Recently, I was asked to run a laughter yoga session for a small group of carers.
The women had been whisked away for 48-hours respite to the Gold Coast, all expenses paid.
After 30 minutes of laughter exercises on the beach at Surfers Paradise, I asked them to lie on their backs, eyes closed and push away thoughts of anything but their breath. I then guided them through deep meditative relaxation, willing their worries to melt into the sand supporting their bodies. When the time came to open their eyes and sit up, I was in the company of a very different group of women. Their faces were relaxed and glowing, their eyes were brighter, their voices lighter.
Of course it’s easy to say ‘practise every day’. The reality is most carers will not because of the overwhelming number of things in a day they must attend to before seeing to their own needs.
It’s Carers Week in Australia (16-22 October). In Queensland today 484,400 people will provide unpaid care and support to a family member or friend with a disability, mental health problem, terminal illness, chronic medical condition or frailty.
I’ve just read Carers Australia Queensland’s Quality of Life Audit report (updated 2019) and it is sobering stuff: a litany of failings unchanged in the past 6 years – inflexible working conditions, limited access to flexible education and training and information about ‘how to be’ a carer, lack of respite options. Then there’s the fear of what is next around the corner; and exhaustion. All is not well for the carers who are responsible for 74% of all the care and support provided in Australia, supplementing stretched funded services.
One in 11 Australians will become unpaid carers of a loved one at some point: child, spouse, parent, extended family member or close friend.
I have been one. I well remember what it was like being ‘on call’ 24/7 and feeling totally out of my depth as, over 3 years, Mum became sicker and sicker (and more stubborn and fractious the more frail she became).
At least I had laughter yoga in my life before the grimmest times came. I wasn’t Mary Poppins looking at everything positively positively all the time—not by a long shot: ask my kids and husband!—but I coped better by being able to laugh when I felt there was nothing to laugh about. In those minutes of chuckles, I was healthier and happier and ready to keep going.
Did you know that as a certified laughter yoga teacher I run training workshops on demand as well as laughter yoga sessions tailored to client needs? I also present at conferences — both workshops and icebreaker sessions introducing laughter yoga to participants. This might be just what your carers need… Let’s talk.
(c) Heather Joy aka Heather Grant-Campbell, 2016