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Hi! my name is Rabeya and I work at Nafsiyat Intercultural Therapy Centre as a bilingual, Bengali psychotherapist. Over the last 18 months many have found Covid-19 difficult because of the many changes that it has brought. For example: • Lockdown itself • Working from home and other work related issues • Social Isolation • Uncertainty and fear with people catching Covid and people dying from Covid. Spare a thought if you can for those people in Black and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME for short) who while dealing with all these issues also have other aspects to face that makes COVID even harder for them. Research tells us that BAME groups are disadvantaged not only because of racism but also by such aspects as poor health and housing, difficult where there are many generations living in the same household – all before COVID was even heard of. The same research sources tell us that many people with BAME backgrounds have pre-existing health conditions as a result of both health and social inequalities with some studies showing that as much as 34% of critically ill COVID-19 patients are from BAME communities. I would like to mention some possible reasons that we could consider: • Experience of individual and institutional racism make BAME groups suspicious of authorities including health care – particularly when information might not be available in a language they can understand. Without accurate information it might lead to people accepting wrong information from different sources – family, community or religious figures for example • Where community and family ideas are seen as important then misleading information based on hearsay can be shared and persuade a person to avoid medical or psychological help. The power of the community often has more impact than a room full of scientists. • BAME can have higher death rates as a result of inequalities – and are potentially more likely to be infected when living in overcrowded poor housing conditions. • Psychologically mental health might not even be accepted by many cultures making it harder to find ways of reaching out to BAME cultures to offer assistance. Even if people are willing to try therapy, with lockdown there can often be no space to have private therapy in busy crowded homes • Not everyone works in jobs that includes the potential for financial help with lockdown – many people in BAME cultures are more likely to work in lower paid employment that might in turn expose them to more chances of becoming impacted by COVID, either because they could not work from home or simply because their jobs cannot be done from home. • With lockdown there has been a huge increase in technology to provide vital services – yet many older generations struggle with technology – so even if they are considering therapy, it might only be available in ways they cannot use or do not have access to. Faced with these extra difficulties BAME patients would welcome professional help that can give them even better support, and there are some ideas here that you might find useful. • Be as aware as you can be of the impact of your culture on the person you are with. Acknowledge your differences and recognise that in doing this it might make it easier for the patients to open up and learn to trust. • Being able to communicate in their own language also brings out many aspects that otherwise might not emerge – so look to either involve interpreters or bilingual staff. • Although you may not be able to help personally, at least be able to point to where they can get reliable information to deal with COVID issues • In terms of projects it would be helpful as groups of professionals to work with community and or religious leaders to find culturally acceptable ways in which the best kind of support can be offered both in terms of psychoeducation and ways of getting practical help. COVID-19 has affected so many people worldwide – but the additional challenges faced by people in BAME cultures can be greatly helped by any professional working alongside them, particularly if we are aspiring to provide the best kind of service to the many cultures we work with.

In this podcast, listen to Rabeya, a bilingual psychotherapist who works at Nafsiyat Intercultural Therapy centre, explore the impact COVID-19 continues to have on people from black and minority ethic groups and how we can contribute to help those facing extra difficulties.

Nafsiyat are a charity who offer intercultural therapy in over 20 languages to people from diverse cultural communities. To find out more about the work Nafsiyat do, click here.

Ola 0:07
When we discussed previously in our planning, we thought first about what our intentions were because I think for me it was really important to be really clear about what’s our intention here, and I guess you know what we talked about, the intention being to enable to encourage people to have these conversations about race and about difference and what it means to each other. To encourage curiosity about the other I guess, were some of the things that we talked about. And so we had a little plan about some of the things we would cover in our conversation. But since then, I suddenly started to really worry about being recorded, talking about race and I struggled with that because I wasn’t sure what it was I was really worried about, especially because conversations about race is something I’m so passionate about.
And I’m very comfortable talking about it with people that I’m close to people that know me, but I suddenly realised that, actually, I don’t want to be sort of like the voice of black people because I suddenly started to think that some of my views around race might be offensive to other black people.
And I wasn’t sure. I mean I don’t know that that’s what we were going to do in our conversation, but with that in the back of my mind, it worried me. And you know since then I’ve had a few conversations about it and thought ok, I’m definitely going to have a sort of thing at the beginning of our conversation whereby I’m making it really clear that you know, my views in no way represent the views of black people on race, they’re just my ideas and my views, and they might not extend much further than that you know, For other people it might not represent them.
But then I realised that actually, this issue of race is such a sensitive and emotive topic. And if me, as a black person, is this worried and anxious about talking about it and being heard and sharing some of my ideas and about race, you know what does that feel like for other races, who aren’t black for example. And I just thought that that was really interesting thing to think about and I wondered if actually us having a conversation about that, in this podcast might be something that we could use and people could listen to and maybe get something from. What do you think about what I’ve said so far?

Jocelyn 2:53
It’s triggered, lots of thoughts in my mind, and I suppose the first thing I thought was, you know, what we’d said initially about, what I’d said about my experiences of having these conversations with black colleagues, and then feeling, you know that sometimes they would be comfortable to talk about their feelings, and at other times they’d feel like they were a token black person.
They’d feel like perhaps people might ask them questions from a good place, from a compassionate place, from a curious place, but that the issues that they might be talking about – and I guess I’m thinking back to George Floyd’s murder – was so emotionally triggering for them, that they didn’t want to have those conversations with a colleague, which sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t.
And I also really relate to what you’re saying, as a white person because you know what this conversation, potentially does is it puts both of us out there in the public domain.
And I similarly to you can’t assume that my views represent every white person’s view. All we can do is speak for ourselves. With regard to how we feel right now at this moment in time knowing what we know. And I suppose the other thing I was going to say was we make; I think this also just speaks to the idea that we shouldn’t make assumptions about people, as a black person, you might, you might be experiencing certain things or you may come from a certain background or you may come from a particular position or emotion on something, you know, and, and similarly, you might make the assumption that, I’m a privileged white South African and therefore, I am potentially racist.
And I would have a whole lot to say about that. Yes, I am a privileged white South African, and I did benefit from apartheid. But does that make me, you know someone who was pro that regime for example.
And there’s so many layers, and it’s so uncomfortable to talk about, but actually if we don’t have the conversation. Then we risk silence.

