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How to campaign and be heard

There are plenty of things that can make our blood boil, when we’re caring for someone else. From Carer’s Allowance to respite. Many carers will agree that a good vent or rant can make us feel better.

But when do we need to stop?

How do we maximise the impact of our message and voice, whilst protecting our wellbeing? How do we ensure we’re not just becoming a keyboard warrior and screaming into a void?

Here we explore the concept of “effective ranting” and how we can campaign and be heard.

The difference between ranting and campaigning

Ranting tends to be what we do, when we need to get something off our chest. It might be an immediate response to a challenging situation or it might be us exploding after a build up of pressure.

“I’m like a pan on the boil. Sometimes I need to lift the lid and let some steam out! Saves me from completely boiling over…” Unpaid carer in the Mobilise Community

We might rant to a friend or family member, or we might vent in a safe space, like a carer’s group or in the Mobilise Community.

We’re not trying to change the world, we just need to let off some steam.

Campaigning on the other hand, is about trying to make our voices heard at a local or national level, with the anticipation and hope that we can change something important to us. It might be that the thing we’ve been ranting about, becomes something we want to campaign about.

Why does ranting make us feel better?

A good vent or rant can be healthy for us (when we know how to make ranting work for us).

It’s a release of frustration and can help us feel seen and heard. We may also receive validation of our feelings, gain some perspective or receive some tips to make us feel better (if that’s what we’re seeking). Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. There is healing power in feeling seen and heard. All of which can make us feel better.

We see many carers in our community share how they feel better for a rant or vent. There is something healing about “getting it all out”. And when shared safely, it can result in valuable support.

When is ranting harmful to us?

If we find we are repeatedly ranting about the same thing over an extended period of time, this can become problematic for our wellbeing. It may be a sign that we are stuck, that we’ve been unable to make progress with a specific challenge, or that our mental health is in decline.

We can easily find ourselves in something called “victim status”, which takes power away from us. We feel like everything is happening to us, and we can find ourselves blaming others for everything. It’s actually a common defence coping mechanism, to cope with challenging life events.

The issue is, it strips us of our ability to make positive changes for ourselves. It’s close friends with something called “martyr complex”, where we take more and more on, and feel resentful for it.

In addition, repeatedly saying the same negative thing, can grow our sense of despair and the difficult feelings we associate with it. The saying “you get more of what you focus on” makes sense here.

The science behind this 🧠

There’s a bit of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)* science behind this. Our mind believes what we tell it. If we repeat the same negative message over and over, we create a strong neural pathway in our brain. This creates a belief.

How strong that pathway (or belief) is, influences how strong our feelings associated with that belief are. When the belief is unhelpful, it’s known as a “limiting belief”. We also have something called a “confirmation bias” which is our desire to prove ourselves right. So once we have this strong limiting belief, our mind is busy looking for evidence to support that belief (a mental pat on the back for being right). This strengthens the belief and the feelings associated with it.

This is fine if the belief is helpful and makes us feel good. But, it’s not so good if the belief is making us feel rubbish. The other thing that confirmation bias does, is that it stops us noticing any evidence that might shrink the belief a little. Take this example: If we read a lot of rants from other people with similar experiences (i.e. because we’re part of a campaigning group), it confirms and amplifies our beliefs further. Or even re-reading our own rant, we may notice our own limiting beliefs such as “nobody cares, there’s no help or support.” But if this was entirely true, there wouldn’t be people campaigning on our behalf. *(NLP is a psychological approach to positively changing our thoughts and behaviours).

“I got into a bit of a knee jerk space, where I would complain about absolutely everything. I think lots of carers end up here. It feels rubbish always focusing on the rubbish. I felt like I was just a negative story.”

If we find ourselves in this position, it may be time to be kind to ourselves. Perhaps we can choose to let go of what we can’t control, or channel our energy into a campaign.

How to make ranting work for us

It can be helpful to view ranting as a way to “get things off our chest”, receive effective support and move on. What might this look like?

1. “Getting things off our chest”

By this, we mean getting all those angry, sad or confused feelings and thoughts out of our head. Either by talking to someone or writing them down. There is real value in noticing and feeling those feelings.

2. Effective support

Make sure we’re ranting in a safe space. This could be a trusted friend who is a really good listener. Or it might be a community of other carers who just “get it".

