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What’s to laugh about in Carers Week?

Stock image. Illustrative only, Mature woman hugging her old mother.

It’s Carers Week in Australia but how many of Queensland’s estimated 474,000 unpaid family carers will have time to even notice?

Not many if you take to heart Carers Queensland’s annual Quality of Life Audit report for 2019.

In the 7 days prior to completing Carers Queensland’s survey, 86% of respondents had provided more than 36 hours of care and support in the week. For 34% of those, they had been on 24/7 care duty without relief of respite.

Deloitte Access Economics says the replacement value of this unpaid care in Queensland is around $10.2 billion per year.

But let’s not dwell on dollar values. What about quality of life?

Queensland’s Quality of Life Audit indicates carers, on average, get a mere 26 minutes ‘me time’ each day: 24% struggle to find an hour to themselves in the course of a full week. Fewer than half had managed a holiday or weekend away in the past two years.

Catching up with friends for chat and a cuppa are things they dream of.

Their social isolation–and their own health–is jeopardised, as the audit also tells.

Carers are tough. They have to be. They do without, they put the person they love first (and often – as the report indicates – the person they are caring for is the one resisting others’ help, assigning the carer to their solitary duty). They go without sleep, may eat poorly and often carry on despite physical and psychological issues of their own. They are also only human!

I am so very thankful I already practised laughter exercises for wellbeing and knew how to tap into my body’s ‘happys’ with a hearty ho-ho-ha-ha-ha—not that it always got me over the line!—when I was a carer.

Laughter for wellbeing — Laughter Yoga in its purest form — has nothing to do with humour or comedy and everything to do with harnessing the action of laughter as an exercise, integrating it with the calming restorative breaths of yoga. It’s playful. You don’t need to be in the mood. You don’t need to have a  reason to laugh. Indeed, life can be the absolute pits. Yet laughter as an exercise, sustained heartily even for just 10 minutes, can lift spirits and begin to make physiological changes for the better.

To the carers reading this—and the survey confirms social media is a common form of winding down—please take a look at an earlier blog about laughter exercises on your own.

If you know someone who is a carer, please, pop around with a smile, and a readiness to help whatever way you can ( a home-cooked nutritious meal won’t go astray!). Let them know they are not alone.

(c) Heather Joy Campbell 2017

Founder of The Happydemic, Heather Joy Campbell is a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher and Laughter Ambassador of Laughter Yoga International. Based in Brisbane, Australia, she’s also spent time as a carer. Now, Heather Joy delivers professional laughter wellbeing workshops, seminars and laughter leader training across Queensland and runs a weekly suburban laughter club as a community give-back.