Carers: Coping in Solitude In Dec 2016, Ayesha Nisar Qureshi became a full time carer for her mother after she suffered a right hemispheric ischemic stroke leaving left side of her body completely paralyzed. Ayesha says of caring: "The joys, troubles and tribulations of suddenly taking over the responsibility of a family carer have taught me to respect the strength and resilience of a human spirit. The closer I looked, the more I saw family carers playing a crucial role all over the world." Her personal experience and interest in caring in the event of her mother's stroke brought her to direct her research into exploring how family carers cope and adapt to the caring role. Her PhD study focuses on developing a psychological intervention program to enhance resilience and well-being of carers of stroke survivors. While the current pandemic has drastically altered many aspects of our society, it has created a disturbing reality for those carers who provide unpaid care to family or friends who are elderly, disabled or have a long term health condition. Being in isolation in the midst of the uncertainties caused by COVID-19 increases the labour of caring. Alongside the usual stresses of ensuring that the person you care for is well looked after, the coronavirus outbreak has added additional pressure and feeling of being responsible for keeping the person you care for safe. The challenges posed by coronavirus means that even more strain is being placed on your lives - and you were already going above and beyond to provide care for family and friends. It is not an exaggeration to say that caring is an essential part of the health system, without which our health and social care systems would crumble, whether in a time of crisis or not. Carer’s are responsible for their own well-being, as well as that of the person they care for and the wider community. It is natural that you will be feeling additional pressure at this time. You may find yourself responding, reacting and behaving in ways that are out of character – this is normal and you are not alone! There are several ways which can help to improve the way you are feeling at this time. The following is by no means exhaustive, but provides some suggestions for you to consider: Information overload: Tune out of the news Your brain will eat whatever you feed it. The content of the information we consume or access from our memories is going to give our emotions shape. This means that when we tune into content that is negative, alarming and upsetting, the feelings we experience will also be in that same range. It is important to stay informed, especially with respect to what we need to do to protect our health and the health of the people we care for. However, information overload about the pandemic can lead to emotional smothering. Disrupted routines: Give your daily habits a makeover We say that we are creatures of habit but you may not be aware that entire areas of our brains are dedicated to exactly this task: to routinise the way we do things. It takes some time to build new neural connections that enable us to carry out these routines, but once they are established, they are essentially autonomous. Manage your energy Strike a balance with your energy by being mindful of over- or under-working. Stick with a routine, but also allow yourself to move with a little more ease than usual. It is not necessary to pack every minute with activities. Allow self-compassion and reflection that so often goes to the wayside in times when we feel frantic and hurried. Gratitude The antidote to anxiety is predictable, routine, structure and consistency. Therefore, it is important for people to live and not be paralysed by anxiety. It is important to live authentically in the moment, without holding your breath and waiting for tomorrow. To live authentically in the moment, we must practice gratitude. Gratitude is the human way of acknowledging the good things in life. It fosters adaptive coping mechanisms and allows us to be at peace with the circumstances around us. It may not give us instant relief from pain and stress, but it brings the feeling of control back to us. By acknowledging and appreciating our assets, gratitude gives us the charge of our own lives. As carers you are likely to be making a huge additional contribution to protecting your family, friends and community against Covid-19. You may be at increased risk because of the additional burdens that your role as a carer is demanding of you. You are giving a lot and making many sacrifices. Thank you so much for all you are doing.