On the 18th of March 2020 we held our first Mobilise Cuppa for Carers. The working title was "Corona Cuppa!" (so glad we didn't actually use that). By the 23rd of March 2020, we were holding daily cuppas for anyone looking after someone. Even when no one showed up we were there and within days, to our surprise, carers started turning up every day and had made it part of their new routine.
In those early weeks it gave shape to our days and meant even in lockdown that we spoke to someone. Everyone that has joined has had their own unique cuppa journey. After over 225 cuppas, I'd like to reflect on the bird's eye view I've had of these journeys.
A new and very unusual family
We are such a varied bunch of people, a real patchwork. The word "family" comes up a lot in our discussions. At a time where family relationships can be challenging, or when we couldn't see our loved ones, finding a place to belong was important. Those we care for and our families have popped up in the background or even got involved. A real highlight when they've added to a cuppa with a quiz, cooking tips, a quick wave or a smile.
As well as seeing cuppa participants becoming more confident in a cuppa, we heard about how this made difference in other parts of their lives too. Having the confidence to tackle difficult family relationships, joining in with other online activities, starting their own virtual cuppas, supporting others and generally stepping out with their head held high.
Our cuppas have brought together years of experience, the knowledge that has been shared is powerful. More important is the way it was shared. We're not being told what to do, but sharing what works for us and might be worth a try. The concept of contingency planning really comes to life when someone shares just what a difference this plan made in an emergency situation. Some of our most popular blogs have been written as a result of the wisdom shared on our Tuesday cuppas.
When we are looking after someone the words wellbeing and self-care can feel like yet another thing we need to do and this one often falls to the bottom of the list. By regularly taking the time to think about how we are, and sharing tools that might help, we've built up our wellbeing toolkits. For some there have been real breakthroughs, making small changes, holding each other accountable and celebrating success.
Reading Chloe's experience of this gave me such an uplift, this makes a difference!
Sharing our lives - the important milestones and challenges too
At the end of the first lockdown anxiety was really high. Many of us were reluctant to step back into real life and the thought of a trip to a garden centre or a supermarket was nerve wracking. We understood, we took it slowly, encouraged one another and checked back in on how it went.
Where else could we get a round of applause for a trip to the corner shop!
The cuppas were also a place to share bad news, sad news and challenging times. We don't
always have the right words but a screen full of faces that share your pain, nod their understanding and reach for the tissues too, which lets people know they are not alone.
We shared our big celebrations birthdays, anniversaries, exam results and starting university.
Awareness of self
When you ask a carer "how are you?" the answer is often "I'm fine". In our cuppas we have had a safe space to share our emotions. Different questions and approaches work for different people, to help them recognise in themselves how they are really feeling and to find a way to share that. People have been brave and as one shares honestly others find the courage to do join them.
We've all learnt a bit more about who we are what makes us tick, what pushes our buttons and start to notice our default responses. I love the personal growth I have seen in others.
When someone new joins us
When someone new joins, I love how welcoming our participants can be. We all remember how nervous we were on our first cuppa, we didn't know what to expect, were hoping we didn't have to say anything, worried about crying or talking too much. Then suddenly three cuppas later we've found our place.
"It feels like you've always been with us"
If you would like to join us, our virtual cuppas run from Monday to Friday. Join us for laughs, a fun chat and real deep conversations! Feel free to bring a friend or family member to your first couple cuppas! If that is too big a step, visit our Facebook community to connect with other unpaid carers.