Caring for the Carers

Over lockdown I have been delighted to have been involved with both Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and Caring Breaks in delivering a number of Zoom trainings sessions.  We have all had to get used to this new way of keeping in contact and both organisations have been innovative in finding ways to continue to support carers and their families and friends during the pandemic.

Carers of all ages who provide support for a family member or friend make a massive difference not only to the people they care for, they also make a huge contribution to the NI economy, never more so than over the course of the current pandemic when many support services such as day centres and short breaks have been reduced or closed.

Carers week takes place in June each year; the theme for 2020 was Making Caring Visible and I provided a mindfulness session for carers as part of the week’s events.

The sessions continued with the delivery of a couple of 4 week Building Resilience courses, one for carers from Belfast Trust and another for carers from Caring Breaks. Feedback from both courses was positive; one carer said it was ‘one of the best courses she has ever been on’; it’s always great to receive such positive feedback.   In January I delivered a Reboot and Restore session for Belfast Trust carers looking at some ways that we could approach those new year changes in a different way from the usual short-lived ‘new year resolution’ approach.

Below is the piece I wrote for the Belfast Trust Carers November 2020 Newsletter that contains a review of some of the top tips from the Building Resilience course in August.

Week 1 set the scene by looking at how resiliency encompasses our mental, social, physical and emotional wellbeing and each session focused on one of those areas. In week one we looked at our mental wellbeing and on how having that positive mindset is a key factor in being resilient.

ResilienceOur emotional centre, the primitive ‘caveman’ part of our brain is primed to keep us safe. It is always on the lookout for danger, so it is wired for negativity, however we can turn that around if we focus on the positive things in our lives.

Participants were invited to get a notebook and write down a few good things that happened each day. It’s funny how we only remember the problems we encounter isn’t it!?  This simple exercise helps to retrain our brain to look for positives and it’s also good to have those notes to look back on to remind us that things aren’t all bad!  Everyone was encouraged to set a small goal each week, something important to them, perhaps something that they had been putting off as they let other things or other people take priority. Why? Well, the big focus throughout the weeks was on activating the ‘Happy Chemicals’ that lovely group of neurotransmitters that keep us all functioning well.

Week 2 looked at emotional well-being and some simple coping strategies to help us manage stress.  Carers learned how the fight, flight and freeze response can be triggered, often without us being aware that it is happening, filling our ‘stress buckets’ and causing us to react to situations in an unhelpful way. Negative thinking – brooding over the past or thinking about what could go wrong in the future can set us off on that stress cycle and we practiced some simple relaxation and mindfulness techniques to keep us balanced and ‘in the moment’.  Try this one! Saying the word ‘CALM’ to yourself and, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, scan each of the four areas for muscle tension and then just let that tension go.

The CALM Exercise

Chest:  Relax your chest/torso – let it sink back into the chair

Arms:  Let your arms and shoulders relax, rest your hands in your lap

Legs:  Uncross your legs, let them relax, have your feet on the floor

Mouth:  Relax your jaw, allow your mouth to open slightly

Week 3 was about our physical wellbeing and we looked at the importance of keeping active and having a healthy diet. We learned about some simple techniques to change those habits that may see us piling on a few pounds – like the biscuit (or 2!) with our cup of coffee.

Sleep plays a key part in our physical and mental wellbeing; we looked at the stages of sleep and how the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of our sleep cycle is so important to us for laying down memories and sorting out some of the stresses of the day. Check out www.sleepcouncil.org.uk for tips on a better night’s sleep.

Week 4 looked at the importance of our social connections and support networks for our overall social wellbeing. The World Health Organisation defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ and during this pandemic it is that social contact with friends and family members that we are all missing so much. We have all had to learn new skills like Zoom and Facetime etc and while online contact may not be the same and we may miss that element of human touch (remember oxytocin – one of our happiness chemicals) it’s important to try to get over any discomfort you may have and keep connected!

Check the link below for my relaxation track – listen each evening at bedtime.

https://www.willowtherapies.co.uk/relaxation-mp3/

Password: Float20

Please remember that if you care for a family member or friend support is always there for you, just contact the Care Coordinator in your local Health Trust.

 

Why I trained in Solution Focused Hypnotherapy

My training in Solution Focused Hypnotherapy was with the renowned UK and international Clifton Practice Hypnotherapy Training at their Belfast school. CPHT has an impressive list of schools (including one in Poland) and is currently in the process of opening their 27th school in Dublin.

The Dublin school is led by my lovely colleagues Jem White and Jennifer Dunseath and is set to start up in September 2021.

Every Thursday they have invited a different Solution Focused Hypnotherapist to offer their view on how they found CPHT training and this week it was my turn!

Check it out here https://cphtdublin.com/2021/02/18/therapist-thursday-eileen-from-willow-therapies/

Not another blog about New Year Resolutions!

No, but it is a blog about change and how we can make some of the changes we would like to make in a way that might have a longer lasting impact than those boring new year resolutions that have generally been forgotten about by this stage in the new year.

While its natural that that we see the new year as an opportunity for ‘out with the old and in with the new’, (especially after the year that 2020 was), its unlikely that we can just make that change happen with a flick of the calendar so I would like to offer an alternative gentler approach to change.

The happiness factor

As humans, we want to be happy and everything that we strive for in terms of change stems from that desire to be happy so what I am suggesting is that you start to focus on those things that you do day in and day out – often mindlessly – and see if they still work for you, do they bring you happiness or are they some of the things you would like to change? If they do, then do more of them – if they don’t, do less! That may sound a bit simplistic but I’m sure we can all relate to that feeling of just going with the flow of what the day throws at us without stopping to think about whether we are enjoying it or not and then we get to the end of the day and find ourselves exhausted and stressed and maybe a bit cross with ourselves that we let the day get away from us …. again. We hear a lot these days about how the ‘happiness chemicals’, (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins) are so important to our wellbeing so we want to do everything we can to keep them flowing.

Day to day

Pay attention to the people you have in your life, do you like to be around them, if you do, then plan to see more of them, if you don’t then find ways to limit your contact with them.  In this ‘new normal’ keeping in contact might mean more Zoom calls, more phone contact but do what works for you, find who it is that lifts your spirits and gives you that important boost of oxytocin.

Are you happy in your work, if not, is there one small change that you could make that would help, that would make you feel more at ease, more in control? No one else even needs to be aware of it but knowing you have done it will send a little boost of dopamine that will lift your mood.

Are there habits you would like to change?  Your diet – could you cut out just one – one takeaway, one biscuit, one cup of coffee, one glass of wine?  More exercise?  Plan to walk for just 5 minutes, see what happens.

Where is your happy place, where do feel most calm and relaxed? – plan to go there more often. Maybe that’s the place to take some exercise and get your hit of serotonin and endorphins.

Where do you feel uncomfortable, stressed?  Can you avoid it, if not can you make changes to when you go, who you go with, how you get there?

Mindful attention

So, let’s think about being mindful, paying attention to our actions each day, planting those tiny seeds of change that will really make a difference as they take root and grow.  It’s about tuning into how you feel each day, am I happy today, am I stressed, am I enjoying this, is it good for me?

Then slowly and with small steps begin to add more of what makes you happy and reduce some of the things that take away from those feelings of happiness, contentment and calm. Slowly and surely, you will see change. But remember, above all – be kind to yourself.

If you focus on results, you will never change.

If you focus on change, you will get results’.

Jack Dixon – Welsh Rugby Union Player

 

For information on how solution focused hypnotherapy can help you to make positive change in your life, please feel free to contact me.