The daily responsibility of attending to someone else’s needs may mean that your own needs are often neglected. The day to day pressures of being a carer can be tiring and drain both physical and mental energy.
Here are some simple suggestions to help maintain your own wellbeing:
Taking time out
Remember when you had time to meet people, go to the cinema, or do whatever it was you used to enjoy doing? Leisure time is often the first thing that disappears for carers, and the last thing they have time for, and yet it is one of the best stress relievers. If possible try to take some ‘time out’ each day, even if it’s just for twenty minutes. Carers can apply to VOCAL’s Short Breaks Fund for grants to cover short breaks including leisure activities or a series of short weekly breaks.
Talking about your feelings
For some carers, talking to someone about their thoughts and feelings outside of their normal circle of family and friends can be beneficial. VOCAL’s carer counselling service provides a safe space for carers to express their feelings – find out more.
Many carers find that speaking to other carers who understand what they are going through and are in a similar situation beneficial. Carer support groups and peer mentoring are great ways to do this – find out more.
Keep in touch with others
Social isolation can easily creep up on us when we are so focussed on the person we are caring for and feelings of isolation can have a detrimental effect on our self-esteem. Try to keep in touch with friends and family – a phone call will do if you are unable to get out of the house.
Joining a local carer support group can be a good way of getting social contact as well as practical and emotional support. Other carers are often a great source of knowledge and expertise. No matter what you are struggling with there will usually be someone who has been through the same thing and can understand how you feel.
Getting some regular exercise helps our bodies get rid of excess stress energy, otherwise we may find that we are pacing about, tapping our hands and feet. Try swimming, a fitness class or even a short walk. It’s important to do something you actually enjoy or it will become yet another chore.
Most of us need around 7 to 8 hours sleep a night, less as we get older. If your sleep is often disturbed think about having a 5 to 20 minute catnap during the day to recharge your batteries. But remember that a nap of more than 30 minutes can make you feel groggy so don’t sleep too long!
Ask for help
Nobody can manage everything on their own. It is a sign of strength, not failure, to be aware of our own limitations – we all have them. Ask for help and don’t try to struggle on doing everything yourself. You may be surprised who is willing to help!
Think about your diet
If we are giving our bodies plenty of fuel in the form of nourishing food and drink (including fresh fruit and vegetables) and monitoring our caffeine and alcohol intake then generally we find that our ‘engine’ will run better. The healthier we are, the more easily we can cope with the demands of caring.
Remember to breathe!
A simple technique to use when things are getting on top of you is to focus on your breath. Take three slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Practice this next time you are in a queue or on a bus and notice the calming effect it has.