Coping with change and uncertainty

As an unpaid carer, we are often faced with a lot of changes and uncertainty throughout our caring journey.

Sometimes, these have an impact on the support we can receive and any relative freedom we may have had prior to the changes. How can we better anticipate the unknown, or cope with it when it arrives?

Illustration of a woman exercising.
"Living with fear and uncertainty is exhausting" - Unpaid Carer

Our brains thrive on logic, yet we've lived many months now, where the rules keep changing and there has been much uncertainty and fear. We know from neuroscience, that we like certainty, so change can be unsettling and exhausting for us. And especially so, for those of us prone to anxiety.

So here are a few things that were captured from unpaid carers in the Mobilise community, particularly after lockdown;

  • Managing our anxiety can be difficult around some friends and the general public who seem to be more 'relaxed' around us, such as the need for social distancing.

  • Having tricky conversations - "no it's not OK for our kids to have a playdate yet" to "please could you wear a mask?".

  • Managing feelings of resentment that for many of us, our lives are still on hold.

  • Managing our own guilt and anxiety over any decisions we are making on behalf of the person we care for - especially if they can't have a say themselves.

  • Simply having to accept the constant flux of change.

Much of this can feel like a lot of responsibility.

Three tools to navigate change and uncertainty

1. Focus on what we can control

Give our mind a break from 'What Ifs' by focusing on things we have control over. Simple things we can control may include;

  • Making a conscious choice (and sticking to it), about how much time we spend online looking at social media or absorbing the news.

  • Choosing a beneficial morning routine that works for us. Going for a walk or a five minute meditation can help us clear our thoughts for the day. Or just simply a cup of tea in your 'good mug' in our favourite chair before we start the day.

  • Arranging a social get together - online if needs be - which we're comfortable with rather than reacting to other people's invitations and expectations.

2. Challenge how we feel about uncertainty

For example, when faced with uncertainty, do we imagine a 'worst case' scenario unfolding?

This is completely natural. By planning for the worst we can achieve a sense of 'control' through a feeling of being prepared.

Having an emergency plan has value. But don't let it define your thinking. Get it done, saved and shared, but then move on and consider a positive 'what if'. If we only focus on the negative, our mind will seek and find evidence to 'prove us right'.

However, this will be at the expense of noticing the positive 'stuff'. By visualising a positive outcome, we can see more of the good stuff, which will support our mood and mindset.

After all, we know that visualisation is a valuable tool, in managing our mindset.

3. Focus on the present

A popular technique within our caring community, is mindfulness. Pausing and calming our minds. The only thing that is known is the present. In the present we can't worry about what may or may not happen. Practising mindfulness gives our minds and emotions a valuable break.

There are several ways of doing this - even when we 'have no time'.

And to get us started, here's a short video.

Our blog "How to care for yourself, when there's no time to care for yourself" also includes how to do a Sensory Mindful Minute.

We also have some simple mood boosting techniques, we may enjoy.

In our life as carers, it can feel like so much is out of our control - pandemic or no pandemic! Meaning that tools like these are valuable to us, throughout our caring life. Do give them a try.

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Three short techniques to manage anxiety

Three short techniques to lift our mood

Both introduce wellbeing techniques through short video tutorials. Do let us know what you think, over in our community.