Why real rest is crucial for carers…

I remember my Dad telling me one day, when I was about 15, that he’d just booked a holiday. To Spain.

Back in 1980, when a holiday for us meant a fortnight in a caravan in Whitby, this was big news!

Photo courtesy ©123RF/convisum

Photo courtesy ©123RF/convisum

But this holiday would have even more surprises in store. What were they? Well…

No ordinary break…

The big difference was – only he and Mum were going. We (the kids) were staying at home – with Aunty Linda.

Yes, you heard it right. We-that is my brother, my sister and me-weren’t going. Bummer.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I really liked Aunty Linda. But Spain? Not even Aunty Linda could beat Spain!

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Good example…

My parents swore by the virtues of their without-the-kids holidays. So they did it each year – a week away in September or October, to Spain, on their own.

Now I do the same.

I’ve just returned from a week’s holiday. Not one of those busy-with-childcare times away from work – great though they are. But a proper, full-on-relaxing break – just the two of us.

My partner and I both work with troubled young people. Our working lives are punctuated with the kinds of information most people only hear about on the news. We love it, but takes its toll.

Taking a break like this has many advantages. These can be summarised in three general areas:

  • Re-boot – Get a proper switch off. When you have responsibility for children, personally and/or professionally, you need to have some part of you focussed on them. You’re always on standby. You can never fully switch off at the plug. Going away-even for a few days or a weekend-means you can.

    Click the pic for info on my little book on self-care!  Photo courtesy of © 123rf/Ion Chiosea (adapted)

  • Re-charge – not only does this kind of time out mean you can relax, relaxing means your batteries get a proper re-charge. You can sleep as long as you need to. Spend your days reading or climbing mountains – whatever you want to do. But only what you want to do. I found that I slept better and for longer. I woke relaxed because there were no obligations waiting for me in the morning.
  • Reflect – only when we get some distance from our normal responsibilities can we properly reflect on them. You don’t have to work at this, it’ll happen naturally. And, when you’re uncluttered with pressing things to attend to, your thoughts will be clearer and the solutions come more easily. I came back with a new clarity on where I needed to make adjustments and on what I wanted to achieve.

This is something we all need – all the more so when we work with troubled young people.

Click for a FREE copy of Jonny’s e-book, “Connecting with Troubled Young People”…

You are the best resource…

Regardless of your professional role, YOU are the key to helping young people. whether you’re a…

  • Residential childcare officer
  • Foster carer
  • Social worker
  • Therapist/counsellor
  • Youth worker
  • Volunteer
  • Kinship carer
  • Youth justice worker
  • Mental health worker
  • Teacher
  • Or whatever…

In these kinds of roles the person is the product. The person is the solution. The person is the difference.

Because this is the case, the person must be rested. The person must be looked after.

Do it for the kids…

OK, so my tongue is ever so slightly in my cheek here… And I know it sounds a bit daft, but if you take a break the kids you work with will benefit.

They’ll benefit because YOU benefit. Go on, try it – take a proper break with no kids. I dare you!…

(p.s. I wrote a little book all about looking after yourself – check it out here.)


  • How might YOU benefit from a proper break. What’s stopping you taking a break without any ties?

Please let me know – join the conversation by leaving a comment below or by clicking here.

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© Jonny Matthew 2014


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • carol

    I enjoy reading your articles. You’re so right about taking holidays. The kind of work we do is very demanding and draining and at the best of times it can be difficult to switch off. It’s important to take yourself off the treadmill (that’s what it feels like sometimes) before you burn yourself out. You soooo need time to recharge your batteries and reflect. When you return to work you feel more calm and less stressed, sadly it doesn’t last long. Just keep saving and thinking about the next holiday. lol

    • jonnymatthew

      Thanks Carol, you’re exactly right. I had a real brush with burnout a couple of years into my sexual abuse focussed work. It was a salutary lesson and one I haven’t forgotten (though I’ve lost sight of it a few times in all the busyness!). Here’s to the next holiday! Thanks for your encouragement! Cheers, J.

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