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The Foster Carer Wellbeing Diary

Finding Balance & Making Positive Changes

Background

Matt

Hello! I’m Matt.

I’m a Compass foster carer from the South. I’m father to 3 beautiful grown-up daughters, and married to my wonderful wife (and partner in crime) Dawn. As a foster carer myself, I know how challenging it can be to find time for yourself.

Fortunately, I have 29 years experience delivering Health and Fitness training from my time in the army. Following my retirement, I’m now looking to share my knowledge and expertise with my fellow foster carers.

I hope that the information and advice shared in these monthly blogs will encourage foster carers to make positive changes and, most importantly, take some time to care for themselves.

Stay tuned!

How balanced and mindful are you in your daily life?

Are you someone that has routine applied to everything you do? Or are you, like most of the population, a little chaotic and reactive to whatever the day throws at you?

One of the simplest ways to look at living a healthy and balanced life is to firstly accept that we can’t always control every aspect of our lives. It’s important to understand that there are multiple external factors that affect our routine and choices.

As foster carers we can spend the majority of our time looking after the needs and emotions of the young people we care for. It can be very easy to forget to look after ourselves or take time for self-care and our own emotions.

But it is just as important for us to take time for ourselves! After all, if we find ourselves in poor health or mentally burnt out, our ability to fully care for the young people around us is reduced.

As a father to 3 young women, I have my hands full at times. Nevertheless, I have always wished to be a positive role model for them (harder at times than I care to admit). Part of this also means living the words I preach!

I am very blessed that they are all very much aware of their nutrition, health and how to take care of themselves properly. They not only inspire me to be better as a parent, but most importantly, they have become fantastic role models for the young foster child we have living with us.

A Quick Honesty Exercise
Mum and daughter pick autumnal leaves from a tree

For this blog, I’d like to begin by exploring the idea of Balance and Moderation.  But, as I mentioned in my previous blog, Setting Yourself Up For Success, we have to start with being honest with ourselves.

Find 5 minutes to yourself and look in the mirror. This may feel strange at first, but bear with me!  Now, take a moment and tell yourself 5 things you know you have control of – things that you class as your ‘positive’ habits.  As an example:

  • Do you eat enough fruit and veg each day?
  • Do you undertake some form of daily physical activity (Walking, Running, Gym, Cycling)?
  • Do you get enough sleep?

Now, think of 5 things you feel you could improve. These might be things that you keep putting off until tomorrow (remember tomorrow will have its own challenges!).

Look at yourself and say the words to yourself.  Examples are:

  • I eat too much chocolate, sweets, or cake.
  • I drive everywhere – even to the shop at the end of the street.
  • I have 3 sugars in every cup of tea.

These two lists both tell us something different about the daily choices we make.

The first list is one that we can give ourselves a high five in the mirror for, things we are already in control of. Theses habits are proof that we can succeed.

The second list might be more difficult to accept. It can be hard to admit we have negatives habits and excuses as to why the person in the mirror isn’t all that we would like them to be.  But this doesn’t mean they can’t be!

The 3 Factors of Change

Perfection isn’t our goal here, nor is it achievable. But what we can do is try to be the very best version of ourselves. Each step we take, and each little change makes a difference.

One thing I have learnt of my many years of supporting change in people is that real change comes from 3 key factors:

  • Accepting change needs to happen
  • Setting the right and honest goals for what we want change to be
  • Making small and consistent changes

It can be easy to set ourselves too much change too soon.  I recommend trying to think about building a pyramid – the blocks of change and choices we make create the wide and strong base for our journey. As the layers are added, the pyramid rises towards the final block: toward success and real long-term change in our lives.

If we just stack the blocks like a tower, it can be all too easy for the wind of excuses or shaking of a bad day to topple the tower.  (This is classed as a lapse or relapse; we will discuss these and coping mechanisms along with goals in a later blog.)

Now, it’s important to note that moderation is key. We can’t only focus on the negatives and restrictions we have placed on ourselves.

Cutting out all of the things we enjoy (such as ‘forbidden foods’ or no more TV in the evenings) will only set us up for failure in the long term.  We must allow ourselves to enjoy some of these things, embrace them and accept that with hard work and commitment comes reward.

So don’t be too hard on yourselves. Have a little of your vice (maybe chocolate, glass of wine, etc) but try to use this as a reward for being good in your day.

Finding Balance: An Example

It’s the young person in your care’s birthday. You have put on a fantastic spread of sausage rolls, pineapple and cheese sticks, crisps and of course – the birthday cake. Your first instinct might be to restrict yourself here or cut yourself off from enjoying this experience fully. Don’t!

Allow yourself to be part of the moment. Enjoy the food along with the children and other guests. Balance can be achieved by either later in the day taking an extended walk with the dog, or possibly just ensuring breakfast and lunch that day were healthy choices

Knowing Where to Start

They are well recognised as being the areas that individuals can control and importantly make small and manageable changes too that will very quickly make you feel healthier and positive about yourself.

We will discuss each of these in more detail in next month’s blog, looking at how you might fit them into your lives. We’ll explore different ways to make sure you are getting the right nutrition, how to prepare and set yoursel up for a good night’s sleep and, finally, options for exercise that might work for you.

In the meantime, try to consider these areas and how much time you dedicate to each of them in your day-to-day life.

But most importantly, try not to be too hard on yourselves when looking in the mirror!

Remember you are doing an amazing job looking after the needs of a young person whose life is already benefitting from the care and support you are giving them.

I am sure many of you already have plenty balance in their lives. Some of you maybe need a little fine tuning and others may be feeling there is a very long list of things they would like to change. As I started this blog, I mentioned how honesty in our current situation is a key part of any journey to change.

We are all unique, in person and situation – the challenges we face are varied and complicated. You are already one step ahead if you have managed to get to the end of this blog!

Thanks for reading. I look forward to sharing with you all again next month.