, he is aware there’s an element of risk, of course he is aware that keeping his driver and team safe are a priority, but he is focused on winning.

“So how can you do that?” I asked…

“I work in a team…we have our jobs, we get it done” was his reply.

“you trust them…your team?” I asked

“with my life” he replied.

Trust. This is the difference; I am sure of it. I can’t quantify it, I am writing this following a personal discussion and my thoughts from this morning, but I have that feeling. You know the one…it’s quite unscientific, but it sits somewhere in the base of your belly and you feel a sense of ‘sureness’ that comes from it…you feel that it’s telling you something you need to pay attention to. My instinct? I think so.

I dare say ‘trust’ is what people need to manage fear. I’m not attempting to speak for everyone. I am just trying to think of ways that we can cultivate trust at a time where it is perfectly acceptable to feel fear. We are expected (and want) to accept the situation we are in and remain committed to it. Much like we used to say in motorsport, we are #OneTeam the #DreamTeam.

We know there is suffering. What unites us in this suffering? An indiscriminatory virus! We couldn’t be more aware that we are all in this together! We suffer when we try to control, escape and avoid difficult experiences, rather than being with them. If we are working in a place where we feel fear, we can’t escape. We have a job to do. We can meet this experience of Covid-19 with psychological flexibility. Being who we are is what matters to us most; being a parent, partner, child, sibling, colleague, friend…a human…you. So, just before I go off to work what can we really quickly do on a psychological level to minimise our own and others suffering?

We have the ability to be psychologically present in the face of this situation. We need to trust ourselves. We need to trust that those we work for. We need to trust our colleagues.

  • Recognise that your feelings are part of being human.

  • Use the resources your employers have put in place for you to support your mental health.

  • Talk to your colleagues, they may share your feelings. Remember to be empathetic, supportive and encouraging. We want to feel listened to, supported and reassured following a chat. We have all trained in these skills as workers in healthcare.

  • Try and move your body in a way that feels good. Short on time? (…it’s ok, I know you are) Just stretch when you get out of bed, lift your hands in to the sky and raise on to your tip toes. Feel your feet come back firmly to the ground. Squeeze your fists, clench your body and then relax your whole self with a big sigh! Try and do this three times.

  • Before you set off, just remind yourself that we are all in this together. Your family needs you; your colleague’s families need them too. Our goals are probably more similar than we realise. You can reassure yourself with a mini-mantra: “I trust myself…I have got this”, “I trust my team…we have got this”.

See…whether you’re working in the NHS, for a care home, collecting our bins, delivering our food…our post, filling our supermarket shelves…staying at home and caring for each other…we are all in this together.

See you on the other side!!!!