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Taking Care of YOU, The Carer - Practical Strategies for mental health and well-being

- by Tim Conroy-Stocker

12 September 2018, Bird & Bird

We all know the importance of self-care. If we are not in a good shape, how can we care for our children effectively? Right, let’s get to it…so what do we do?

“I barely have enough time to eat anything for lunch. I need to set aside 30 minutes to meditate?”

“I already had a long day at work. As much as I want to go to an evening workshop, I want to rush home to see my child.”

“Just how does this mindfulness thingy reduce my child’s challenging behavior?”

Sounds familiar? We’ve all been there. We’ve all asked these questions and in the workshop titled Caring for YOU: The Carer – Practical strategies for mental health and wellbeing, we got our answers from Tim Conroy-Stocker, a senior educational psychologist at ESF. Tim talked about positive psychology, character strengths, positive relationship skills, mindfulness techniques and more. Participants were given opportunities to do exercises to improve mindfulness and visualize their own emotions. A list of resources were also shared with the participants and can be accessed here. We particularly liked the 30-second three breaths exercise:

First breath: gather your attention

Second breath: relax completely

Third breath: send a good thought to someone you know

It is an effective and practical strategy we can use in the heat of moments. We may not be able to carve out 30 minutes to bring ourselves back to balance but 30 seconds is just as good! Also, mindfulness practice can happen anywhere, any time. It’s not always about sitting still in a lotus pose with eyes closed and keep thinking “inner peace”. We can do it while commuting (focus on the steps and relationship with the ground), washing dishes (and focus on the dishes) or be aware of our own breaths in a 5-minute break.

Tim also shared with us a helpful tool to use when we feel we are in a really bad place: scaling. On a scale of 0 to 10, we may be at a 2 sometimes. 2/10 doesn’t look very good but it’s not 0 either. We can then ask ourselves, what will get me to a 3? Then things may start to light up already….and what is this? Mindfulness :)

In especially challenging situations, e.g. standoffs with kids when everything seems to be caving in, will mindfulness strategies help in any way? A 30-second breathing exercise can only do so much, it won’t immediately change what the child is doing but it will allow us to calm down and face the music, perhaps we can even laugh at the absurdity of the situation and there, we are no longer stuck.

What are your self-care strategies? We would love to hear from you!