In January, we like to use our Mobilise Moment, (monthly check-in with carers) as an opportunity to for us all to pause and reflect on the year. Noticing both the tough stuff and the good stuff.
Taking a pause to ask ourselves, “What are we thankful for?” and “What did we find hard?”.
Why reflection is helpful
Having a caring role can make our life very busy. Whether we're a full-time or part-time carer, we will also have our own life and responsibilities to juggle. Whether that's bringing up children, holding down a job or just managing all the stuff that comes with living - from shopping to cooking, from looking after ourselves to managing appointments and paying bills.
All of this "busyness" means we can get swept along with the "doing". Reflection allows us to pause and consider what an epic job we're doing, what we're grateful for, and also to learn from our experiences.
"Reflection allows people to think back on and learn from their experiences, constructing new knowledge and applying that knowledge to new experiences. "
Parent carer and counselling psychologist Joanna Griffin, did some very interesting research on recognising trauma, healing and growth in parent carers. It all starts with reflection.
As one carer shared,
“Writing this down [our reflections] helps”
What were we thankful for in 2022?
Reflecting on what we're grateful for (or gratitude practice) is a helpful tool that many of us are using more and more. Looking back over a whole year, we found there are a wide variety of things to be thankful for.
Family, friends, neighbours and even our pets were our top answer.
"That we continue to remain close as a family despite the high cost of living and unemployment."
"My friends who are always there to listen and especially my carer friends who just get it :)"
Dodging the rounds of flu and Covid and managing to stay healthy/ out of hospital were popular answers too.
“That we (me and my husband and parents) made it through alive”
For some there have also been some highlights to the year with celebrations, holidays and new jobs.
And of course the Mobilise community and all the support it brings got a mention too!
“Finding Mobilise and all their help and support.”
It can be a challenge to think back over a whole year, so many of us find it helpful to build gratitude practice into our daily or weekly activities. Ideas include writing things we're grateful for on a slip of paper and popping into a jar - then reading these to ourselves on New Year's Eve - or whenever we need a lift.
If we need help getting started, then our Monday morning online cuppa often includes a moment of gratitude practice.
What have we found hard in 2022?
Dwelling on the hard stuff can sometimes feel like the opposite of what we need to do, but it can be helpful to take a moment and acknowledge what has been hard for us as carers over the past year.
Many of us have been dealing with the health of the person we cared for declining or rapid changes. Alongside managing the practical implications of this we may also be feeling huge sorrow for our loved ones and being exposed to this daily can make this feel very heavy.
“Seeing my mum go through so many hospitalisations”
"My partner is deteriorating quickly now"
In addition, many of us experienced our own health problems last year.
"Being told that I too had heart failure"
"Being hospitalised, and managing Mum's groceries from my hospital bed"
"Accepting that I now have cancer"
Lots of us have experienced changes in our caring roles too, some new to caring or with new caring situations emerging. For some this meant giving up work, moving house and changes in sleeping arrangements.
“I left my career of 25 years+ to become a full time carer for my husband.”
Some of us have experienced the loss of loved ones, including those we care for:
“Separation from loved ones, so many deaths of loved ones…”
“Grieving for Mum while going straight into caring for my brother.”
“The death of my husband.”
A carer's grief and chronic sorrow often start way before the person we care for passes away. By understanding this, we can be far kinder to ourselves.
What do we want for ourselves in 2023?
After we've spent time reflecting, it can feel easier to notice what we want more of going forward (and what we want less of).
Keeping sight of what we want for ourselves is important. Just thinking about it and expressing it makes it more likely to happen. It might have been a while since we thought about ourselves so if we’re stuck for ideas we can take a little inspiration from what other carers are choosing to focus on.
A top answer was “ME TIME” - what this looks like for each of us is unique. It might be a holiday, weekend away or day out. For others, a regular “hour or two to myself” is what we want.
“More time for myself and simple pleasures, free from worry.”
“Find ME again. There used to be a ME.”
“More rest and proper respite from the intensity of caring”
If we need some outside help to make this happen, our guide to ‘First steps to getting help with support with our caring roles’ may be a great start.
Carers also shared with us that focusing on their own health, setting goals around weight loss and exercise were more of what they wanted for themselves this year:
“Lose weight and get healthier”
“Make an effort to have a little walk maybe twice a week even if only 20 minutes”
Sometimes these goals can feel too large. A helpful alternative can be to consider "micro-habits" - small things we can do each day, which over time can shift our behaviour and how we feel.
And if our health has been on the back burner, this mini carers’ video series aims to guide us towards the simple steps we can take to make our mental and physical health a priority - guilt free!
It’s not too late to think about our own year ahead.
We’ve been using a range of tools to help us with this kind of thinking, which can take place at any point of the year. Feel free to make use of these free tools to help kickstart your thinking: