Caring for a loved one is, without a doubt, a kind and selfless act. Not only does it give another a better quality of life, it may even extend their longevity.
But whilst caring, your altruism could cost you more than your time and energy, because around 70% of carers fall either mentally or physically unwell – this included myself!
During my time out recovering, I realised I needed to make changes so as not only to survive my caring role, but also to regain my health and start enjoying life again.
So how can you overcome the stress of caring, to become more resilient and safeguard your own health?
1. Check in with yourself
As a carer, you’re often so busy being there for everyone else that you ignore your own health. And during the pandemic, this is ever more so whilst trying to talk to your GP, let alone arrange a hospital appointment – all time-consuming tasks that take even more of your precious energy and time.
You may even be suppressing your emotions, as you’re so busy tending to and protecting those around you who are almost certainly classed currently as ‘high risk’ for coronavirus. The pressure can build up, bit by bit, and go unnoticed until crisis strikes.
Do you have a good friend or family member you could check in with for a short time, once a week? This can be either face-to-face (socially distancing of course!), over the phone or via Skype. Or you could try journaling – writing down your feelings and the issues you’re experiencing. Observing what is actually happening can help lead you to making better choices for yourself, as well as for your loved ones.
2. Take a break
If you see each day as a list of chores – just doing this, just doing that – you’ll end up simply falling into bed exhausted!
Even though times are ever more challenging, you still need to have regular breaks, as well as have quality time. You’re not just here for a loved one, you are also here for you!
Try taking a short break between each chore, even if it’s 10 minutes. This will help you pace the day. You could jot down a list of things you enjoy doing during these breaks, such as reading a magazine, having a kip, or calling a good friend for a chat. You can then pick from your ‘break menu’, when you stop for a rest.
3. Focus on the good stuff
There is often a lot to deal with and carers are often in survival mode – focusing on the issues, to ensure everything and everyone is okay – but this does not make for an enjoyable life.
What are you happy and thankful for in your life? It may just be a hot shower that morning, or your comfy bed. It could be having loving and kind friends or patting your pet. If I’d had a bad day, I would climb into bed and think of five things I was grateful for that day. It always put a smile on my face and put me in a better state of mind before sleep.
Just remember to be kind to yourself and recognise all that you do. You really are amazing, being there for loved ones. Make sure you are also there for you!