As a parent carer, we've reached out to anyone in our community who has the double whammy of a caring role and a homeschooling role. Of course, many of us also have a 'working' role too! It's a lot of hats to wear. And we've been wearing them for a long time.
So this blog is to say,
"'we see you and you are not alone"
We're sharing tips from our community, that might be helpful for you. And I've included some insights from my experience as a Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner (mindset stuff), which quite honestly have (mostly) saved my sanity.
Firstly, everyone's situation is individual - from whether we have access to support and respite, if we work, have access to a support bubble, or if we (or our children/cared for) are extremely clinically vulnerable.
And not forgetting, we each travel through life with our own (limiting) beliefs about our capabilities, our own emotions, and our own level of mental health right now.
So be kind. But mostly, be kind to yourself.
We each have different pressures. But what we do have in common, is that we have taken a large step up in responsibility, and in demands for our time and attention.
Many of us describe our situation as a "pressure cooker". And what does a pressure cooker need? A valve - to release the pressure and stop us boiling over! So what are our valves?
Three ways to release the emotional pressure
1. Put ourselves first
Yup, you heard that right. We cannot help anyone if we're knackered, burnt out, exhausted - or whatever word fits. We also exacerbate problems, when we're in this 'place'. When we're depleted, we understandably can find ourselves feeling resentful. Perhaps acting from an unbeneficial emotional state such as 'victim' or 'martyr'. Anyone recognise those? I know I do.
And what's more - our energy and moods are contagious. The good and the bad.
There are so many quotes that recognise that we must look after ourselves and no doubt we've all hearted them on social media from time to time. But what are we actually doing about it?
"You can't pour from an empty cup"
"Put your own oxygen mask on first"
But what does putting ourselves first even look like? And how on earth do we find the time? Valid questions. Take care though - these questions can easily become excuses.
I've deliberately avoided the words self-care and self-love so far, but no doubt you've worked out that's what we're talking about here.
Firstly. It's not selfish - it's essential!
Secondly. There is always time, I promise you (as a Mum of three). We sometimes need to think creatively, but there are many ways to rest - it's not just sleep. Keep reading! We just need to identify it and then allow ourselves to benefit.
For ideas on what self-care can look like, especially for those very short on time, our blog "How to care for yourself when there's not time to care for yourself" could be your lifeline right now.
The real beauty is that once we really nail this, we start seeing the benefits and we keep finding more and more ways to take care of ourselves.
For replenishment inspiration, it may be helpful to know that rest can (and should) come in many forms. To really make sure we're replenished, we should be thinking about all seven types of rest. The good news here, is that we will each find some of these easier to access, than perhaps the traditional view of rest.
Physical - A good night's sleep or a duvet day.
Mental - Giving our brain a rest. Mindfulness and meditation are great examples.
Sensory - Get off of Zoom, our phone, screens in general. Dim the lights, enjoy some silence. Add a weighted blanket and an eye mask if we can!
Creative - Journaling, creative writing, painting, walking in nature and noticing our surroundings. Filling up that well of creativity, boosts our abilities to problem solve amongst other things.
Social - Having a break from social interactions and spending time with ourselves.
Emotional - Take a break from things and people that trigger our emotions, e.g social media. Identifying which relationships drain us and which replenish us. If the person we care for, drains us emotionally, then all other six types of rest become even more important.
Spiritual - Identify what gives us meaning in life, and do more of it. Spirituality may be church, meditation, or both! Anything that gives us a deep sense of belonging and connection.
So what one thing will you do today to replenish yourself?
And what one thing will you do tomorrow?
2. It's not 'Homeschooling' - it's online learning (around life)
Language - our words - are everything in shaping our beliefs and how we feel. If we hold our efforts up against the notion of "homeschooling" we're likely to feel rubbish.
Homeschooling is a proactive choice to homeschool, that comes with adequate planning, and connections with homeschool communities. And with a proactive decision by us as parents, to make time and space in our lives to homeschool. This may include leaving a career for example.
But in actual fact, we had no choice. The other elements of our lives, such as caring or working, continue. No space was carved out for 'homeschooling'.
So let's not feel rubbish. Accept it's challenging. Accept we each do our best. Be kind to ourselves.
Our emotional health is the most important thing to our children right now, and to us.
Taking the pressure off of us. Letting some air out of that valve.
3. Visualise what we want
How do we want to feel today? How do we want our children to feel? (remember energy is contagious). If you have five minutes - visualise it. Remember or imagine a time when you felt it - calm, content, energised. Whatever beneficial state you want.
Simply imagine or remember it. Bring up the colours, smells, tastes and feelings. Spend five minutes in your mind feeling it. Because you really will feel it. Our minds believe what we tell them - so our bodies respond. Give it a try!
Then anticipate the bumps. What may trip us up? How would our best self handle that moment? Imagine our best self handling those moments. You know - the version of us who has had enough rest! Planning for it going well, means we've practiced, our mind thinks we've done it already. Suddenly is becomes easier to do.
What could we let go of. Challenging why we hang onto things that are difficult, is a great exercise. They may absolutely need doing/ not doing. But they may also be an old limiting belief that no longer serves us. I went into lockdown thinking that if my son had more than an hour on his games console, it was inappropriate. Thankfully, I let that old belief fly!
Two practical ways to support ourselves
1. Talk to school
Many carers in our community have shared that once they spoke to school, there was an instant way to reduce the pressure. Don't assume they can't or won't help.
Help has come in many guises for our community, from simple Zoom sessions with classmates to feel more connected, to the offer that a child can drop some non core subjects.
2. Reach out to our community
This may be family, friends or our neighbourhood. They may not be able to 'homeschool' for us, but there may be other things they can do, to make life a bit easier.
"My Mum and Dad are shielding, but every week they batch cook some meals for our daughter who is on a very specialist diet. It saves me so much time. I'm so grateful."
"My neighbour prints off my son's homeschool work each day and pops it through my door."
Have a pause and think - how could someone help me? And then reach out. If we don't have friends and family nearby to help, then most towns have a local community Facebook group, where we could ask for help. Or you're always welcome to join our community Facebook group to connect with other adult unpaid carers.