Looking after yourself

Everybody needs a break sometimes. Taking time to rest and recuperate can be extremely beneficial and can even help you to provide better care. But we also recognise this often isn’t easy, and at times not possible. Based on our Embracing Carers® work with family (unpaid) carers and carer advocacy groups around the world we have pulled together a few tips on how you can help to look after yourself.

Give yourself some ‘me’ time

Your mental and physical health is important not only for the loved ones you care for, but especially for yourself. Many feel they want to appear strong and keep things to themselves, but you shouldn’t feel concerned about showing that you are human and that you too need some help and support. Besides when you are healthy and happy you will be able to provide care to your best ability, which we know is something many are concerned about.

Coffee and book on table

Every Carer needs their own personal time to rest and recharge, because at the end of the day your well-being deserves attention too. Try to set aside some time for yourself each day to relax, reflect and recharge. However, we recognise that sometimes there simply isn’t enough time in the day. Look for the “in-between moments” to take a moment for yourself, even if it’s only five minutes – these micro-breaks are just as valuable to your health and mental well-being.

More importantly, don’t feel guilty when you take some time for yourself! “My resolutions for the new year are to worry less and say goodbye to guilt,” says Embracing Carers® Ambassador Denise Brown. “Carrying around those negative feelings uses up precious time and energy that I could be using to care for my family, my network of fellow caregivers, and myself!”

If you need time why not reach out to your support network and ask if they can take on one of your tasks to free up some time for yourself. It can be difficult to make that ask, and some carers even feel that they are neglecting their responsibilities, but pushing yourself beyond your limits will only lead to burnout. At the end of the day, you are a person outside of your caregiving responsibilites, and that person deserves time and recognition.

Get active to support your mental and physical well-being

We know that having good mental and physical health as a carer is key to help you to perform a multitude of caregiving duties. It is easier said than done, but you may need to ask for help to ensure you are in the best health and don’t let yourself get to breaking point.

dumbbell icon

Physical activity is a great way to de-stress and take a moment to breathe. You can try to go to a gym, go on a long walk or bicycle ride, or any other physical activity you enjoy at least once a week to create a space where caring for yourself is a focus.

meditate icon

If it is hard to find the time, consider a ten-minute yoga routine on your smartphone or meditate with your headphones on while sitting in the doctors waiting room – an excellent “in-between moment” to use to your advantage.

It might not seem like much, but even small amounts of physical activity can be important in reducing stress. You don’t need to run a marathon, but take that short walk to the postbox or around the block to get a few minutes of fresh air.

Woman doing a squat
woman hugging a man

You are human too

While you are likely a pro at navigating healthcare spaces, many carers report putting off their own health care appointments. Treat your own health with the same respect and love you treat that of your loved ones. If you can, try to schedule your appointments while scheduling those for the person you are caring for and don’t ignore signs and symptoms. You are human too and these warning signals should be addressed quickly. Sometimes bundling tasks can help work as a reminder and habit builder.

When it comes to your mental health, know that you are not alone in your feelings. While caregiving is immensely rewarding and meaningful to many carers, it is also time consuming, emotionally difficult, and at times isolating. Do not be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional, even if you feel like you can cope on your own. Do not wait until you are in crisis to reach out – much like with physical health, preventative measures are key in maintaining your health and well-being. There is nothing weak or shameful about needing help, and looking after your mental health is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a carer. With modern technology it is easier than ever to find virtual programs and consultations that can help fit within your busy schedule.

Adrienne Henderson

Feeling isolated

woman on phone

Change the way you use social media

While sitting in the doctors waiting room, in queues or find ourselves with some miracle free time, we often scroll through our social media channels to kill some time. And while these picture-perfect ‘best life’ snapshots and moments in time provide escapism, they show a distorted reality and not the real truth and we tend to end up comparing ourselves to others, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Stop doom scrolling!

Instead, as you will likely be aware, social media can be a great place to find helpful resources, connect with others who have similar stories, experiences and inspirations we sometimes need. Next time you go through your socials think about how these posts really make you feel. And if they are not comforting you, supporting you or adding value to your life – unfollow them.

Use your feeds as a safe space and if there are some people who you are friends with or follow which are making you feel negative thoughts, but you just can’t bear to part with, there is a simple solution: Mute them. All social feeds feature the mute option for both posts and stories. Keep it simple and a positive space for you to escape to.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

This is a tough one. Asking for help can be hard and may make you feel like you are “failing”. Asking for and taking up the offer of help is not a weakness – it’s actually a strength.

“Admitting that we need help as caregivers can be hard, because we don’t want to feel like we’re in over our heads,” says Embracing Carers® Ambassador Jon Strum “But trying to do it all yourself will quickly lead to burnout. If i could offer one piece of advice for caregivers in the new year, it would be this: learn how to ask for the help you need and learn how to be comfortable with accepting it.”

woman with coffee

GL-NONPR-00306 [September 2022]

To top