Self-care and team building strategies

What are some ways pharmacists and pharmacy staff are managing stress in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?

It’s no secret that what has been happening in the world lately has taken its toll on people’s stress levels and mental health.

Pharmacists on the frontline, in particular, have been subject to significant pressures, from aggressive customers to medicines shortages and, of course, fear of being exposed to the virus.

Hundreds of pharmacists and pharmacy staff last week tuned into a webinar hosted by AJP and the Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS), and presented by counsellor and pharmacist Helen Lowy, about how to go from surviving to thriving in the current environment.

 Missed the webinar but have time now? Watch the full talk here.

“Our brains recognise that there is a threat out there to our safety and wellbeing,” she said.

“This threat leads to a ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response in the amygdala part of the brain  – it also leads to the release of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline in our bodies.

Ms Lowy encourages pharmacy staff to ‘eat, play, sleep’, making time where possible to get enough exercise, nutrition, sleep and relaxation.

She also suggested practising mindfulness. This can be done at any time of the day. Apps such as Calm, Headspace, Stop, breathe & think, 10% Happier, Insight timer can also be useful.

Pharmacy staff can also make time to wind down and have some fun together as a team.

Chris Campbell, PSA Queensland branch president and Professional Practice Manager at TerryWhite Chemmart’s, said in a PSA webinar recently that one of the best examples he’s seen was a pharmacy that ran a trivia night with the whole team – “trying to take the focus off [COVID-19] and create an environment that is a little bit safer, and enjoying the time next to people who are under the same pressure.”

PSA national president Chris Freeman added that staff should make sure to have regular check-ins with their team as a group.

“If you are separating they can themselves feel isolated particularly if it’s a group that is more isolated than others. So having regular team meetings over FaceTime or Skype or Zoom or any of those other pieces of software to make sure the team is still connected and it’s a way of actually sharing information through the pharmacy,” he said.

“You might be doing a session simply on people’s mental health and how they’re coping with this whole thing. It might not be simply a traditional staff meeting sort of thing.”

Meanwhile AJP/PSS webinar participants shared some of their own strategies for how they’ve been reducing their stress, and also ways to build morale amongst their teams.

Their ideas are below:

  • Mindfulness, self-compassion meditations
  • Going outdoors for a break
  • Using exercycle while listening to music
  • Sharing chocolate with pharmacy team
  • Spending time with family, attempting a puzzle, exercise when possible
  • Doing online yoga
  • Meditating and listening to calm, soothing songs
  • Making sure to have lunchtime outside and enjoy nature, even if it is only for a few minutes

  • Having a WhatsApp group with staff to chat and catch up
  • Buying hot cross buns for morning tea and pizza for lunch from the boss lifted morale tremendously
  • Sharing encouraging and positive posts on our work Facebook group.
  • Evening yoga
  • Time at the end of the work day to offload with staff
  • Tell a silly joke
  • Meditation, yoga and talking to people
  • Walk outdoors in park for exercise
  • Closing the shop for lunch

  • Encouraging staff to support each other
  • Podcasts and going for a run
  • Ballet online
  • Casual dress days
  • Thanking staff and acknowledging what they are achieving
  • Being mindful of how lucky I am with my family and my friends
  • A work mate wrote a sign in the toilet that read: five mindful breaths will calm and clear the soul

What are some ways you are relaxing and managing your stress during this time? Please share with us in the comments below!

Any readers who are distressed can call 1300 244 910 for anonymous and confidential support from a pharmacist colleague over the phone through the Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS), available 8am to 11pm EST 365 days of the year.

For urgent assistance when PSS is not available, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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