Who Cares for the Carer?

At this time of the greatest challenge in living history it’s important to ensure those of you in the frontline are able to do all you can to care for yourselves.

Fight, Flight or Freeze

When there is an ongoing threat we can get stuck in a Survival response often called Fight, Flight or Freeze (FFF) which drains our resources – but surprisingly quick simple techniques give precious moments of respite to enable us to recover equilibrium.

Research indicates that lack of recovery time – i.e. periods of “down-time” and restorative sleep – reduces our ability to be resilient to high levels of demand. Rather than a “true grit” type approach, an attitude of compassion and acceptance of our limitations enhances health and stamina.

This means setting aside some precious, rare, moments to attend to self-care. Despite performing daily – hourly – heroic deeds medical staff are not super-human but have limited resources, and taking moments to refresh is vital to your well-being and capacity to help others.

There may not be time for a full yoga routine at the moment, but it is possible to check-up on yourself and carry out quick regular maintenance, or your body will respond as a car would without oil changes and regular services.

Self-care is not selfish

Self-interest is something most of us were taught was ‘selfish’- yet we are the only one responsible for ourselves and it’s our job to pay attention to our needs.

Self-care is about attending to all aspects of ourselves – physical, emotional, social and spiritual – whenever we possibly can and can de done using quick yet effective techniques to bring about calm and homeostasis.

Neuroscientist Brent Furl describes this as carrying out activities that have “homeostatic value” – involving time for the self, time to breathe more slowly-  not time spent meeting the demands of others, such as replying to emails, texts etc.

Sometimes when you have a few minutes, or even seconds, spend them doing simple things that calm your mind and body rather than further stimulating an already overworked system. No matter how busy you are, everyone has to have some time to themselves, so use it wisely! 

We expect a great deal of our precious body, therefore looking after it and being grateful for all it does for us makes good sense. And the health benefits of gratitude, compassion, acceptance and love are supported by science.

These emotions help everyone to feel calmer and improve their health – and that includes ourselves. We can learn how to reduce the effects of stress, how to be more loving towards ourselves and how to be more accepting of our limitations, just as we can learn any new skill and this is particularly important during this enormous challenge.

In order to support each other and your patients and to do this well we need to first take care of ourselves … there is wisdom in the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.

Help yourselves to manage your precious energy levels by aiming to find moments in each day to carry out self-care, let go of anything that doesn’t require attention, depersonalise other’s unhelpful behaviour and be compassionate about your own limitations, and about your own responses when you are exhausted.  

You are our frontline defence and we thank you and bless you.

Dr Annie Campbell CPsychol, AFBPsS, PhD

Annie is a Chartered Psychologist with a wide range of skills to facilitate change. Her particular interest is the interaction between the mind and the body and she has developed strategies that have helped people in many settings to enhance their confidence, achieve their potential and feel more comfortable in their own skin.



Leave a Reply