West London Mission

Team building and self-care under lockdown with Carole Caplin

By: Jamie Hickling, Service Manager at WLM

June 2020

These really are interesting times and we’re all being tested and taken into new ways of working that were unthinkable back in January. Back when Zoom was a song from the Fat Larry Band and Corona was a cold Mexican beer. Managing a team in flux, scattered outside of our comfort zones of the ‘professional in the workplace’, and immediately back into our previously comfortable (and now overcrowded, for some) homes to work remotely with people who are also feeling the unique stress that is life in lockdown. The veterans we work with have a wealth of skills when it comes to uprooting, changing living patterns, deciphering government edicts and relating to nearest and dearest over video calls and long distances. We’ve a lot to learn from them.

One ray of sunshine during this time has been a weekly session with Carole Caplin of Cool Health. Carole has volunteered her time and expertise with us at Burgess Park House for a few years now via the Healing Hands Network. She offers bespoke programmes on a 1:1 basis for our residents. Between sessions, her warmth and openness often led to conversations about how we as staff need to consider our wellbeing with equal importance to the energy we devote to others. I know this makes sense in theory, but the practice until now has eluded me. I don’t think I’m alone in this, as a sector we are very quick to dole out advice, whilst knocking back wine on Friday to deal with a stressful week. For all of the exercise groups and gym memberships I’ve had over the years (and there have been plenty), their claims of a holistic approach are laughable.

The premise was simple. Carole offered to meet with the whole team for an hour a week on Zoom, on a voluntary basis to improve how we are dealing with lockdown. The first session was really light touch, billed as ‘breathing and stretching’. Carole’s actual methods are based on a multifaceted approach based in corrective exercise, but she has the knack of drip feeding the science in way we can all grasp, so breathing it was.

The team brought a great curiosity to the first session where we discussed the principles of using a trigger ball to ease out muscles. It seems brilliant to look back at the creativity we had to use in sourcing something of a vague ball shape. I spent the first week with a lemon and a lime, in week two I graduated to a potato. We’ve had rolling pins and tennis balls. The communal shouts of pain via zoom are amazing to reflect on. Real team bonding.

As the weeks have gone by, we have seamlessly moved into a wider range of movements especially with some contraction exercises. Carole offered 1:1 sessions to each of us to explore individual niggles, injuries and restrictions. I haven’t crossed my legs since I was about 5 and assumed I never would again, now it seems like a possibility with practice. We’ve been building up core muscles and the increased awareness of mobility and range means I’m no longer a visitor in my own body.

The joy of being ‘instructed’ via Zoom is minor corrections to posture can be given without feeling like being singled out. Carole can see us all but we are focusing on our own positions as they are described. The screen becomes a mirror to position and not vanity. As other Zoom meetings become trite this one never fails to give a chuckle. We’ve had someone’s screen freeze mid plank so we thought she was wonder woman, my lemon burst and juice ran down my back, agonising huffing and puffing gave way to each week making progress. Kids have photobombed, dogs have barked approval, but we all end the sessions feeling great. If I had asked the team back in January if we should we do a weekly exercise class to build team morale I would probably have had to duck. But now, in lockdown madness, this all makes sense and the team are incredibly grateful to Carole for her time and attention.

For more on WLM visit https://www.wlm.org.uk/