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Coping with going into work during coronavirus

If you’re going into work during the coronavirus pandemic, our guidance may help you feel more able to cope. Our information provides tips for understanding difficult feelings, taking care of your mental wellbeing and where to find support.

This page is also available in Welsh.

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

See our specific information for healthcare and emergency services staff.

Understanding difficult feelings

You might have been going into work since the start of pandemic. Or you might have recently returned to work after spending time at home. Either way, you may be dealing with some stressful and unusual circumstances.​

No matter what your job is, many of us might be sharing common feelings about going into work at this time. Our tips on taking care of your mental wellbeing offer ways to help you cope with difficult feelings you may experience.

You might face some of the following experiences and emotions:

Stress

There are many reasons why you may feel stressed about going into work during the coronavirus pandemic. For example:

  • Coming into contact with lots of people. This might feel more worrying if your work involves contact with people who may have coronavirus.
  • Having more work or longer hours. For example, you might have to take on extra work for colleagues who are self-isolating. Or you may need to deal with lots of new rules and tasks to keep the people you work with safe, on top of your usual job.
  • Money concerns. This might be due to working reduced hours or feeling uncertain about keeping your job.

You might feel some of the effects of stress right away. Others could take longer to notice, even after the stressful period has ended.

See our pages on how to manage stress for more information.

Anxiety

You may experience anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic if you have to go into work. You might feel anxious about:

  • Your own safety and the safety of others. You might be worried about keeping yourself safe from coronavirus. Or you might feel concerned about the health of others, such as those who you care for or live with.
  • Seeing colleagues or people you work with. You may have to work with people who might have coronavirus.
  • A lack of effective Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It can feel worrying if you need this to do your job safely. You might also feel anxious about being asked to wear a mask for long hours.

Or this anxiety may be on top of other worries related to coronavirus and work. Some examples might be:

  • losing your job
  • working fewer hours
  • problems with money
  • lack of financial support from the Government.

See our pages on anxiety and panic attacks to find out more.

“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.”

Guilt

You may feel guilty about going into work during coronavirus, for yourself and for others. We all react to difficult situations in different ways, so it's important to be kind to yourself.

You might feel guilty about:

  • The risk of spreading coronavirus. You might be worried about passing the virus on to others around you while going into work.
  • Your response to the situation. Yours might seem different to those around you. For example, if working under added pressure makes you feel stressed, while it seems to motivate other colleagues
  • Seeking help for a mental health problem. It might make you feel guilty at a time when it may seem like many others 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 the pandemic. You are not wasting anyone's time.

Anger

Going into work during the pandemic might make you feel angry, for example because of:

  • Situations that feel unfair. You might feel anger if you have to go into work when others do not.
  • An unsafe workplace. You might have to go to work somewhere that you may catch coronavirus.
  • A lack of support. You might feel unsupported by your employer, or lack the right equipment to do your job.

Many of us will experience episodes of anger which feel manageable. Anger only becomes a problem when it gets out of control and harms you or people around you.

For more about anger, see our pages on how to cope with anger.

You may experience many other types of mental health problem during the pandemic. These may be problems you've experienced before, or for the first time.

Our page on coping with mental health problems during coronavirus has information which may help.

Difficult feelings in healthcare and the emergency services

No matter what your job is, anyone who has to go into work can experience the common difficult feelings explained above.

But you may also have some unique experiences and emotions if you work in healthcare or the emergency services.

This information may help if you work in:

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

If you work in healthcare or the emergency services, you may find these experiences difficult:

  • Make lots of tough decisions. This could be about what or who to prioritise in your work, which can be difficult when you already feel stressed or tired.
  • Do extra, unfamiliar tasks. These might not have been part of your normal work before the pandemic, which can feel hard.
  • Work in a completely new job or role. This can feel overwhelming when you weren't expecting to do so.
  • Enforce coronavirus control measures. If you're in the police, you might feel stressed by working with the public.

See our useful contacts list for support in your area of work.