Ola 5:47
And nothing changes and nothing moves. And I think, you know, when I started to have these worries, you know, someone said to me well don’t do it, and I thought well no I don’t not want to do it. I just want to be careful about the way that I do it. And I don’t want to shy away from these conversations because I think they’re so important, you know, and when you was talking about that token thing, I actually wasn’t sure what that meant I had to kind of have a conversation to get an understanding of well what does being a token mean.
But prior to that, I was thinking in my mind that I don’t want to be the token black person who comes and talks about race in this podcast. And what meaning people might take from me, if they view me that way – to be the token black person coming to speak, because I’m very aware that, you know, whilst the black experience is a collective thing, on some level, but it’s actually a very personal thing and it’s very individual. My position as a black woman in London today, I mean, whilst I don’t see myself as British, I’m not British by birth. I’m very British in my upbringing, and I have been here since a very young age. So, for example, even in this job role that I’m in now. I know nurses that I met, as a newly qualified nurse working on a ward, who are still band six on that ward, I don’t know what their experience of that is. That’s not been my experience; I have been able to progress and I think it’s something that’s very known in the NHS that you don’t find so many black colleagues at senior levels, the higher up you go the less black faces you’re going to see. And so I think that was very much on my mind when I’m coming into here; thinking that I’m going to be talking about race, but other people might not share my experience of race. So for me, I can say things that for someone else may think: Actually, no, that’s not their experience and they might be very angry, they might have experienced very blatant, very overt racism. That might mean that the way they relate to having conversations like this, with their white colleagues isn’t such an easy thing to do and is far more difficult to do.
But I do think these are the things that we need to talk about and we need to think about. I think these are the things that matter. I think its understanding or trying to, being curious enough, and being patient as well, because actually it’s not an easy thing to talk about, and people are going to get it wrong. People are going to say the wrong thing, or they might ask the wrong question. But that patience will enable us to actually be able to break down those barriers really slowly and start to ask the questions and start to understand why something might be a trigger for this person, but not a trigger for another person, because experiences are very different in this regard or they can be.

Jocelyn 9:21
I was thinking about what you were saying about patience and patience takes generosity of spirit. In order for you to, let’s say be patient with me about a mistake, mistake in inverted commas that I might make. You have to be coming from quite a compassionate place and not from a threatened vulnerable or angry place.
I think that’s important to hold in mind because a lot of times people who are feeling threatened or feeling really marginalised and disadvantaged and angry because of bullying, or because of racist comments and treatment and so on, may not have that generosity and why should they actually?
And then I was thinking about something else when we were having a previous conversation about this and I said that sometimes I get into such a tangle. I’m so scared to make mistakes, and I talked about the white South African feelings of shame and guilt that leads to avoidance, because I think there’s so much shame and guilt that I carry coming from that position and that sometimes it can be extremely silencing. And that that’s a problem.
But then you said to me, shame and guilt is a luxury.

Ola 11:01
Well it is in comparison, I mean that’s the thing I have a lot of compassion for my white friends and colleagues, who you know, carry this guilt and shame. Sometimes I think about it in terms of: ‘well it’s not your fault that you was born in a white body, the same as it’s not my fault that I was born in a black body, but at the same time, I would much rather feel guilt and shame, than the feelings that come with racism, experiencing racism, being a victim of racism, so it’s still a privileged position to be in.

Jocelyn 11:37
100% And I totally get that, and that comment really landed with me and I really thought absolutely just get over yourself.
And I feel like that kind of conversation where you can kindly but firmly, you know, make a comment like that is really good.
And I suppose, that’s why it’s worth having this kind of dialogue.
We’re doing this because the conversation, the idea sprang from this idea of black history month. And I wanted to ask you, what does that mean to you, Black History month?

Ola 12:36
This is one of the reasons why I got scared because what I don’t want to do, is say things for the sake of it because I think they sound good. I’m somebody that really likes to stay true to myself. My mum always said, if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. I actually don’t subscribe to the idea of black history month. Whilst I get it, I get that black people are the one race that, the experience, the black experience is very different. Everybody has experienced some kind of prejudice, I think, and there’s different degrees to it. You can’t compare it, and that’s why I think that I understand that Black History Month is there to pay attention to the fact that black people have had this horrendous experience throughout history. For example, I had a colleague once say to me that, being a Polish woman she’s experienced racism, because when she came to this country, and went in to a shop and they heard her voice, they started to treat her differently or whatever her experience was. I thought, yes, whilst I agree that that is prejudice, the black experience is different to that, and racism is for me anyway, it’s about the colour of your skin.
The difference there is, that when I walk into a shop, they see, I’d have to put a bag or where a Burka or something to cover in order for them to not see that I am black. Whereas she could just go into a shop and maybe not really talk and nobody would really know and it would be fine, that’s the difference, that’s a big difference. The difference in terms of our history, it’s so different. There’s a psychiatrist that I’m really fond of; almost see her like an idol; Dr Francis Cress Welsing I think her name is, and she talks about this generational trauma or PTSD that black people are affected by, and till this day you see the impact of it and whilst I don’t think it’s an excuse, because I’ve heard that argument that oh you know it’s an excuse, it’s actually the reality and I think you have to understand the implications that does pass through in that way, but for me the reason why I don’t subscribe to Black History Month is because I don’t like this idea that history is thought about in a month. Black history is a part of history, you don’t have a Chinese history month or an Indian history month or a white history month. So why have a black history month? I mean, I get the why and I get that’s important for a lot of people, but for me personally, it’s a no. Black history is history and the history is just history, and so therefore history should just be a part of history. It’s just a part of history, and I would prefer if it was thought about as such, so we pay attention to it throughout the year like with any other type of history.

Jocelyn 15:50
And I absolutely agree with you. Because, of course, black history is history, and therefore making it a month means that you just think about black history for October and then you don’t need to worry about it again, it’s really colluding with that. But it’s difficult for me as a white person to say that isn’t it. And I think that’s interesting.
And if it means that it does get people having difficult conversations or maybe get my kids learning something in school, which is outside of the main stream. Then I guess it’s also got to be a good thing to get to a point where we don’t need black history month.

Ola 16:50
I grew up learning about King Henry the eighth and the Victorians, I had to go and learn for myself about black history, not slavery, I’m talking about black history -the kings and the queens and the Warriors. The richest man in Africa that travelled around flinging gold everywhere; Mansa Musa, but I had to go and learn those things for myself. Those things wasn’t taught to me as a child, it was in my adult years I had to go and learn it because I was interested to know. Suddenly I thought ‘what we doing before slavery?’ You know, and I asked myself what was colonisation, what did that actually look like, what was that experience, did nobody fight against it. And I got to learn that actually there was a lot of fights, and some people were successful in their fights to protect their land and all the rest of it so you know I think that needs to be the black history that that people learn about not just the horrendous horrors of slavery, because I’m not even sure how helpful that is actually.
It pushes one narrative, it pushes one narrative that you know black people were slaves. But actually, you know they weren’t, they weren’t only slaves, they were kings and queens and they did great things.

