Dr Fezile Mkhize chats about coping during Covid-19 pandemic

Dr Fezile Mkhize. Picture: Instagram / drfezmkhize

How can anyone balance being a model, TV presenter, fitness enthusiast, Mr World Africa and a medical doctor?

Medical practitioner and TV presenter Dr Fezile Mkhize shares his views about coping with a shift in daily routines due to Covid-19 and the impacts thereof, personal protective equipment and the act of charity.

Can you provide an insider’s perspective on what the current situation is like in the major Covid-19 treatment facilities in South Africa?

Over the past few months, I have been working at a smaller medical practice than the bigger hospitals, such as Johannesburg General and Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital. These are the main facilities that have seen the Covid-19 cases come in and these would be the best indicators for the current situation.

A number of my close friends, who are also within the medical profession, work at these facilities and have relayed that there are now stringent screening protocols in place. This is an attempt to identify potential cases and thus keep a measure of control over patient care and exposure.

This process is very important and is generally how lots of these illnesses that can affect multiple patients are addressed. It’s that “heightened vigilance” that is evident as we are trying to identify new cases early enough, followed by strict quarantine intervals in appropriate spaces, so that people can be treated.

I think there is an awareness that there is going to be a peak in cases in the months to come. That is why there have been measures put in place by the government to try, as best they can, to slow the rate at which we reach this peak so as to not overwhelm the health system.

We have a better understanding with regards to how the burden of disease increases, thanks to countries that have been grappling with it for a longer period. We know that things are likely to progress because of the inherent nature of Covid-19 and it becomes so important to get public buy into prevention measures to continue to flatten the curve.

The national lockdown has contributed to the increase in the stress and anxiety levels of many individuals. As a healthcare professional, what have you been doing to combat stress after long shifts?

I think everyone has a measure of stress and anxiety to some degree. We are in a time where there is a pandemic and, in my opinion, the biggest cause of stress and anxiety is the fear of the unknown. To combat and alleviate these feelings one should try and stay abreast in terms of new information, such as countermeasures.

It has been such a great thing to be able to work with bigger organisations who are trying to implement online and virtual consultations as well as information hubs and this is how you can combat stress and anxiety – through knowledge. If you don’t know any reputable spaces, you can fall victim to sensationalism.

I also try to use my own social platform to give information that highlights what one can do during this time instead of pointing out what one is not able to do.

So, to round up, from my end it’s always about pushing the belief that this is a phase and a time to be alert rather than anxious. To be aware of what is going on and to understand, instead of fixating on what can happen.

Any health and fitness tips?

Health is such an incredible word and when we talk about it, we are trying to optimise a person holistically (physically, spiritually and mentally) and it is imperative that the mental aspect is not overlooked. That is essentially what is allowing people to get through this time with positivity rather than crumbling into an anxiety-stress cycle.

For me, mindfulness is key and thankfully, I have the benefit of having a partner who is a yoga instructor and who knows how to meditate and does so quite consistently. Through this, I have built an understanding of how important it is to be mentally strong.

It is also so important to mention that fitness feeds into mindfulness when trying to achieve the perfect balance. Push a moderate to intense workout for 30 minutes a day and take note of the importance of nutrition.

Keeping hydrated and regulating your diet means drinking two litres of water and eating nutritious food. Giving your body what it is predominantly made of (water) minimises unnecessary food cravings.

Can you comment on the effectiveness of wearing face masks and gloves? Also, do you think cloth masks are effective?

The World Health Organisation has great content that shows which masks are effective under which circumstances. If you are coughing or feel you could get sick, wearing an appropriate mask will assist to stop the spread of the infection.

Cloth masks do not stop you from getting the infection. The best mask is the N95 as it forms a seal around the nose and mouth. Wearing a cloth mask assist you to avoid touching the mucous membranes on the face, such as your mouth and nose.

The infection spreads by a person touching an infected surface and then touching these areas. These masks are not a fail-safe, they are meant to be used in conjunction with all the other preventative measures.

Will social distancing result in major societal shifts/trends going forward?

With everything that has happened, looking at countries in terms of their economies and the social effects caused by the pandemic, I think there has been an irreparable shift in how we as people need to engage. We need to become more creative in finding new ways to engage with each other and achieve that sense of community we all crave.

That means the onus will be on people who work within digital spaces – internet personalities, influencers and the like – to find the best mediums and ways whilst still adhering to the protocols now in place.

How can individuals offer support to healthcare workers or facilities during this time? Are there any particular foundations/charities that recipients can donate to?

There are a number of initiatives that have been pushing forward even during these times providing for children and those in need. The initiatives closest to my heart are the SOS Children’s Villages and the Cancer Association of South Africa, which have been doing such amazing work.

This post appeared first on GQ South Africa

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