Managing Caring, as Lockdown Lifts

With some primary and secondary school children going back to school, the creation of family pods, zoos opening and more shops reopening their doors, we are exploring what this actually means to the millions of unpaid carers.

Are things about to get easier for us, or in some ways is this making life harder?

Firstly, if we're having some fear and anxiety about venturing back out, then please know that we're not on our own, and there are very sound reasons for this.

We have insights from Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK around why many of us are experiencing anxiety and what we can do to support ourselves. And we also have valuable thoughts and feelings, gathered from carers in our Mobilise Community, within our virtual cuppas and Facebook group. Including practical tips on managing anxiety, and what actually happened when they did step out.

Plus a relaxing, recorded guided visualisation just for us!

When chatting about the feelings around the lockdown lift, in our carers' community, three things were immediately apparent:

  1. As lockdown relaxes, very few of us will be changing our current behaviour

  2. There is a level of anxiety for many of us, at 're-entering' normal

  3. Feeling forgotten, as the bulk of the country start to enjoy a bit more freedom

Very few of us will be venturing out

While a few of us are tentatively stepping out into garden centres, parks and to see close family. It would seem that the majority of us are simply 'waiting'. Waiting for science to catch up, waiting for proof that the infection rate has slowed.

And so, lockdown being partially lifted, is seemingly having little to no impact on the practical day to day for many of us.

"I have seen no evidence that says it’s safe. There are too many people out and about and we have worked hard to stay safe and keep others safe. It’s a farce!"

"We've been advised by our consultant, to keep on shielding"

It would seem that understandably, many of us are being cautious, until the 'figures' show us the 'risk' has reduced.

There is of course no right answer across the board. We each make our own best judgement day to day. Marrying risk with mental health implications, and coming to the right decision for each of us.

Anxiety as we re-enter normal

It was interesting to see that while the relaxing of lockdown should be bringing relief, that actually for a significant number of carers, it is bringing the exact opposite.

In addition, those of us that have 'stepped out' or are considering it, are often sharing feelings of anxiety and panic. It's not always the 'happy' moment we had longed for, and there is plenty of fear for us to somehow manage. But take some comfort, that several carers are reporting back that they "did it and survived". Even if they're not rushing to repeat the experience just yet.

"I was very worried. But the thing is, I did it! Although I'm not sure I'm prepared to do it again just yet!"

Re-entry is tricky! Let's be honest, for many of us 'getting out' was difficult before the pandemic - for both practical and emotional reasons. So it's no wonder many of us are finding this transition difficult.

Plus, the confounded issues of there actually being something 'dangerous' out there, and the psychological impact of being in lockdown for so long. We've invested time in coming to terms, accepting and being happy locked down, to help us to cope. We now have to start to unpick this.

Psychologists are raising 're-entry anxiety' as a very real thing for anyone, but perhaps for carers even more so. As we're not just responsible for ourselves, but for the care and safety of the person we look after.

Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK, gives the following advice:

"People find change quite difficult. It's not about expecting yourself to go from 0 to 100 in one day. Don't be hard on yourself if you're finding it difficult to get back into a routine. We found it difficult to get into the routine of lockdown, so it stands to reason that we'll find it difficult to get out of the routine of lockdown as well. As we start to leave the home more, she says we should be aware that it will be a "physiological process" as well as a mental one. When we go outside, we have all this stimuli hitting us and it can lead to a bit of a sensory overload."

She encourages people to be "gentle and kind with themselves" throughout this time.

Managing Anxiety

For carers experiencing fear and anxiety with the idea of relaxing lockdown, then when the time comes, there are several ways we can support ourselves.

As a carer and an NLP practitioner, here I talk about three techniques I use on a daily basis to support my own emotional resilience.

1. Mindfulness and breathing

How using our breath to stay present, is a little holiday for our mind! A beautiful little re-set.

2. Visualising and planning for success

Our anxiety can peak when we let our imagination run away with things, planning in our minds, for a 'worst case' scenario. Of course, the scenario we have imaged, hasn't happened yet, but our mind responds as if it has, with the knock on physical impact to our body.

Visualising things 'going well' can reduce our anxiety and help to see more 'balance' when we do step outside.

3. Anchoring a 'feel good' feeling

This technique teaches us how to access a great feeling anytime we want it. We access a memory or imagination of a time when you were feeling great. And using a guided visualisation we strongly associate a small physical anchor (like crossing your fingers), with that emotion!

With practice, you can bring those beneficial feelings to mind, simply by using your physical anchor.

Now while these three techniques are very effective, once you have mastered them - there will of course, still be those days when it all just falls apart. Don't let that discourage you. It's just a bad day, tomorrow is a fresh start. It still happens to me, and I've been using these techniques for a while.

But having and using these techniques means I have less bad days and I can recover more quickly, when a bad day does hit.

Feeling Forgotten

Ironically, in coming out of lockdown, little to no thought is seemingly being given to the impact on carers.

"My daughters' siblings could go back to school, but as we're shielding, we have kept them home and they continue to 'miss out'. This is getting harder and harder to manage, and I worry about the impact on them."

"The person I care for, has taken the government guidance to mean a green card to go to places they normally would. They don't understand why they still can't, when others can. It hasn't given carers any warning or planning time."

Well at Mobilise, we see you. We are you! And we love our community where we continue to support each other. Please do join us in our virtual cuppas that run from Monday to Friday to connect with others also caring for a loved one.

Taking one day and one step at a time.