Jocelyn 18:18
And so, it’s a sort of narrative of disempowerment rather than one of empowerment and that’s not helpful.

Ola 18:29
But this is good. I feel so much better about this conversation than the fear that I had before about coming to talk about something that is so, because you know, I feel like we’ve raised, it’s something you can talk about for days even, and you’re still, you know, for me, it’s a constant learning, I don’t know all there is to know. I’m still learning as a black person, I’m still learning. And so some of the ideas and thoughts I have today might change tomorrow and I think that was part of my worry; that we’re going to have a 5-10 minute conversation that people will hear. And I don’t know what people might take from it, but it’s just such a small snippet of some of the things we think and I don’t know for me some of my thoughts and ideas are still being formed and shaped you know by my experiences and experiences of other people who I talk to and learn about theirs. So, yeah it was really worrying. You know, I think one of the things I worried about is that I might say something and it might get taken out of context, or there’s no opportunity for the person who’s offended to ask me a question, to check what I meant or, you know.
I hope that some of the things that we’ve talked about resonates with some people at least, I hope that, you know, if there is anything that’s not understood, people can reach out because they have our contact address, and our email address; they’ve got contact details, so I hope they can reach out to check it. And I hope that going forward. This encourages people to have the difficult conversations because I think this was a difficult conversation for us. I mean for me at least coming into this. But I think, you know, what you said about compassion and kindness and patience, you know, all of that stuff. I think we have that between us so we’ve been able to have a conversation, even what you said about me being able to say to you about, you know, well it’s still a position of privilege, that’s because we’ve created a sort of space, there’s a safety for me to be able to say that to you. And I hope that people are able to kind of go forth and have some of these difficult conversations and, and find ways to have them.

Jocelyn 20:48
And I suppose, I think this might be for some people listening to this, I think it could be quite triggering. And I suppose it’s important that people are aware that we we’re available as a service to signpost people to spaces where they can talk about this, if they feel like they need to.
I think it’s also important to highlight how these conversations are particularly important in health and social care. At the moment, because of people’s experiences, because of the way in which people have really experienced racism and marginalisation. And, you know, being disadvantaged from many years in services. And yes, the pandemic has just, you know, has highlighted this more. The inequities, a light has been shone on them.
But it’s really important that we go on to sort of promote a culture where these sorts of conversations can happen in safe spaces within our organisations.
And that if someone listening to this feels prompted to think about how they’re going to do that with their colleagues and their team or within their organisation, then I feel that even though this was a hard conversation to have. And I think these conversations make one uncomfortable. They should make us uncomfortable right, if we’re kind of glibly having these conversations, then I think we’re not being self-aware or self-critical or kind of, not that we should be criticising ourselves but we need to be, we need to be thinking about our assumptions I suppose, if that means that, you know, people do get to feel uncomfortable initially but then go on to have those conversations then that’s got to be a good thing.

Ola 23:16
Yeah and it’s growth, I think you know, as you were talking I was thinking growth, because you know, I really believe or subscribe to that idea that, you know, in order to progress or to change, or to grow, you’ve got to get a bit uncomfortable. I think for me that’s when I know something’s happening. You know, when things just are just fine, I’m not really growing.

In this podcast to mark Black History month,  listen in on Keeping Well NCL Hub colleagues’ Ola Ajala (black Nigerian born, British mental health nurse and family therapist)  and Jocelyn Blumberg  (White South African born, Clinical Psychologist)  conversation about race, privilege, Black History Month and why uncomfortable conversations are important for growth.

Hello my name is Kulbir and l’m the Communications Lead for the Keeping Well NCL Hub and in this podcast I want to talk about the importance of building connections and seeking help. We know that men have traditionally found it harder to seek help compared to women – a claim that’s backed up by leading mental charities including Mind and the Mental Health Foundation. Although the causes are complicated, the consequences of not reaching out, or reaching out sooner rather are very real – death by suicide being the single biggest killer of men under 45 for example speaks to that. I also wanted to share my own story about my mental health – how I’ve struggled and also some snippets of what’s worked for me over the past 18 months. Covid clearly has a lot to answer ! I’d like to say that I’ve been fortunate too – fortunate that I haven’t lost any loved ones to Covid, unlike so many others. So, the onset of the first lockdown coincided with my decision to work for myself and become self- employed, figuring as I did that the freedom and control would be right up my street. It turns out that my timing couldn’t have worse! The work contracts that I had lined up at that point had all been postponed – I went from having 3 clients who had promised to work with me to precisely non…literally overnight! Not only was I pivoting to a new life, I then had to pivot again… an exhausting and daunting process. I clearly had to get comfortable with the idea of change! My work situation recovered in time (healthcare communications unsurprisingly being a growth area!) however it wasn’t long before familiar feelings of anxiety and loneliness kicked in. Spending long, uncertain days at my work desk felt awful and isolating (and still do). By 3pm it feels as though the walls have crept in. I missed the little interactions the most, the daily walks to the canteen, a lunchtime browse in the shops, small talk with the canteen and security staff, afternoon cups of tea. Most PR and comms folks tend to be people people…– so human stories, asking questions, being inquisitive is what we do best – take away people and you take away the fuel by which we work. SO in no particular order, this is what I learned about my mental health over the past 18 months since the first lockdown and also what I did to improve it: The first thing I did was accepted that I felt bad and sought support. Personally, therapy has been brilliant and professional mentors have been a godsend. Although I come from a background where we don’t really share, this process has encouraged me to open up a bit. I’ve kind of had to share – not being seen or heard is literally the worse feeling for me! I’ve found the regular weekly times gave me something to look forward to and has kept me accountable for what I want to achieve in the weeks and months ahead. Secondly, I Changed things up. I’m proud to co-run two support groups – one for LGBTQ+ Sikhs and one for Punjabi males focusing on their mental health. I found that they became my support networks and turning up and organising these sessions gave me a renewed sense of purpose. Being accountable to these groups also gave me a sense of belonging. I’d found my tribes and connected deeply with the online space we had fostered. Joining my first ever book club has been a revelation too allowing as it did a level of intimacy I hadn’t imagined was possible online. And thirdly, Focused on the things I’m good at. One of the joys of working for myself is that I can work on projects that bring out the best in me and let me focus on my skills. So for me that means collaboration, working to solve challenges and writing and I actively sought out projects that I thought I could make a difference on. So, over lockdown, it’s been a real pleasure working on the communications for the vaccine rollout in London and also for a mental health start up and for the keeping Well NCL Hub. As a parting thought, I want to say that if you are struggling with your mental health, please remember, there’s always someone there to help – be it a GP or friend or family member, so do reach out. And for those of us who think someone needs help or you sense they may be struggling, a useful tip I’ve found online is to ask twice: asking “How are you?” Followed up closely with “how are you, really?” For me, that that seems like a really powerful way of taking that extra step.

