The Coronavirus pandemic changed things for pretty much everybody. At the time, the UK's 9 million informal carers were at the very front line. These are the people who were looking after a vulnerable member of their family, a friend or a neighbour. Many have been doing this for years, but the crisis made it much tougher.
Mobilise spoke to carers when the crisis began. From those conversations, here are some of the tips they found helpful (in no particular order).
1. Ration how much news you're getting
It can be tempting to spend a lot of time absorbing the latest stories from the rolling news channels, social media and elsewhere. This can often add to the stress of the whole situation.
Quite a few carers have identified specific times of the day when they'll access the news - maybe once in the morning, and watching the evening news. This can really help keep the stress levels in check.
2. Keep to a daily routine
Each caring situation is different. Some carers have been living with the person they look after for a long time. For others, they've had to move in with their loved ones during the pandemic to avoid paid care-workers coming in on a daily basis. Regardless, everybody's normal routine no doubt changed one way or another.
Carers we talked to found it helpful to set up a regular routine (e.g. walking the dog at a certain time, or joining the Mobilise online 'Cuppa' once a week). This gave a structure to everything, which was important during the lockdown and having to be isolated for a while.
If you currently need help planning your week - take a look at our Weekly Routine Planner and handy video.
3. Revisit the Emergency Plan
*The* big question carers asked during the crisis is "what happens if I go down with the virus?" Understandably, this caused a lot of worry and come to find out, there was no simple answer.
That's why a lot of carers found it useful looking again at their emergency plan, and thinking through back up plans. Staying in touch with their local council to know what help was available was also highly beneficial. Further, some carers simply found some peace of mind just by talking about 'What Ifs' with their families and neighbours.
4. Write a list of things that could help
It was heartwarming to see that so many people across the country were keen to help wherever they can. However, some carers told us that when somebody asked how they can help, it was hard to think of anything on the spur of the moment.
So, we've heard that carers wrote down in advance a little list of things which would be really handy - e.g. Popping to the pharmacy to pick up medication, or doing the grocery run.
There's a lot of research that says having a community around us can make a big difference. Carers we spoke to at the time thought really carefully about whether who they were talking to were really important at that moment. These groups included:
Close family and friends
Neighbours and people physically close at hand
Other carers, who are in a similar situation
Join our Facebook group of unpaid carers
Sometimes a quick group message to family, or checking in with each other every day can flag up anything important nice and quickly - whether we be in a lockdown or not.