Jo Dixon, Healthy Carers Worker, Denbighshire County Council
‘Within the Social Care sector, the elements of our roles that bring us the most satisfaction, enabling people to navigate challenging times in their lives, can also bring distress. No matter how resilient we are, some situations can impact our own wellbeing.
In addition to processing others’ struggles and sadness, we are often frustrated by lack of resource, complex cases and our own personal circumstances, exacerbated by the global Pandemic and the socio-economic challenges that has brought.
After years in Health and Social Care, I recognise my own signs of overload and, with an interest in stress management and wellbeing, developed a toolkit of ways to de-stress and boost my resilience. As the saying goes, “you can’t keep pouring from an empty cup”.
Physiologically and psychologically, we need to rest and reduce stress regularly, to remain well and function normally. We all feel better after a holiday or a perfectly delivered week, but these can be rare occurrences, so the things that maintain my daily wellbeing have to be simple, easily accessible and mostly free.
Supporting unpaid carers in crisis, I often engage with people who struggle to make provision for their own wellbeing. While being a caregiver can be deeply rewarding, it can also be isolating, all-consuming and anxiety-provoking. The techniques used in my toolkit are invaluable in my professional role and are often the first step to enabling a person to accept change or face negative habits.
So, when the lockdown hit in 2020 and we all experienced a previously unimaginable situation of isolation, changes and fear, my manager and I realised that the toolkit had taken on a greater significance. Work intensified and roles diversified as we adapted to crisis management, but also the peer support of being part of a team felt remote or lost.
Initially, we delivered wellbeing sessions at team meetings, introducing methods from the kit; laughter yoga, Three Good Things and meditation being favourites. We encouraged staff to get out into nature and set up a virtual tea break, to replicate the randomness of bumping into someone in the staff kitchen and that sense of community.
The toolkit united our team, staff began to discuss what worked for them personally and a sense of being given permission to take time out or speak out if they were not OK returned.
Our Leadership Team felt this message was a vital one for all staff across Community Support Services and I was invited to present at our annual staff engagement events. The feedback was great and morale was boosted, maybe partly by witnessing our Operational Managers participating in laughter yoga.
One positive legacy of the pandemic here is the raised awareness that self-care and resilience is a basic human necessity, is everyone’s responsibility and is supported by our Service. As we move forward, I hope we continue to have these open discussions, add more items to our toolkits and perhaps introduce Wellbeing Action Plans to our staff induction, as a long term solution to stress management.'