Kulbir Sandhu, Communications Lead for the Keeping Well NCL Hub, shares his thoughts as part of World Mental Health Day, which takes place on Sunday 10 October. He talks about his lockdown experience over the past year and how he’s navigated this testing time.

Nancy Barnes is an Assistant Psychologist within the Keeping Well NCL Hub. Nancy shares her own experience of living with long Covid while working in the NHS as well as her experience of making a full recovery.

I am an Assistant Psychologist working part time for the Keeping Well NCL Wellbeing Hub. For the other part of my week I work for a Children and Adolescent Mental Health Disability Service. I have decided to speak a little bit about my own journey of contracting and living with both Covid symptoms and Covid complications for about a year.

Firstly, if you have come across this podcast because you yourself have had or are experiencing long Covid then I hope that by sharing my experience can validate that you’re not alone with your struggles but ultimately I hope it can serve as a useful insight into someone else’s experience of recovery. There were definitely times when I questioned whether I’d make a full recovery but I am so happy to say that It may have taken me a while but I am now back to full health. If you have joined this podcast and haven’t experienced long Covid I hope this can shed some light on what it is like to live through it. Of course this is only one experience of long Covid and I can’t speak for others, but I believe the more that people share their experiences the more broad and in depth our understanding can be and ultimately the more compassionate we can be to those who are struggling with their health.

Back in February 2020 I fell ill with what I thought was ‘Flu’. I was at work delivering training and I suddenly felt really hot. I asked if anyone else was hot and I realised everyone else was in thick winter coats. I took a moment to cool down outside and found that I was struggling to catch my breath. I remember telling my manager that I was feeling ‘weird’ as I struggled to find the words to express how my body was feeling as it was like nothing I’d experienced before.

I spent the next two weeks in bed sleeping and being barely able to make it to the loo without having a break to catch my breath. Despite how I was feeling I decided that I should go back to work as surely the ‘flu’ would go soon. However when I sat down at my desk I realised I couldn’t really see the computer screen, I felt sick and like I was going to lose consciousness. I needed to go home and rest. I left the office for the second time feeling confused, disorientated and had this strange feeling that I was underwater.

I repeated this pattern of going off work and then pushing myself back to work a couple more times before I was told I needed to improve my attendance at work. I was so scared of losing my job that I pretended I was ok and told myself that I would no longer be sick. On reflection it was very naive to think that my mind had the power to tell my body how to behave. Nonetheless, that April I went back to full time work with the aim of staying well.

April 2020 was a time when the world was changing fast. The pandemic had hit us. Services in the NHS were stretched, meaning staff members were stressed. These six months were like hell. I had extreme fatigue, headaches, breathlessness, brain fog and I was always hot, I fell asleep as soon as I’d finished work and I’d sleep on the weekends. I didn’t want to complain as I felt that my sickness was a nuisance and in the context of the pandemic, I felt I needed to do my part to support people through the crisis. I actually reflect back on this time and feel a bit heartbroken for myself. I feel a deep sadness that I didn’t feel I could express how unwell I felt and I feel sad that I felt misunderstood by the systems which employed me. I wish there was something in place at work, or in society that had told me that it was ok to take time to heal, that I wasn’t letting anyone down and that I wasn’t a failure needing to stop. But before my mind had time to realise what I was doing to myself my body took control and in July 2020 I had a horrendous relapse where I was bed bound for weeks.

I went back to the doctor again, this time they said that in light of the symptoms that I had had for the last 5 months they felt that the flu I had had in February must have been covid. They apologised that they knew nothing about it at these early stages and just told me to rest and signed me off work for a month. This was a scary time as the baseline of what I could achieve physically and mentally was barely 1% of what I could do before. I felt 98 years old, but I was still 28. However this time going off work felt different. I had an explanation for my symptoms which made me feel a little bit more in control of what was going on and I realised that I needed to take my recovery seriously if I wanted to avoid another relapse. The first thing this required was for me to admit to myself how unwell I was. Then I gave up all caffeine, processed sugars and alcohol, took up an anti-inflammatory diet, did meditation twice a day, slept and napped as much as I needed, and did light yoga for people with chronic fatigue.

I have to admit that the recovery was really slow and sometimes frustrating. There were definitely times when I had come to terms with the fact that I would be this slow and weak person forever or at least a few years. I think in a way part of this acceptance of my new life (as a 90 year old) and really leaning into it and almost enjoying my new routine was part of what helped me to start properly healing.

I took the time pressure off myself and hoped that one day I would make a recovery. Three months later I started to notice the brain fog lifting a little, weirdly at the same time I started to feel a bit better my heart started doing strange things (which was scary at times). However I held onto the fact that I was feeling less tired which had to be a good things.  I told myself that it was all part of the healing and by January 2021 I started to feel like myself again. I felt intense joy when I started to feel my breath come back, when my head didn’t throb and when I realised I wasn’t dragging my feet when I walked.

To be honest I can’t say what it was that healed me as I tried so many different things. But I do really think that my biggest learning is that healing can take a really long time, and that although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone I have learnt some amazing things from my experience- so it hasn’t all been negative. I’ve learnt how to slow down and how to recognise signs in my body that I’m overdoing it.  It was also extremely hard to juggle work while trying to get better so it has also strengthened my passion for supporting staff wellbeing and I am so happy to be writing this as a healthy member of staff within the new Keeping well NCL Wellbeing hub.



Hello, my name is Debbie and I’m one of the Assistant psychologists within the Keeping Well NCL hub. Today I want to talk a little about how we establish and re-establish routines in a changing and uncertain environment and some of my experiences of this.

Before the COVID pandemic, I always very much enjoyed and thrived off a strict routine. Whilst working two part time jobs – one within a charity and one within the hospitality industry I had to juggle working contrasting hours, in addition to training as a competitive powerlifter. And of course, trying to fit a social life in! Routine helped me to manage these different demands on a  very practical level – for example, managing sleep when I would switch between working 9-5 to working 5pm-1am, food prep and even things like washing my hair. However, routine and structure also provided a certain element of safety and predictability in times of stress.

