for better mental health

Coping with going into work during coronavirus

If you have to leave your house to go into work during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, it might feel like a difficult and stressful time.

This page gives tips for taking care of your mental health and wellbeing, help with understanding difficult feelings, and ways to find support.  

This page is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Who is this information for?

You may need to go into work during the coronavirus pandemic because you're on the Government's list of key workers (also known as critical workers). Or it may not be possible to do your job at home, and your employer has asked you to go into work.

When you're busy with work and trying to cope with new, unusual circumstances, it might not feel possible to take care of yourself. But even doing small things for yourself can make a big difference to your mental wellbeing, and there are lots of ideas you can try.

This information is to help you cope if:

  • you have to leave your house to go into work during coronavirus
  • you're experiencing difficult feelings about coronavirus and going to work
  • you're worried about how this may affect the people you live with or care for.

If you are working in healthcare or the emergency services during coronavirus, you may have to cope with some difficult, unique experiences.

We have a section of specific support and guidance for healthcare and emergency services, in addition to the other information on this page.

Understanding difficult feelings

If you are going into work during coronavirus, you might experience some difficult feelings. These may be new feelings, or things you've experienced in the past.

There is no right or wrong way to feel or react to your situation. But these are some common feelings that you might experience during this time:

You might feel stressed about going into work during coronavirus, for example if you:

  • come into contact with a lot of people, including those who may have coronavirus
  • have more work to do or you are working longer hours than you normally would
  • feel uncertain about keeping your job or worried about money.

You might feel some of the effects of stress right away. But other effects could take longer to notice, including after the stressful event has ended.

See our tips on taking care of your mental wellbeing for ways to help yourself cope. Or read our pages on stress for more information, including how to seek help if you're feeling overwhelmed.

You may experience anxiety if you are going into work during coronavirus. This might be because you are worried about your own health or the health of those around you, including those who you care for or live with.

You might feel even more anxious if your job involves working with people who have coronavirus or coming into contact with people who may be ill. And you may be concerned about accessing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), if you need this to do your job safely.

This anxiety may be on top of other worries related to coronavirus, such as losing your job or problems with money.

See our tips on taking care of your mental wellbeing for ways to help yourself cope. Or see our pages on anxiety and panic attacks for more information, including tips for managing panic attacks.

"We're worried about being more likely to catch the virus as we are having to expose ourselves a lot more… Everyone is worried about spreading the virus unintentionally to people they work with."

You may feel guilty about going into work during coronavirus, especially if you're worried about spreading coronavirus to the people around you.

You may also feel guilty if your response to the situation feels different to those around you. For example, if working under a lot of pressure might make you feel stressed, while your colleagues seem motivated.

But we all react to difficult situations in different ways, so it's important to be kind to yourself. See our tips on taking care of your mental wellbeing for ways to help yourself cope.

You may also feel guilty about seeking help for a a mental health problem, at a time when it may seem like many others also need medical help.

Remember: it’s always ok to ask for help for your mental health. The NHS still wants you to do this during coronavirus. You are not wasting anyone’s time. 

See our page on accessing treatment and support during coronavirus for more information.

Going into work during coronavirus might make you feel angry. This may be because:

  • you have to go into work when others do not
  • you have to keep working in an environment where you may catch coronavirus
  • you don't feel supported by your employer to do your job
  • you don't have the right equipment to do your job
  • there are a lot of major changes in your life, including at work.

When most of us experience anger, it doesn't have a big effect on our lives. Anger only becomes a problem when it gets out of control and harms you or the people around you.

If you struggle with anger, learning healthy ways to deal with it can help your mental and physical health.

See our tips on taking care of your mental wellbeing for ways to help yourself cope. Or see our pages on anger for more information.

If you're experiencing mental health problems

See our page on coping with mental health problems during coronavirus.

Taking care of your mental health and wellbeing

If you are going into work during coronavirus, you may find it hard to take care of your mental wellbeing. This may feel even more difficult if you are working long hours or under a lot of pressure.

