Any period of change brings with it a unique set of challenges. The ongoing release from the lockdown rules we lived with for so long, represents a particularly unique period of change that we are all having to embrace. Whilst widely welcomed, the release does bring with it a wide range of challenges as well as opportunities. Embracing the re- opening of social and community life, whilst still taking responsibilities for and protecting ourselves and those we love from Covid 19 inevitably adds to those challenges. Being responsible for the care of a person who is dependent upon you for any part of their well-being may well be creating an additional dimension of anxiety into the circumstances you are seeking to understand, keep up with and manage.

The obvious risks of exposure in relation Covid-19 may be increased by attending to the physical needs of the people we are caring for. People living with dementia or other diagnoses which affect their cognition may have a reduced insight into the need for social distancing precautions at this time. Understanding the information about Covid-19 may be additionally difficult. Expressing understanding and feelings will also be impacted.

When people feel confused, challenged, apprehensive or frustrated, their behaviour often reflects this in ways that are irrational and unprecedented. The people you care for are no exception.

As many of the people around us may seem to be moving forward and re-establishing social routines, carers may find themselves facing conflicted circumstances in which they don’t feel able to re-enter society in quite the same way. Whether because of specific health concerns for yourself or the person you care for, or because of the more nuanced implications that come because of the relaxation in the guidelines, you may not feel comfortable or able to embrace the re-opening as you would ideally like.

It is important that you acknowledge the validity of your concerns and caution, that the people around you also seek to understand your concerns, and that you don’t feel pushed to adopt circumstances or situations that you are not comfortable with. There is no one right way through this journey out of lockdown and we will all bring different perspectives with us, which will influence our thinking and rationale.

Your anxieties about the current situation and your own safety will naturally be compounded too, by the additional pressures of managing the needs of a household where someone is dependent on you for their care in some way. Whether you are providing hands on day to day assistance or caring from afar by way of telephone and video contact, you may well be feeling additional levels of stress at this time. This may be in the form of feeling a sense of constant raised stress levels, or in the way you are more prone to high level reactions – going very quickly from 1 to 100 in terms of stress and fear.

As a carer responsible for your own well-being, as well as that of the person you care for and your wider community, it is natural that you will be feeling additional pressure at this time. You may also find yourself responding, reacting and behaving in ways that are out of character – this is normal and you are not alone!

What might help?

Everyone is different in terms of identifying the strategies which help them best. We all find some approaches more helpful than others according to our personalities and our individual circumstances. There are several ways in which you might be able to influence the way you are feeling at this time. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but provides some suggestions for you to consider:

  • It might be helpful to limit exposure to endless news programmes which present the facts from a range of viewpoints, and instead decide to tune in to just one comprehensive and well sourced daily update. Selecting alternative channels to watch or putting on films, story books or music as an alternative to news channels may be helpful.
  • When talking about the news, it might be helpful to break down the news items down into manageable chunks, which you can repeat as necessary.
  • At a time when so much feels out of control, it can be helpful to try to keep as broad a sense of perspective as possible.
  • Try to find moments in the day that you can safeguard for yourself. Even a couple of minutes to yourself is worth taking.
  • Speak out or write down your stresses, fears or anxieties. They lose some of their control over you when you do this.
  • Take control over the things you CAN do – for example, time in the garden, cooking a meal, baking a cake, listening to an audio book or a favourite radio programme etc.
  • Create a daily exercise routine. There are lots of on-line resources available including the currently popular Jo Wicks, who has devised daily workouts for people of abilities and ages!
  • Try to watch or listen to encouraging and uplifting programmes or podcasts – especially in the evenings and before bed. Many churches are live streaming their services. Ours are flagged up on the Home Page (cccw.org.uk) or on menus at the top.
  • Practice some simple breathing exercises. There are many variations on these, but at their simplest, breathing in for a count of 4, holding for count of 3, then breathing out for a count of 4 – as far as is comfortable for you – can help you to slow down, focus and gain perspective.
  • Be ‘mindful’ – even in these days of limited access to resources, we can make a conscious effort to maximise the experiences available to us. Take a moment to really feel the sense of the water on our body when we shower, or the feel of the softness of the soap suds when we wash up, the smell of the washing as we hang it out, the textures of the ingredients we are preparing, the taste of the food we are eating, etc.
  • When fearful of the worst, take a moment to actually consider what the worst thing that can happen might be, and also what the best thing that happen might be. Try to position yourself and your thinking in a manageable place somewhere between the two extremes.
  • When it feels as if everything is getting too much, try a simple distraction strategy. For example: Look around you and identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. For the minute or so that it takes you to work through this exercise, you are thinking of nothing else, allowing your mind to re-focus and move you into a different place.
  • Use your hands – it can be very therapeutic to garden (even a window box if you have no outside space), bake, knit, sew, colour, jigsaws etc. Using your hands and focussing on the task really helps to divert your thoughts.
  • If you have any extra capacity, offer help to someone else; this can feel very rewarding and take your thoughts away from your immediate situation.
  • Sleep is key. Try and keep a good sleep routine; keep the bedroom just for sleeping if possible, shut off screens at least an hour before bedtime and have a warm drink or bath to aid restful sleep.  If you are fitful and waking during the night, don’t toss and turn but get up and leave the bedroom and make yourself a drink, perhaps read a book or listen to some quiet music or a podcast and then go back to bed.  Also keep a pad handy by the bed to jot down your thoughts and worries.
  • Remember YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR THOUGHTS, don’t allow them to bully you!

You are doing a great job – thankyou!

We recognise and appreciate that as carers you have made and continue to provide a huge additional contribution to protecting your family, friends and community against Covid-19. We realise that you yourself may be at increased risk because of the additional burdens that your role as a carer is demanding of you. You are giving a lot and making many sacrifices. Thank you so much for all you are doing.

You are not alone

You are not alone in the circumstances you are managing right now – however we do understand that at times it will feel as if you are.

Christ Church – along with many other churches – continue to offer a suite of live streamed and recorded fellowship options for you to easily access, in addition to the increasing number of ‘in person’ events that are being re-introduced. Please visit our website to have a look at the range of online and in person options that are available. www.cccw.org.uk

The prayer line offers an immediate and confidential point of contact for anyone in our church or in our parish who is distressed or in difficulty. Email prayer@cccw.org.uk

Our Carer’s Support Group has resumed meeting in person. There are of course many advantages to being able to meet back in person again, but we are aware that for people who don’t feel able to resume these meetings, there may be a sense of increased isolation. We will continue to review options for these meetings in the light of ongoing policy developments and with a view to how best to meet as many needs as possible.

If you feel you need to talk and can’t find anyone immediately available to speak to, there are some general telephone and email options available, even at this time of reduced social access.

Samaritans: Tel. 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

SANE provides emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers. SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)

Alzheimer’s Society provides information on dementia, including factsheets and helplines Tel: 0333 150 3456 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and 10am to 4pm on weekends) or see www.alzheimers.org.uk

JEHOVAH SHALOM, Lord of peace, we remember those living in coronavirus hotspots, those currently in isolation, and those adjusting to the ‘out of lockdown’ possibilities. May they know your presence in their isolation, peace in their turmoil, clarity in their understanding and your patience in their waiting.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. Psalm 46:1-2

Tracy and Jill