However, this all changed in lockdown. With the closure of gyms, being made redundant form one job and working from home for the other, I found that my routine had not only fallen apart, but no longer made sense. There was so much uncertainty and confusion around that time, as we had no idea how long this was going to last and had very little information about the virus. The dismantling of my familiar routine and an impending sense of doom with what felt like may be a never ending lockdown, was very overwhelming.  As much as I wanted to force my old routine into this new lockdown life, I knew it wasn’t possible – we were living in a very different world.

One of the things that really helped me process this huge change, was by acknowledging it and marking it by coming up with an entirely different routine. However, this wasn’t something I launched into on day 2 of lockdown. I remember very clearly on the first weekend in lockdown we had, when you couldn’t really leave your house even for a walk, sitting on my bedroom floor and saying to myself – I don’t know that I can do this. In that moment, I didn’t have fight, I didn’t have hope, I just felt completely lost and incredibly out of control. I felt like I couldn’t even navigate what to do for the next few hours, never mind months. And these feelings didn’t go away immediately, and I didn’t start a new routine immediately, I had a period of time where I did very little, watched a lot of New Girl, and allowed myself to navigate and feel some of my emotions – and that is okay and that is important.

As the days passed, I knew that whilst, I couldn’t be training at a gym, going out for cocktails with friends and commuting to work, that didn’t mean I had to spend the next few days, weeks, and months at a total loss in each day. I began to re-establish a new routine that fitted this lockdown life with the limited things we had to do. And because we had little to do, the focus of the routine was not about ‘producing and achieving’ but ‘creating and being’. Parts of this routine became little rituals that helped me get through each day. Just as an example, I had what came to be called canal o’clock – at the same time each day I would go for a walk along the canal and call a very good friend. It sounds almost insignificant, but it is often the little things that matter, the little day to day encounters which ground us and give us a space to just be present.

There were two things that were important about this new routine – the fact that it was different to my old routine, and that it was predictable. Letting go of an old routine can be difficult, but if we don’t, we can find ourselves stuck in the past, which can lead to feelings of melancholy, depression, anxiety and frustration. Think of it like the children’s shape sorter toy where you have to fit the correct wooden shape through the hole. A triangular routine won’t fit into a square shaped life – and if you continue to try, you will end up feeling annoyed and defeated. But if you pick up the square shape instead, this will fit! A different period of life requires a different routine in order to help us accept change.  This difference in structure in the new routine, helped me to adjust to the huge changes we had seen as a society.

The predictability in the structure provided a sense of control in what was an incredibly uncertain time and it gave me a sense of accomplishment in each day.

The advantages of having a routine are fairly well known. However, what I have learnt through the past year, is not just the important of establishing a routine, but re-establishing them in order to help us acknowledge and process change. Re-establishing routines like this can be a helpful coping strategy as we navigate a changing and uncertain future.

Reflecting on this, just recently I had to change my routine as I started this new job within the Keeping Well NCl hub, started a new training programme in the gym and a different commute etc. This was difficult as it was a lot of change at once in lots of different areas, and I found that part of me was resistant to that. But I remembered to be kind to myself, had a break where I had very little routine, and allowed a lot of flexibility in my first week in this job!

I want to leave you with some simple practical steps of how to do this. First of all, ask yourself:

  • What period of life are you in at the moment? For example, are you recovering from an illness, are you in quarantine, are you back to working in the office, are you working overtime, are you unemployed, are you navigating parenting children over the summer holidays etc.
  • What can you control in this period? Re establishing a new routine is about recognising what you can’t control and letting go of this, and looking at what you can control
  • What works for you? Remember that routine is personal – what works for one person is not universal! Think about what you like, what makes you feel good and don’t compare your routine to others.
  • How can you implement this? Focus on small practical steps, using the idea of SMART goals here is really good (that is – making your routine specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based)
  • Who can you be accountable to? Choosing someone to do this with is a great idea – you shouldn’t have the same routine but it means you can both be accountable to one another and check in with each other about how it’s going and how you’re feeling
  • And lastly, and most importantly, be kind to yourself – routines are not about punishments and being productive. They are not about how to do more or be more, and it should be a guideline and not a rigid rulebook so it’s important to be flexible. Be non-judgemental and shift the focus of your routine away from how to be more productive, to how to just be.

I hope you find some of this useful, thank you for listening.

Debbie Bell is an Assistant Psychologist within the Keeping Well NCL Hub. She is also a competitive powerlifter and enjoys having a routine to keep on top of things. Here she shares some of her experiences of the past year, reflecting on how difficult it has been to manage uncertainty and how she has changed and adjusted routines to help cope with some of the change she has experienced.

Melissa: Hello, my name is Melissa and I am a clinical psychologist working with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, and I am here today to talk with Jenny, who is a clinical nurse specialist in Multiple Sclerosis.

Welcome Jenny.

Jenny: Heya.

Melissa: So tell me, how was your job impacted by the pandemic?

Jenny: I was redeployed twice. I was redeployed during the first wave for just over three months and then went back to my MS role for, I’m not even sure how long, 6 months? And then in January of this year I was redeployed again for three months, and I’m just about to go back. So over the last year I have been redeployed for 6 months. Which I know a lot of people, it’s that experience of being redeployed for a long time, but I had two sort of experiences of being redeployed. Once right at the beginning of the pandemic when no one had an idea about what was going on, and then once during the second wave when there was a sort of much more controlled effort I guess.

So during the first wave I was literally just put on the ward and just said ‘you are doing family liaison. We don’t really know what that is, we don’t really know what your ward is. Go, here’s a phone, see what needs doing.’ So that was quite hard. It was just, there was no real job plan or description other than they knew that families were not allowed to visit because of the pandemic and there were lots of patients who were very very sick and dying, and families were constantly calling the wards, I mean, understandably very upset. And staff were so busy there weren’t having the time to phone the families back to let them know what was going on, so they needed someone to fill that gap, to find out what was going on with the patients and answer that phone and phone the families back and let them know what was going on.

Melissa: It’s a very emotionally heavy role.

Jenny: Yeah, and especially right at the beginning of the first wave you know, no one knew what was going on with COVID, there were not really established treatment protocols, all the patients were on different treatments and there were a lot of patients dying really quickly. And we weren’t having any visitors so there were families where we were setting up for them to watch their families dying over Zoom videos, and it was very hard to be there for that.

Melissa: Yeah.