But even doing small things for yourself can make a big difference to your mental wellbeing. These are some ideas you can try:

Keep in touch digitally

  • Talk to someone you trust. Telling someone about how you feel can make a difference, even if they can't change what you're experiencing. You may want to talk to a colleague who understands your experiences. Or you may prefer to speak to someone outside of work, for a different view on things.
  • Try to make plans to video chat with people or groups you'd like to spend time with, when possible. You can also arrange phone calls or send instant messages or texts. Keep in touch with others as much or as little as you find helpful. If you don’t feel very confident making video calls, Age UK has a guide to using video calls which may help.
  • You could join a peer support community. Mind runs an online peer support community where you can share your experiences and hear from others.
  • If you're going online more than usual or seeking peer support on the internet, it's important to look after your online wellbeing. See our pages about online mental health for more information.

Safely meet with others outdoors

If you are struggling with your mental health, it is ok to ask for help. There is often support available inside and outside work. We have listed some of the common support options below.

If you work in healthcare or emergency services, we also have information about specific support options for your area of work.

Support at work

Some employers offer support to their employees for their mental health. If you have an employer, try to find out if they offer any specialist support services, such as:

  • an Employee Assistance Programme helpline
  • counselling services
  • peer support groups
  • Trauma Risk Management (TRiM), if you work in emergency services.

Helplines and listening services

You could talk to a helpline or listening service about your mental health:

  • Call, text or email Mind's Infoline for information and signposting to support your mental health.
  • If you want to talk to someone at any time about how you're feeling, you can call Samaritans on 116 123.
  • If you prefer not to talk, Shout has a textline supporting key workers and their mental health during coronavirus. Text the word KEYWORKER to 85258.

Further support and guidance

Our page of coronavirus useful contacts lists organisations, services and other sources of support and guidance for things like:

  • benefits and workplace support
  • housing
  • bereavement support
  • NHS and Government guidance.

If you’re struggling with your mental health and you’d like to seek professional help, or continue using treatment and support, our page on accessing treatment and support during coronavirus may help.

Stay connected with current events, but be careful where you get news and health information from.

Useful pages

Managing your wellbeing

  • If news stories make you feel anxious or confused, think about switching off or limiting what you look at for a while.
  • Social media could help you stay in touch with people but might also make you feel anxious. This may include people sharing news stories that you want to avoid, or posting their worries about coronavirus. Consider taking a break or limiting how you use social media. You might decide to view particular groups or pages but not scroll through timelines or newsfeeds.
  • See our pages about online mental health for more information. 

It may feel very difficult to make time for yourself while you are working, particularly if you are working more than usual or if you are under a lot of pressure. You may feel guilty about relaxing while your colleagues are working.

But making time for yourself is important for your physical and mental health. Try to use the time when you're not working to take care of yourself, as this can help you keep going when you are at work.

Here are some ideas you could try:

Find ways to relax

If you're finding it difficult to switch off from work, you might find our page on relaxation helpful. This includes tips and exercises to help you relax, which you can try at home or if you are taking a break at work.

Do something you enjoy

It may feel unrealistic to make time to do something you enjoy. But having something else to focus on outside work can help you stay well. This could be something small, like having a video chat with a friend, having a bath or listening to music.

Try mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and yoga. It has been shown to help people become more aware of their thoughts and feelings. This means that instead of being overwhelmed by your feelings, it becomes easier to manage them.

See our pages on mindfulness for more information, including some mindfulness exercises that you could try.

"I'm trying to make time to try new things that I've always wanted to do but never had time for. And spending more time on things I enjoy. It gives me…something to focus on and forget about everything else, even just for a short while."

Try to build physical activity into your daily routine, if possible. There are options for most ages and abilities. This includes things you can do in your home, as well as activities to try outdoors.

Getting active at home

These are lots of different ideas you could try for getting active around the house, including:

  • cleaning your home
  • dancing to music
  • going up and down stairs
  • seated exercises
  • online exercise workouts that you can follow
  • sitting less – if you notice you've been sitting down for a long time, just getting up or changing position can help.

Getting active outdoors

If you are getting active outdoors, the current Government guidance for most of us is to stay a safe distance (at least 2 metres) from any people you don’t live with.

