Dr Ashley Bloomfield opens up in podcast about his anxiety and the importance of taking a break

Ashley Bloomfield says taking a break is "absolutely essential".
Ashley Bloomfield says taking a break is "absolutely essential". Photo credit: Getty

Dr Ashley Bloomfield says even though he appears to be calm during his COVID-19 standups, he actually finds it "quite stressful".

The Director-General of Health opened up about his anxiety and the importance of taking a break in a Learnt My Lesson podcast released August 4.

Bloomfield's role at the Ministry of Health during New Zealand's COVID-19 battle thrust him into the spotlight,  fronting most of the press conferences during lockdown.

As the chief executive of the Ministry of Health, he stood alongside the government during the darkest days.

On Friday March 27 Bloomfield confirmed he would take a day off. He fronted 40 press conferences in just over two months.

"I had reached a point, a couple of weeks prior [to his holiday] - came into work one day and I didn't have a stand-up but it got to about 9 or 10 in the morning and I started to feel quite anxious."

"I just would get very anxious and I thought right, and that's not me at all, but I just realised that it was that sustained and intense kind of stress - I needed to take a break away from this."

Taking a holiday after weeks of "only thinking about COVID-19" was "absolutely essential," he tells hosts Jess Woodnorth and Savanna Johnston-Keys.

"We have a little bach down at the Nelson Lakes," he says, "and it's sort of like my happy place."

"I can just go there and just switch off and I've got a great team so I didn't get one text or one phone call all week - I knew they would have it."

"I could just completely switch off and just, you know, rebalance. The mountains, the lake, spending time with my whanau, and when it was wet - sitting in front of the fire reading my book - all absolutely essential things."

Bloomfield stresses the importance of taking a break and says he has given his executive team all an extra week's leave.

"I said the only thing you need to do for the week is rest and recreation so they all come back recharged and ready for the next step."