Jenny: I guess the other real struggle for everyone is being in the huge amount of PPE that we have all been in, being completely covered from head to toe, where you can’t even recognise each other. You don’t know who is under that. So having patients who are very very unwell and incredibly, you know a lot of them are delirious, so we had people waking up thinking we were spacemen, or thinking we were aliens, and it is, it’s one how to cope with it ourselves but how to explain that to families as well. But then also you have patients who are dying and we are the only people who can be with them because their families aren’t allowed to come in and we are holding their hand, but holding their hand through two pairs of gloves. And it’s just, as a nurse it just doesn’t feel the same as actually, you know we can’t actually touch them. I guess as well, part of being a nurse, there is that, you know there are loads of aspects to being a nurse but part of it is that touchy feely, you know you want to be there with your patient, you want to be able to hold their hand a be able to touch them, and them not being able to see your face and not be able to see you smile at them, or hold their hand properly. I have looked after patients for three months now and they have never seen my face and it just feels like you know they might see me in the street and they wouldn’t recognise me.

Melissa: You know just listening to you speak I’m just thinking about actually about the incredible amount of care you have managed to deliver under these crazy circumstances actually.

Jenny: Yeah. You know it’s such a, I think the Family Liaison is such an important role at the moment because we have such limited visiting. But what it has highlighted to me is that it could be such an important role going forward, even outside of COVID or outside of the pandemic because it really does bridge a gap in terms of communication and enabling people who aren’t able to make those communications themselves. So we have been doing things for, yeah for the really sick patients to end of life, who are less conscious, but also for you know patients with dementia or elderly patients who don’t know how to use their phone or don’t have a phone. At our hospital there was one Family Liaison Officer who worked on the dementia ward pre-pandemic, so I say it was a completely new role, it was in the way I was doing it, but there was someone who worked with dementia patients to try and help with communication pre-pandemic. And I think it is something that, you know, even with visiting is really important in terms of bridging that gap in communication. I hope that it is something that can be taken from the pandemic and taken forward.

Melissa: I wonder like, how did you cope with this, what helped you cope in these moments?

Jenny: Lots of different things. I think one of the biggest things that helped me cope was the team, so the team again because it was a completely newly built ward, was a completely new team. So during the first wave were all completely from different wards but a lot of them knew each other, and the team were absolutely fantastic, really supportive and worked together really well, and were all learning new things. And the management of that team, we were headed up by a really excellent consultant, there was nursing management as well. So having such a supportive team around who just, sort of, accepted everyone was really really helpful. We had, as you know, some psychological supports, we had support groups coming in several times a week, which was good so that the team could just sit down and talk about anything, whether it was work related or not, to have that supportive environment. And then at home I’ve got my mum who is a retired nurse, so she’s always there to talk to about nursing stuff and is happy for me to offload onto, and then just doing non-work related things, so going out for walks and… you know I think it is hard for everyone during the pandemic when everything is shut, but doing other things. So, crafting, and cooking, and walking, so just trying to, you know, get my mind off things, and then, as everyone has been doing, Zoom calls with my family.

Melissa: It’s not quite the same but it’s there.

Jenny: No.

Melissa: I can definitely vouch for your team. When I visited your ward, when everyone was being given those packs that had lipstick in, it was really lovely to see.

Jenny: Yeah, we were all wearing lipstick under our masks and no one could see it!

Melissa: Get some self-care at work, I love that, it’s brilliant.

Jenny: And then I have also stayed really close in contact with my MS team, so they have been really supportive even though I haven’t seen them in three months. My manager and all of my colleagues there have stayed in contact and that’s really good, so I’m looking forward to seeing them next week.

Melissa: Thank you so much for joining me to speak today. I know it was quite brief but just hearing about what you have been up to for the past twelve months has been really interesting and illuminating for me and I’m sure there are lots of people listening who can really relate to it as well.

Jenny: I hope so.

Melissa: So really thank you for your time.

Jenny: You are very welcome.

A conversation between Melissa Hoban, Clinical Psychologist at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and the NCL Wellbeing Hub, and Jenny Slough, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Multiple Sclerosis working at University College London Hospitals (UCLH), talking about Jenny’s experience of having been redeployed into a family liaison role– the challenges this brought and the learnings for future work that were possible.

From Jenny: I’m Jenny, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Multiple Sclerosis. During the COVID pandemic I was redeployed to HDU twice for over six months total to work as a Family Liaison Nurse. This was very different from my normal role and enormously challenging, but I also learnt a lot and met a lot of amazing people while I was there.  Melissa Hoban is a clinical psychologist who, during the pandemic, provides frontline staff support in the form of individual sessions, training and wellbeing groups. She also works for a mental health charity supporting the mental health and wellbeing of 18-25 year olds’ in the transitional age group.  Having worked in a specialist trauma service and substance misuse service, Melissa is interested in a trauma informed approach to mental health care. She also creates accessible mental health resources in the form of illustrations and animated videos that you can find on her Instagram platform @myndoodles

In recent history, NHS staff have never seen such public support and affirmation. In the first wave of the pandemic, the Thursday clap was a marker in the week; NHS charities were overwhelmed with donations, staff were fed by restaurant chefs and children painted rainbows for us. Or was it for us, colleagues in cancer care, maternity, paediatric and mental health services (where I work as a psychologist) were wondering ….. ? “Were these gestures for us too?”  Because when we think about NHS ‘heroes’, somehow we weren’t feeling like those were us – and frankly if one asks most people what comes to mind when they think of NHS heroes , its inevitably first those images of PPE clad staff in the acute hospitals working frantically to treat patients with Covid-19. 

I’m Jocelyn Blumberg, a clinical psychologist working at the Traumatic Stress Clinic in Camden and Islington Foundation Trust, as well as with the Keeping Well NCL Hub supporting health and social care staff across North Central London. In this role, although I have done a lot of work with staff working on Covid wards, I have also had lots of conversations with colleagues who had to continue providing treatment as usual to non-Covid patients – people with cancer; very ill children; pregnant women and people in mental health crisis. And from those conversations it has become clear that Covid-19 and the unhelpful rhetoric about “NHS heroes” have really polarised the NHS.

Many NHS staff who were not called upon to do Covid-19 ‘frontline’ work, did not stay away from the frontline out of choice. The capacity to be on the frontline or indeed to be redeployed onto the frontline was largely determined by skill set and role; often hurried organisational decisions about who was best placed to do what; people’s own health and individual circumstances such as pregnancy and underlying health conditions, or the need to comply with national guidance around ‘lockdown’ and social distancing for so called non-essential or routine work.

