News Special: Taking Care of Your Mental Wellbeing

By Holly Carver / 05 May 2021

Following the release of pandemic wellness guidance for aesthetic professionals, Aesthetics explores the ways practitioners can look after their mental health

Recent statistics released by the Nursing Times revealed that 44% of 1,200 nurses described their mental health and wellbeing as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ over the past year. 

In addition, 62% felt their mental health was much worse now than at the start of the pandemic.The decline in mental wellbeing is also reflected in a Physician Burnout Survey, where 71% of physicians reported feeling burnt out. When asked what caused their burnout, 31% of physicians said too much paperwork, 15% cited poor work-life balance, and 12% said the COVID-19 pandemic.2 As healthcare professionals, aesthetic practitioners too are feeling the effects of the pandemic, whether it’s working part time in the NHS, not being able to work at all, or clinic re-openings causing a hectic schedule. Industry associations are taking action, with the British College of Aesthetic Medicine (BCAM) creating a new mindfulness initiative3 and the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses (BACN) sending wellbeing guidance to practitioners. To find out how you can protect your mental health over the next few months, we spoke to aesthetic practitioner and BCAM board member Dr Bhavjit Kaur, and aesthetic nurse prescriber and committee member for the BACN Rachel Goddard. 

Incorporating mindfulness 

Dr Kaur has been involved in creating BCAM’s new mindfulness and wellbeing initiative. She explains that during doctor appraisals, the association found that there had been a significant negative impact on its members. She comments, “Our members are dealing with the stress of having to treat COVID patients, experiencing financial problems due to a reduced workload, or managing their clinics reopening. Something we’ve found when creating our initiative is that people are rarely focusing on the current moment. They’re always worrying about the past or the future and finding it hard to relax in the present.” 

To help this, BCAM is recommending that members learn how to implement mindfulness techniques into their everyday lives. Dr Kaur comments, “We’ve been sharing some simple mindfulness techniques, which are hugely beneficial, however we recognise this doesn’t work for everyone. Instead, practitioners can implement mindfulness throughout their day simply by working on focusing their minds. For example, if you’re out on a walk, don’t be on your phone at the same time and focus on your steps. If you’re eating, focus solely on chewing the food and not also watching the TV. These are little things that can really help to refocus our minds and stop them from getting too overwhelmed.” 

Setting your schedule 

Goddard advises that practitioners should stick to their assigned clinic hours over the next few months. She comments, “We all have so many patients who haven’t had their treatments done over the last few months, and they’re desperate to have them as soon as possible. As practitioners, it can be really hard to say no to them, but this runs the risk of us working through our lunch and/or working late. In order for us to avoid the risk of burnout, it’s integral to ensure we have those breaks and have that relaxation time, so practitioners need to make sure they aren’t putting their needs above their own. Make sure that you decide what hours you’re going to work, and don’t go over that.” 

Goddard also highlights the importance of delegating your workload to your other staff members. She comments, “When it comes to the admin or business activities, it’s okay to delegate that to your colleagues if you’re having a busy day. That way you can focus solely on the clinical side of things. If you have too much to do, you run the risk of rushing treatments or consultations, which can lead to ill-informed patients and complications.” 

Dr Kaur notes that getting the correct amount of sleep is important for a healthy mind. She advises, “As well as making sure your working day is regimented, your sleep schedule is also key for getting through the day. Everyone should be getting at least eight hours per night, which I know is easier said than done! Something important to note is that when practitioners are doing work from home, ensure that you’re working space isn’t in your bedroom – your brain needs to recognise that this is a place of sleep and not work.” The BCAM mindfulness initiative also recommended that members stay away from screens before bed, and instead spend time meditating or reading to relax their mind. 

Stay connected

Both Dr Kaur and Goddard note that staying in touch with other people in similar positions to you will be helpful for keeping a positive mindset over the next few months. Goddard comments, “Since the first lockdown, the BACN experienced a huge spike in new members. It was a time of confusion and upset for the specialty, and I think that associations really gave practitioners something to turn to. If anyone is finding something difficult or has any questions, they can put it onto our forum, which enables them to get responses from others having the same experiences. Associations are vital for giving people the support they need, particularly in a specialty that involves a lot of lone working.” 

Dr Kaur also emphasises the importance of having a network of likeminded people, stating, “The reason we created the mindfulness initiative is because we’ve also lived through it, and we know how our members are feeling. It’s useful to have a community that can share their advice and coping mechanisms with you. Everyone in the industry has experienced the same feelings of isolation and loneliness over the last year and I think it’s important for aesthetic practitioners to realise that they aren’t alone. Something as simple as having a virtual coffee morning with other healthcare professionals will really help boost morale."

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