Many of us are worried about ourselves and those close to us. But your job may also 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, colleagues or others in your life. Working in this environment can be distressing or traumatic.

It's natural to have to cope with difficult emotions during traumatic events. For example, you might feel:

  • Sad or depressed. You might feel this way about what has happened, or what's currently happening.
  • Shocked and numb. This may happen as your mind tries to protect you from pain or feeling overwhelmed.
  • Panic and confusion. This might happen if you experience sudden changes.
  • Overwhelmed. You might be starting to wonder why you’re going through this.
  • Worried. You might worry about how you will cope with your work and your own wellbeing.
  • Anger, hostility or frustration. You might be looking to blame something 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 much more.

But it's ok to ask for help whenever you need it. This could be right now, in the future, or both.

“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 options for work support for healthcare and the emergency services during coronavirus.

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

Get emergency advice

Wearing a mask at work

You may experience difficult feelings about wearing a mask at work, especially if you are asked to wear one for long hours.

Across England and Wales, mask guidance differs between different types of work. You can find the latest rules on wearing face coverings in different workplaces on the UK and Welsh government websites:

Our page on mask anxiety, face coverings and mental health also has information on being exempt from wearing a mask if you have mental health problems, including if you are asked to wear a mask in the workplace.

Tips for taking care of your mental wellbeing

If you're going into work during coronavirus, it might feel hard to find the time or energy to take care of yourself. But doing just small things can make a big difference to how you feel.

It might help to try these ideas:

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.

“Regular communication with work helped me manage my anxiety and stress about eventually returning, and the measures that were put into place for when I was ready.”

Keep in touch digitally

Keep in touch with others as much or as little as you find helpful. It could be your colleagues or people close to you. If you don't feel comfortable meeting with others in person, you could:

  • Make plans to video chat. Video calls have become even more popular during the pandemic. If you don't feel very confident with them, Age UK's guide to video calls may help.
  • Arrange a phone call. Chat to someone from work, another friend or family member.
  • Keep in touch by text. You can send instant messages or texts if you don't feel like talking.
  • Join a peer support community. Mind runs an online peer support community called Side by Side. 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.

“I've drawn on all my coping mechanisms – exercised, meditated, got out into green spaces when I can. And I've been staying in contact with friends over the phone and through video calls.”

You might find it helpful to stay connected with current events. But take care with where you find news and health information. Try to use trusted sources to find reliable updates.

Follow useful sources of information

Find an online-offline balance

If news stories make you feel anxious or confused, you could:

  • consider switching off or limiting what you look at
  • look at news at certain times only, or for a certain amount of time
  • do something relaxing or creative after looking at the news.

Social media can help you stay in touch with colleagues or friends, but might also make you feel anxious. This may be because of people sharing news stories that you want to avoid. Or people posting how they feel about coronavirus.

If this is the case, you could:

  • consider taking a break from social media
  • limit how or when you use social media
  • view certain groups or pages, rather than scroll through timelines or news feeds.

See our pages about online mental health for more information.

It may feel very difficult to make time for yourself while working.

You may also feel guilty about relaxing while your colleagues are working. Especially if you're all working more than usual or under a lot of pressure.

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

Find ways to relax

If you're finding it difficult to switch off from work, see our pages on relaxation. They offer tips and exercises to help you relax. You can try these at home or during a break at work.

Do something you enjoy

It may feel unrealistic to make time for activities you enjoy. But doing something else outside work can help you stay well. This could be video chatting with someone close to you, reading a book or listening to podcasts and music.

Try mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment. It uses techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and yoga. It might help you feel calmer and less stressed.

See our pages on mindfulness for more information. You could try some mindfulness exercises during a work break, or outside of work

“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 may feel hard to take care of your physical health if you're feeling busy or stressed by work. But looking after your physical health can have a big effect on your mental health.

There are many small changes you can try to improve your wellbeing.