If you are self-isolating, the guidance is that you should not leave your house, even for exercise. But you can exercise in your garden, if you have one.

These pages have more information about how to stay safe when doing exercise outdoors:

It may feel difficult to take care of your physical health if you're feeling busy or stressed. But looking after your physical health can have a big effect on your mental health. And there are many small changes you can try to take care of your overall wellbeing:

Think about your sleep

  • Try and establish a routine around bed time, to help set a regular sleeping pattern.
  • Give yourself some tech-free time before sleep, avoiding bright screens.
  • Practice a relaxation exercise before you go to bed.
  • Make sure where you sleep is as comfortable as possible.

Eat regularly and stay hydrated

  • Think about your diet. Your appetite might have changed since the start of lockdown. This may be because your routine has changed, for example if you’re working more than usual. If possible, try to eat regular meals and keep a balanced diet, as this can help your mood and energy levels. See our tips on food and mood for more information.
  • If you have a difficult relationship with food and eating, our pages on eating problems have information and tips which may help.
  • Drink water regularly. Drinking enough water is important for your mental and physical health. Changing your routine might affect when you drink or what fluids you drink. It could help to set an alarm or use an app to remind you. The NHS has information about water, drinks and your health.
  • If you need to self-isolate because you have symptoms of coronavirus, you can ask someone to drop off essential food items for you. If they do this, ask them to leave food at your doorstep, to avoid face-to-face contact with each other.
  • You may find that supermarkets and online delivery services feel busier than usual at the moment. If you're feeling anxious about going to the supermarket or arranging an online delivery, it might help to try some of our self-care tips for anxiety.

Support for people working in healthcare and emergency services

If you work in healthcare or the emergency services, for example:

  • in a hospital
  • in a pharmacy or doctor's surgery
  • in a care home
  • in the police and ambulance services

you may be experiencing a lot of pressure during coronavirus and working longer hours than you normally would. You may also be very anxious about getting coronavirus or passing it on to others around you.

You may find it helpful to read our information on understanding difficult feelings during coronavirus, and our advice on taking care of your mental wellbeing.

But there are some difficult experiences and emotions specific to this area of work that may also affect your mental wellbeing:

If you are working in healthcare or the emergency services during coronavirus, you may have experiences that cause some very difficult emotions. For example, you may experience:

  • Anxiety about coming into contact with people who have coronavirus. You may worry about yourself, but also those who you care for or live with. And you may be concerned about accessing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), if you need this to do your job safely.
  • High levels of stress and pressure at work. This may be because you are working long hours, especially if you have colleagues who are off sick. You may also have to make lots of tough decisions, which can be difficult when you feel stressed or tired.
  • Anxiety about doing extra, unfamiliar tasks that aren't part of your normal work, or even working in a completely new job when you weren't expecting to.
  • Stress about working with the public and enforcing measures to control coronavirus, if you are in the police.

See our information below about where to get help for these experiences and emotions.

Your job may involve being around or caring for people who are very unwell. This may include providing end-of-life care. You might lose people you are caring for, or lose colleagues or others in your life.

Working in this environment may be distressing or traumatic, and it is natural to feel lots of difficult emotions. For example:

  • Sadness or depression about what has happened.
  • Shock and numbness. This may happen as your mind tries to protect you from pain or feeling overwhelmed.
  • Panic and confusion. You may feel overwhelmed and wonder why you are experiencing these events. You may also worry about how you will cope.
  • Anger or hostility. You may feel angry or frustrated and want to find something or someone to blame for what's happening, to help make sense of it.

It might feel difficult to focus on your mental health when you're dealing with so many other things. But you can ask for help whenever you need it. This could be right now or in the future, or both.

See our information below about where to get help for these experiences and emotions.

"I feel that we have to be stoic, and that because we're working in healthcare we should be willing and able to put ourselves at risk and deal with the pressure."

There are also lots of ways to find support and guidance if you are working in healthcare and the emergency services during coronavirus. These are some options which may help:

If you feel unable to keep yourself safe, it's a mental health emergency.

Get emergency advice

This information was last updated on 18 June 2020. 

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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