If you’re caring for a loved one, it’s understandable that your own wellbeing can be forgotten; your mental health can start to suffer, and the words, ‘self-care’ are just that – words. You might start to notice that when you speak to friends or family members they ask how the person you’re caring for is, but don’t often ask how you are…and that can start to take its toll after a while.
If you’re currently fulfilling a caring role for a loved one, Care In Kent have put together a guide on how to look after yourself and where you can get support if you need it.
There are several challenges you may face as a carer; it’s a demanding job after all, and it’s no surprise that you feel overwhelmed sometimes.
If you are caring for a loved one you might feel:
Stressed Or Worried
It’ll come as no surprise to learn that constantly tending to the needs of someone you love who is ill or vulnerable can leave you feeling stressed and worried. As well as constantly thinking about the impact their illness is having on your life as well as theirs, there’s the never ending list of duties that your role entails consuming your thoughts.
Because of the need to constantly be ‘on’, a lot of carers find that it’s hard to ever switch off. This can lead to mood swings, trouble sleeping, and changes in eating habits which, over a period of time can end up having a negative impact on your mental health.
It’s not uncommon for carers to feel guilty for taking even one second for themselves, and as a result hobbies, friends and interests can end up falling by the wayside. Feeling that your life as a carer is so different to other people’s can leave you thinking that people don’t understand you, which can lead to you feeling lonely or isolated.
Angry Or Frustrated
Anger and frustration aren’t pleasant emotions to feel at the best of times, but to feel them as a result of caring for someone that you love can make you feel horribly guilty – especially if you end up directing those feelings at the person you’re caring for. You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if you feel like this. It’s only natural that there’s going to be an element of it though; you might feel like you had no choice in becoming a carer or that you’ve had to put your own life on hold.
A knock-on effect of all of these challenges is the feelings of low self-esteem that can come from feeling that you yourself are not worthy of care and attention. Because you spend all your time focused on the person you are caring for, you might start to feel like you’re missing out on having a ‘normal’ life, and start to find it hard to interact socially with others.
Learning To Look After Yourself
Being a carer involves focusing on someone else’s needs before your own – A LOT – and so it can feel unnatural, maybe even selfish, to think about yourself and your own needs and wants. However, to avoid physical and mental health problems, it’s important to look after yourself too. If you are well then you’ll be able to provide good care and support for longer without getting overwhelmed; so the person you are caring for will benefit from your self-care just as much as you will.
Steps you can take to be the best possible carer you can be and to avoid burning out are:
Eating well, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise are things we should all be doing – but when you’re devoting so much time and physical and emotional energy to looking after another person, then it’s even more important. The benefits of regularly eating nutritious food are obvious and well-documented, and getting enough sleep will help you cope with the day-to-day challenges faced by someone in a caring role and stave off stress and depression. Regular physical activity – even if it’s just a short walk – will help you to clear your head and give you a boost of feel-good hormones.
Share Your Feelings
Having someone to talk to about your feelings, especially if you find yourself struggling to cope is important for your mental health. Turn to someone you trust – a friend or family member – for support when you need it. Just having someone to vent to if you are feeling frustrated or like you’re not doing a good job can help you to put things into perspective and help you to ‘reset’ and start afresh.
Any further questions about coping as a carer please don’t hesitate to contact us here at Care In Kent.