With the country opened back up again, let us pause for a moment and reflect.
Reflect on what has been excruciatingly difficult during lockdown. But also what has been (perhaps unexpectedly) better. Both for us as the carer, but also for the person or persons we care for.
“We have perhaps an unprecedented moment in time, to shape a ‘new’ and ‘more beneficial’ normal.”
It would be valuable to sit and think, before we simply dive straight back into a newer version of the 'old way', when the time comes. Of course, the 'old way' might be exactly what you need and want. But my 'old way' certainly wasn't easy.
“Let’s not dive blindly into a ‘new normal’ that isn’t an improvement for us.”
What have we learned?
No matter how hard we may have found lockdown, we will most definitely each have some insights and learnings.
These may be a list of things we never want to go through again. This is still valuable. Hugely valuable. We know “what we don’t want”.
And this awareness is powerful.
Amid the exhaustion and worry, many of us have also spotted things that work better for us.
For me – our daughter has thrived having a gentle morning routine that matches her pace – rather than being harassed to be ready for an early morning taxi. She’s been happier, more co-operative and the feedback from school over the last two weeks is that “she’s much more engaged and happier”.
Now, I don’t know what I will do with this knowledge. But I’m going to be thinking long and hard about her future routine. Gathering evidence to back these anecdotal observations up. And perhaps then championing for a change in her daily support structure.
As a family we have also hugely benefited from my husband’s home working. We now both have a more equal share in our daughter’s personal care. This greatly helps me physically. But also, emotionally. It’s been amazing for my husband to step into my shoes more, building on empathy and understanding. This is something we are most definitely building into our “new normal”.
I think that for many organisations, there has been a real lightbulb moment, about how they can successfully operate with more flexible working arrangements. I see this as having a huge potential for carers who want to keep or return to working. Now is most definitely a good time to be having these conversations!
Three Questions to Ask Ourselves
It's so valuable for us to pause and reflect. Set aside some time to really reflect upon caring during lockdown. Asking ourselves the following questions:
We can do it once for ourselves and once with (or on behalf of) the person we look after. We may also want to do this for anyone else in our household, such as a spouse or siblings.
With how caring during lockdown went in mind:
1. What have I enjoyed?
This may be tough to answer, but sit with it for a while or come back to it. Leave it with our mind for a few days. Sometimes the good stuff can be quite buried. But once we’ve asked ourselves the question, our mind will be busily working on an answer behind the scenes. It may be as simple as our Mobilise Daily Cuppas!
2. What has been exceptionally hard for me?
Perhaps it’s the isolation or having no respite. Perhaps it’s anxiety. Perhaps it’s not seeing our Mum, sister, friend – maybe we had never realised how much we benefited from a weekly face to face catch up with them.
3. What have I learned about myself?
Make sure we give ourselves credit, where credit is due. Perhaps we’re stronger than we realised. After all, look at what we have just achieved! Perhaps we’ve realised that a morning walk is an essential recharge for ourselves. Perhaps we now know that human contact is a vital part of our coping strategies. Whatever we have learned, it is valuable to us.
With the above knowledge, we can really start to understand what we want (and don’t want). We can create our own ‘best new normal’.
Our ‘best new normal’ starts as an ideal. But now we have awareness! We have a destination in our sat nav’ – we know where we want to get to.
This is so valuable. We’re no longer stumbling along without a direction at the whim of other people's decisions. We can plan. We can ask for what we need. We can say ‘no’ to what is unhelpful. We can hold firm to those requests, because we know the value in them. We can keep moving forwards.
“Let’s not get sucked into someone else’s version of the ‘new normal’. Let’s use this moment to truly understand what we want and create something that works best for us.”
Hold our vision in mind, and use it to shape the support we need, the things we do and the things we don't do.
Armed with the answers to our questions, we can create our vision for our 'best life' our 'new normal'. And we can begin to create our own action plan or intentions plan to support this.
Actions or intentions might include:
Things we will ask our social worker for. Challenges to our children's Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP). Joining a walking club for ourselves. Approaching work for more home working opportunities (or changing our job). More family dinners at the table, all together. A non-negotiable morning meditation practice. A weekly art class. More evening support in our caring role.
There are so many actions or intentions that can come out of this.
"This is our opportunity to create a better life - our best life?"
Having our vision and our awareness and intentions, will give us purpose as we step forward. Purpose is so valuable. It's often said that;
"Having purpose is the opposite of depression."
Therapist and New York Times columnist, Barton Goldsmith has some wonderful words about purpose:
"If you don’t have a reason to get up in the morning, then you probably will have a hard time being motivated to even brush your teeth. Your purpose does not have to be changing the world. It can be very fulfilling to live a peaceful life. You do not have to build a rocket to Mars to have a purpose. Nurturing your family, friends, and those who come into your path is a wonderful way to live life, and it is a purpose that not enough people take up. Helping others beyond my family is important to me, but that isn’t for everyone. Helping your own people is quite enough."
It certainly gives us momentum, some power and control, a direction and some get up and go. And that can only be a very good thing.