However from those ‘left behind’ – not on the frontline – it is not this that is held in mind. Rather I have consistently heard about feelings of survivor guilt (while colleagues on the Covid-wards were exhausted; traumatised; getting ill and dying), shame and a sense of being undeserving. Maybe this is because NHS staff are a self-selecting bunch – people who chose their line of work to feel busy; useful and potent; and whose identity is defined by working to help others. So when talking to these staff from a wide range of backgrounds, there was always a common theme, this experience of guilt – of feeling bad that they were  ‘just’ seeing to ‘treatment as usual’ or in some cases were underoccupied, because their normal roles were not possible.

If one asks the right questions, professionals providing treatment as usual in their services went on to describe how this really wasn’t treatment as usual at all. They spoke about increased caseloads with other services shut and colleagues redeployed or shielding, patients much sicker on admission, as well as very angry and anxious patients, upset because of long waits. They have borne the brunt of this.

Learning new ways of working online and over the phone has caused massive stress  – feelings of loss of control; worry about what might be missed and about patient safety, as well as difficulties caused by being stuck at home and separated from colleagues on whom we all rely for support and guidance. Despite these challenges, as well as the threats and losses we have all faced during the pandemic, people I have been speaking to still describe at times feeling like frauds or imposters, blaming themselves for somehow not helping more, despite having made every effort to volunteer their services where they might be useful.

There is no doubt that the division between those who have been working in active frontline Covid work on the Covid wards and those who had to continue with providing crucial treatment as usual for the patients in their care, has caused distress: feelings of frustration, anger, guilt, shame, helplessness and worthlessness. Especially, because at times this care and incredibly hard work, which many have felt was unseen, was made increasingly demanding, stressful and complex because of Covid.

These splits and hurts will take work and time to heal. So what might help?

It is important to remember that we are all cogs in the bigger NHS and social care machine, and the nature of this crisis has meant that some of us have had roles in active ‘Covid work’ – whilst for others our duty and contribution, if not ‘frontline’ and centre stage, has been to be working incredibly hard keeping our patients as safe and well as possible and to limit virus spread. So please do remember that as a non-frontline NHS professional you too were doing your duty, just as much as anyone else. ‘Duty’ just looks different for different groups.

So as you reflect on your experience of working “off the frontline” during the pandemic, be self-compassionate. Think about what you know you’ve done well. Can you write down some things that you feel you can be proud of?

Can you also think about what you need to do to look after yourself? Have you taken leave? Or are you overworking, to compensate for working from home or indeed for not being on that Covid ward? Remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup – you have to be well-resourced and rested to be effective and efficient in caring for your patients.

And I know that for many of us, while not being on the frontline was profoundly difficult in many ways, we have also developed creative and effective strategies to help us in our work. My sense is that this has led to systemic advances, which will sustain after the pandemic has passed and about which we can be really proud.

I hope that when the dust settles, we will all come to the realisation that each one of us in the NHS, in all our different roles has something important to contribute; that everyone adds expertise and contributes to the equation, even if we were not caring for patients with Covid.

However, in order for this to be really felt, senior leadership and managers at all levels need to recognise and reinforce this and to make sure that all staff feel valued for their contributions.

And at a team level, reflective practice groups for staff teams can really help us to really listen to others experiences and to share our own.

With the clapping a distant memory and no pay rise to speak of ,we will need to rebuild the brilliant team cohesion, sustaining collegiate relationships and mutual support if we are to move forward together and continue to provide the best possible care for all patients, which we aspire to.

Jocelyn Blumberg is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist at the Traumatic Stress Clinic at Camden & Islington NHS Foundation Trust and also works for the Keeping Well NCL Hub. This podcast focusses on the experiences of people working in roles that are not defined by some as the ‘frontline’, those who had to continue providing treatment as usual to non-Covid patients. Jocelyn recognises and reinforces this important role and the need for all staff to feel valued for their contributions.

Hello I’m Angela Bagum, Mental health nurse and Clinical Work Focused Practitioner at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust. I’d like to talk with you about my experience of Mindful walking in nature, along with a quick outline on how you might do this yourself.

For the last six years, I have been engaging in mindful walking. This is something I did initially as part of a Mindfulness course, but I did not integrate it into my daily life until much later. I found myself changing my commute to work, so that I would have to walk through a park on the way there and back. At first, I changed my route because I enjoyed the park, but I started to notice that I felt a deep sense of satisfaction and less stress while walking through that space –almost intuitive response to my own health and wellbeing.

My interpretation of mindful walking has meant being open to what is around me, noticing my breath in the moment, making a conscious effort to feel my stride, and focusing on the colours, feelings, textures and scents in my environment. Sometimes, just being aware of different trees – knowing they’re alive – makes me smile, aware that underneath the ground, their deep roots are supporting other trees like a community network, helping each other out. At times, wind sweeping across me can feel like I’m bathing in water, in tune with the elements of the earth. In summer I can feel the fire. Marked by Gaelic Pagan ritual of Beltane, introducing the birth of summer and the fertility of land. What is, a hopeful exchange between seasons. These patterns of nature remind me that situations and feelings of difficulty, can and do, move on.

Mindful walking can feel like a type of cleansing or restoring of vitality. I later learnt about the Japanese concept of “Shinrin-Yoku”, meaning “forest bath” or forest bathing:  this practice is about taking in the forest, or trees and immersing ourselves in its atmosphere, using the five senses. Of course, there are times when it feels impossible to do any mindful walking or forest bathing…. But just being in the presence of nature is where it starts.

Some tips for Mindful Walking:

  • Firstly, you can practice mindful walking wherever you are, preferably in presence of nature – a park, on a quiet tree lined street, a wood, a river or on a beach… Just start walking!
  • Look out to your surroundings and what are you seeing in this conscious and present moment. What can you smell, feel and taste? How does your body feel as you move? A little heavier than usual. We are just noticing.
  • Bring attention to your breathing – you could try taking longer breaths than usual or slowing your stride, and you could even pause for a few moments in a particular spot. Perhaps resist the urge to check your phone, and instead focus on the here and now, engaging all your senses.
  • Check in with yourself and how you are feeling, are other thoughts  coming into your mind – it’s ok to notice them allow them to come and go, knowing that you will come back to them later. Focusing on your breath can help here, as well as the feeling of your feet as they touch the ground – a literal ‘grounding experience’.

Angela Bagum, Mental Health Nurse and Clinical Work Focused Practitioner at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust looks at mindful walking and forest bathing, linked with the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year, which is nature, and it is about a way of gathering oneself, looking after the mind and body, and finding ways to allow nature, wherever you find it, to offer some roots and solidity.