It might be helpful to read some tips on finding safe peer support. They’ll be able to offer empathy and probably lots of tips too.

If we don't feel better after ranting, it’s worth considering if we have the right audience ;-)

If we often find ourselves supporting someone who is ranting this can be exhausting. We can set boundaries for ourselves. For example, in our community we sometimes see people start their post with "I just need to vent". It is absolutely ok to scroll by if this is not what we need to read today. There are always plenty of other people able to support in that moment.

3. Move on

It's important not to get stuck with a rant for too long. Often we simply feel calmer after getting all our thoughts out in the open, including hearing other carers say they feel that way too!

“I find journaling keeps me moving forwards. If I find myself moaning about the same thing over again, I get bored and frustrated with myself, which kind of kicks me into some action.” Unpaid carer, Mobilise Community

Acceptance can also help with “moving on”. We’re not saying we should accept a bad situation, but sometimes our response to a situation is larger or stronger, because we’re grappling with other big emotions, such as grief.

It can be helpful to pause and think if our response is helping us, and perhaps notice what we can and can’t control.

If we’re really feeling like we can’t let something go, it might be time to consider campaigning. This might be directly to our local MP, or as part of a wider community with a national voice.

What action will most help to move you forward?

The benefits of campaigning

If we feel very strongly about something (and if we have the energy), we might like to create or join a campaign.

The benefits include:

  • Feeling like we’re making a positive difference

  • A sense of “taking control”, which can make us feel good

  • The ability to potentially change things for the better. Such as the Carers’ Leave Bill, that’s going through parliament right now.

  • We may find a new, supportive community

  • We may feel a sense of pride, fulfilment and purpose

The legal rights that protect us

Before we start any campaigning, it is always helpful to understand how the law is supposed to protect us. As carers we have rights. Being aware of this information can be very powerful.

“When my daughter was denied an assessment for an EHCP, I was able to go into the meeting quoting the legal wording, which gave me the confidence to get the outcome that she was entitled to.” Unpaid carer, Mobilise Community

How to campaign and be heard

If we’re not careful, our campaigning can quickly turn to feelings of frustration, if we feel like we’re not being heard or not creating the change we wanted to see. Below are some ideas, to help us make the most of the energy we may exert on campaigning.

Join an existing campaign

Joining an existing campaign gives us a community and means we can share our story and experience with a wider audience.

There are several ways we can do this, including:

  1. Check if this is a live Government campaign registered. We can search for “themes” such as “Autism” and see all the current petitions that are live.

  2. Check other petition sites, such as 38 degrees. Who also help with setting up petitions and reaching people.

  3. Join an existing Caring campaign, such as:

    • The We Care Campaign, who’ve just won an award for their “We are the ones that care” campaign.

    • Carers UK, who are campaigning for various things including the Carers Leave Bill and help with the Cost of Living crisis.

  4. If our campaign relates to the condition of the person we care for, then a condition-specific charity or organisation may already have a campaign up and running.

Carers Trust is another organisation that offer support to share our lived experiences as carers.

Create our own campaign

This might be starting our own petition or campaign, or it might be emailing or writing directly to our own MP.

1. Set up our own Government petition. If we can’t find a live petition already in motion, we can start our own petition. Once we have 10,000 signatures, the Government will give a response. At 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in parliament.

2, Set up our own petition on other petition organisations, such as Change 38.

Easy ways to share and grow the audience (and signatures!) of a petition, include sharing on social media and contacting your local newspaper.

On social media, remember that using #tags is a great way for others to find you! Such as #FreeSchoolDinners or #MoreRespiteForCarers.

3. Write to your MP. A simple first step might be to raise concerns with your MP. Lots of charities and campaigns already provide “template letters” to use.

When to pause campaigning

It’s helpful to remember that you’re not responsible for everything. If we’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, then it’s OK to pause or step away from campaigning.

You come first. There is no need to feel guilty.

After a rest, we may (or may not) feel able to rejoin a campaign. Perhaps we’ll find another way to support the campaign that is less impactful on us. Or we can simply reflect on the good and value we were able to deliver during the time we spent on it.

What next?

Did you relate to any of this? What can you do differently to feel a little better?

We always love to hear your stories, so please join us over in the Mobilise Community for further support, carer wisdom and connection.

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