Eat regularly

Your appetite might have changed since the start of the pandemic. This may be because your routine has changed, for example if you're working more than usual or different hours.

If possible, try to eat regular meals and keep a balanced diet. This can help your mood and energy levels. See our pages 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.

Stay hydrated

Try to regularly drink enough water. This is important for your mental and physical health.

It could help to set an alarm or use an app to remind you to keep hydrated. See the NHS information on water, drinks and your health.

Get active indoors and outdoors

Where possible and safe to do so, you could go outdoors to try:

  • taking in some fresh air
  • going for a short walk or a jog
  • cycling, if you have a bike
  • gardening, if you have a garden or local allotment.

If you’re staying indoors, try some ideas for getting active where you live. You could try:

  • cleaning your living space
  • dancing to music
  • going up and down a set of stairs
  • following an online workout
  • moving more often if you’re seated for a long time – getting up or changing position can help, or try some NHS sitting exercise ideas.

See more on our pages about physical activity and your mental health.

Think about your sleep

Getting the right amount of sleep is important for your mental health. But it can be hard to manage when you also need to go into work. You could try:

  • setting a bedtime routine to help your sleeping pattern
  • having some screen-free time before sleep
  • practicing relaxation exercises before bed
  • making sure where you sleep is as comfortable as possible.

See more on our pages about sleep and mental health.

“It’s not always corona worries that keep me awake. It's more work worries that have been brought on by corona.”

Getting support

If you're struggling with your mental health, it's ok to ask for help. There is often support available inside and outside of work.

These are details of general and workplace-specific support options:

Support from your work

Some workplaces offer mental health support to their employees. Try to find out if your employer offers specialist support, such as:

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

Helplines and listening services

Outside work, you could talk to helplines and listening services about your mental health.

  • Mind's Infoline offers phone or email guidance and signposting.
  • Samaritans offer a 24/7 support line. Call116 123 if you want to talk to someone about how you're feeling at any time.
  • Shout has a textline offering support for your mental health and wellbeing. If you'd rather not talk, text the word SHOUT to 85258.

Support for trauma and bereavement

Further support and guidance

Our page of coronavirus useful contacts lists organisations, services and other sources of support.

Find information for things like:

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

If you're struggling with your mental health, you might want to seek professional help. See our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for information on how to do this.

Useful contacts for certain sectors

For some types of work, dedicated support options are available. Below you'll find certain sectors with specific coronavirus support and useful contacts.

  • Mind's Blue Light informationcan help people in Ambulance, Police, Fire and Search and Rescue services with their mental health. It offers tips and support options for wellbeing, stress, anxiety, seeking help for mental health problems and supporting colleagues.
  • Shout has a textline to support emergency service workers' mental health during coronavirus. Text the word BLUELIGHT to 85258.
  • Police Care UK is fo serving and veteran police officers and staff, volunteers and their families. It offers practical, emotional and financial support.
  • The Ambulance Staff Charity supports the ambulance community with mental, physical and financial wellbeing.
  • The Fire Fighters Charity has information to help support your mental health.
  • NHS England offers wellbeing support options including free, confidential helplines and textlines, virtual staff common rooms and wellbeing apps.
  • NHS Practitioner Health lists support services available to NHS staff, including online sessions with qualified therapists.
  • Health for Health Professionals Wales provides self-help, peer support and online therapy services. This resource is for health professionals and students in Wales.
  • National Health Supporters is a directory for healthcare students who are volunteering practical support to NHS staff. Find support with childcare, grocery shopping, pet sitting and other practical tasks.
  • Education Support offers a free, confidential 24/7 helpline with trained counsellors. It can be accessed by all serving and retired teachers, lecturers and staff in education (primary, secondary, further or higher education) in England, Wales and Scotland.
  • Twinkl has produced some resources with Mind for people working in education. They offer tips for looking after your mental wellbeing.
  • Our Frontline's coronavirus toolkit offers a range of resources for people working in education during the pandemic.

This information was last updated on 9 August 2021. 

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