By week 7 Stella was aware of being able to respond rather than react to the demands placed upon her , she was taking notice of sensations in her body in order to determine how best to take care of herself.
Stella is the unpaid carer of her husband Ian, who has suffers from dementia. This is a full-time job that is both physically and emotionally demanding. She has no family living nearby and is reluctant to put demands upon her teenage children. When we met she shared that she felt unsupported and increasingly less confident in her role of carer as her husband’s condition deteriorates. She does not have a balanced quality of life and this is negatively impacting upon her health; Stella has been diagnosed with high blood pressure and suffers from anxiety. Stella says that she pays little attention to her own health needs.
“I am calmer and more positive so I can deal with Ian better and responding instead of reacting has worked brilliantly for me; not so much stress. This brilliant course has changed my life completely for the better, I feel less stress, more positivity and look after myself for a change. I’m more relaxed and calmer from the meditations.”
Stella responded to information about an 8 week mindfulness-based emotional resilience for carers programme which appeared in the Lincolnshire Carers and Young Carers Partnership newsletter. She then met with the course teacher who conducted an orientation and assessment interview to ensure that there were no contra-indications and Stella understood what taking part in the course would involve. Stella also completed a couple activities to assess her baseline levels of mindfulness and self-compassion. Stella was then provided with a Course Pack which was divided into 8 weekly sessions. The learning themes included:
Understanding emotional resilience
Understanding mindfulness and compassion
Mindfulness and neuroscience
Pathways to self-compassion
Using the breath to anchor the mind
The stress reaction cycle
Exploring roles, demands and their impact
Communicating mindfully and mindful negotiation
Taking care of yourself
Making decision with mindfulness
Integrating mindfulness into daily life
To start with Stella found it a challenge to fit in time to do the mindfulness practices and was very conscious of her scattered thinking, how difficult she found it to switch off the continual chatter going on in her head. She also noticed that most of her thoughts were unhelpful – lots of self-criticism and a tendency to ruminate about past events ort worry about the future. As the weeks progressed she found it easier and easier to calm the mind and was pleasantly surprised by this. By Weeks 3 and 4 Stella had started to recognise how she was “bogged down” by life and the impact that this was having on her body, thoughts emotions and behaviour, for example having to get up in the night to change the bedding. She started to look for ways in which she could include activities that gave her pleasure- she remembered she liked listening to pan pipes and brought herself a CD and by the end of week 4 she was pleasantly surprised when one of her children pointed out that she seemed more relaxed.
The start of the second half of the course began by Stella recognising that she was starting to look at her life differently and was increasingly aware of the positive aspects of her life and of the need to take care of herself. No longer did she use respite care to catch up on jobs…instead she used the time to her hair or nails done! By week 7 Stella was aware of being able to respond rather than react to the demands placed upon her , she was taking notice of sensations in her body in order to determine how best to take care of herself.