Hello, my name is Melissa and I am a clinical psychologist working with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and I am here today to talk with Katy, who is a women’s health physiotherapist.

Melissa: So welcome Katy.

Katy: Thanks so much for having me.

Melissa: Maybe it would be helpful at first to hear how your job was impacted by the pandemic?

Katy: So I’m a women’s health physio that mostly works in outpatients at UCLH, and in the first surge our whole team was redeployed over to Westmoreland Street which was set up as a cancer hub. We were redeployed as a team and then formed a bigger team, so we were quite close knit over there. It was kind of a nice opportunity to focus on some different skills.

In the second surge it was a little bit different. We had all come back to our normal service in between but as we all came back from Christmas in January, we were all redeployed again, but this time we all went to different places. So some of the team stayed here to continue our urgent services, some of our team went back to Westmoreland Street, and I went up to the COVID wards which is where I met you. So it was a very different experience with the two surges, especially being up on the COVID wards I felt like a lot of my colleagues there had seen the COVID patients before and been in that environment before whereas it was all really new for me in the second surge, so that first week I was just emotionally and physically exhausted because it was all just a really new environment and treating patients I had never really come across before. And what was different the second time round, there was a constantly changing team, so you never really knew who you would be working with until you were up on the ward in the morning, which is in some ways really nice because you got to work with lots of different people with different skill sets, but it was actually something I found quite stressful because I realise how much I depend on the people around me and that identity within a team and it was something that was changing on a daily basis at the time.

Melissa: I wonder if it can make a person feel like it is hard to find their footing when there’s that not stable or secure foundation that a team can provide.

Katy: Absolutely, I mean there were some really nice things in there as well, so one of the physios I was working with was initially someone that I was their educator when they were a student a few years ago, and then all of a sudden she was the respiratory expert and I had no idea what I was doing, I was like ‘teach me everything’. So it was really nice having a bit of a role reversal and experience that as well.

Melissa: I wonder are there any other difficulties or challenges that you really felt being redeployed, particularly in your second role, posed.

Katy: I think the second time round we were all probably quite fatigued with the change over the past year, and I think there was a real sense of loss in terms of career progressions. I mean we all specialise for a reason and we are all really passionate about those areas that we specialise in, and I think that for me I had this concern about my normal caseload that had had appointments missed, we weren’t even able to properly catch up from the first surge, so there was that anxiety of how are we even going to restart our service when we come back. So I feel there was more of that in the second surge and colleagues at every level had had their career pathway changed or things delayed and so it was obviously frustrating for myself but to see others as well have to wait to get to those milestones as well.

Melissa: Yeah, and you mention that word loss there and I can really hear that coming through. It’s the loss of the patients you are working with and your role that is all waiting there in the background and worrying about them, but it is also the loss of your identity where you are at on your training pathway and how you specialise, all this stuff you have been working towards and the uncertainty about what is going to happen there.

Katy: Yeah, no, absolutely. I was having those experiences in work but also outside of work. I mean in some ways it is good to talk about something different when you are outside of work and have a different environment, and I know we were very lucky with that in terms of getting to leave the house every day and having a change of environment. Particularly in that first lockdown we had such beautiful weather and just cycling to work every day, coming back in the sunshine was such an important thing.

Melissa: It’s funny you mention that because that was literally going to be my next question of what helped you cope with that, and I can hear cycling might have been part of it.

Katy: Yes, definitely being outdoors was really important. In the first surge we were really lucky, we had a little courtyard and just having that time together outside to have lunch as a team was really important. And I think it was just you know having that recognition that you could only do your best and you’re part of this wider team that are all experiencing the same challenges and frustrations and we were all working towards the same goals. And then I think in the second surge I think it was really important for our team that had been redeployed to different places to come together and the sessions that you facilitated were so helpful to have that opportunity to reflect together, because everyone had such a different experience, even when we were in the same environments. And I think you can think that someone is finding something difficult but you never really understand it until you hear it from their perspective, so that was really important. And then I guess personally just having time out, having annual leave, I don’t think any of us took annual leave for months in that first lockdown and that is definitely something I have learnt, take your leave and have that time out.

Melissa: So we are coming to the end of our chat today, but before we go I really wanted to ask you what do you think is something, if you had to name one thing, that you are proud of that you have done during this time? It can be something at work, outside of work, big or small.

Katy: Oh, that’s so difficult! I guess I am proud as a whole of our team and kind of the fact that we have gone through those two different redeployments and we are back in clinic and we are seeing our face to face patients now slowly which is really nice. So I guess just that ability to bounce back from all of the change and almost come together stronger, and there are things we have done as a team that have happened quicker because of the fact we have had to change to virtual or develop new services which is really good. And then yeah I guess personally I am proud of recognising the importance of work life balance and trying to get that better and I think that is a lesson to take on longer after the pandemic.

Melissa: Oh Katy, it has been such a pleasure to speak to you, I wish we had longer. I could sit here and talk for ages, but it has been so good to hear about how it has been for you over these past twelve months and I think there is a lot of what you have said that people are going to really relate to so thank you so much for sharing it today and speaking with me.

Katy: Not at all, and thanks for all of your help. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to reflect.

A conversation between Melissa Hoban, Clinical Psychologist at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and the NCL Wellbeing Hub, and Katy Megson, women’s and pelvic health physiotherapist working at University College London Hospitals (UCLH), talking about Katy’s experience of having been redeployed – the challenges and the learning that were possible. It is a conversation about having to readjust, about not being able to inhabit a familiar working identity, having to learn to be with different people in a different environment in a different way.

Katy is a women’s and pelvic health physiotherapist working at UCLH and privately in Southwest London. She enjoys working with women throughout the various life stages to treat symptoms of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction and pregnancy related musculoskeletal conditions. Katy enjoys working as part of an multi-disciplinary team which aim to improve the quality of lives of women suffering with these conditions.

Melissa is a clinical psychologist who is working part-time for the NCL Wellbeing Hub, supporting staff wellbeing through the pandemic. She also works for a mental health charity supporting 18-25 year olds mental wellbeing.

What are podcasts?

Podcasts are regular, short messages from wellbeing and mental health practitioners within this network. They will be directly responding to what we are hearing from you through both the Wellbeing Quiz and the ‘How Are You Today’ survey, as well as offering more specific presentations for targeted staff groups, for example social workers.

Once you have completed the Wellbeing Quiz, keep an eye on the hashtags underneath each of podcasts to help identify those which might be most helpful for you.