The COVID-19 pandemic has upturned our knowledge of the world. People everywhere are struggling to come to terms with changes in their lives and as Care Workers this is applicable to your work, too: What is allowed? How do we offer help? What is right and wrong? How do we keep ourselves safe? The questions come faster than the answers.
As a Community Care Worker, you will not only be worried about the safety of those you care for, but also for your own well-being. Working at this time can result in isolation from family, friends and even one’s children – the fear of becoming infected, and infecting others, is a real. Also, existing illnesses, poverty and trauma do not disappear during a pandemic – it simply adds layers to what you, as Care Workers, face on a daily basis.
Much is being asked of you in these difficult times, and it is completely normal to feel anxious, angry and overwhelmed. This means that taking care of yourself and your mental health is now more important than ever before.
If you are feeling stressed or worried, call or send a WhatsApp to 081 514 3120 and a therapist from Paedspal will give you a confidential call back. (Mondays to Fridays, 9am-4pm)
Boundaries are protective. Although it feels that your role demands more and more from you (and it does), it’s important to set strong boundaries. This could mean ‘switching off’ after hours or setting a cut-off time for calls or messages. You may be hearing and engaging with COVID-19-related material all day – during work, on your phone, the radio, TV and conversations after hours. While it’s important to stay up-to-date with current news, it’s also crucial to protect yourself from information overload. Try to limit how much you engage with that content. Set time to enjoy your hobbies and interests, take time to exercise, and do family activities together if possible. Protecting your personal time may not only help boost your mood, it could help you manage your daily work as well.
Communication is key. We all want to feel safe in our work spaces, and we can only do this if we have trust in our teams and our colleagues. Communicate your concerns clearly – whether it is about your hours, your access to PPE or your own health. Feeling unheard and undervalued can worsen your anxieties and fears. Remember that it is within your right and ability to ask – for more information if you need it, for clarity if you feel confused, for PPE if you don’t have any. Health and Community Care Workers spend much of their time hearing the concerns of others, and it is just as important to be heard and seen yourselves. Remember that most community clinics and hospitals have a mental health department. If you feel overwhelmed and unsure, you can always ask a nurse to be referred to a mental health professional.
Staying connected is protective. Working during this time may feel exhausting and frightening. The stresses that you faced before the pandemic could feel even worse now. Social distancing means that many people feel disconnected from those in their lives, and sometimes loneliness can feel as painful as a physical illness. Set aside time to connect with loved ones, even if it’s over the phone. Talk to friends, co-workers or family about how you feel, and reach out them when you feel lonely. In these times, be aware of exactly what you’re feeling and name it – sad, angry, anxious, frustrated, shameful, lonely, etc. Try to share these honest feelings with those closest to you. It’s important to seek help early. If you feel stressed, or if things begin to feel unmanageable, remember that you can access professional help. Trained counsellors or psychologists are available to help you through this.
For more tips and resources to manage your mental and physical health, have a look at our ‘Manage your health‘ page.
As Care Workers you are facing a pandemic in the midst of existing hardship. You may feel confused and helpless at times, and you may find yourself making difficult decisions during its course. Perfection in your work is not the goal. In these circumstances, the work that you are able and willing to provide is invaluable. Importantly, in your own struggles through this, remember that you can reach out for help and care:
National 24/7 toll-free helpine: 0861 322 322
Or write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
South African Depression and Anxiety Group
National 24/7 toll-free helpline:
0800 21 22 23
0800 70 80 90
0800 456 789
And their Suicide Helpline:
0800 567 567
Dear community care hero, I am in awe of how brave you are. Especially if you have children at home. To me the scariest thing about this epidemic is the possibility that I might leave my children behind without a mother. If you are facing this fear, but still putting yourself at risk for others, thank you for showing us what humanity can aspire to be. With thanks and love.