Looking After Your Mental Health As A Carer
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Carers, it's time to take a step back and check in on your own health!
This year we rally behind the catch cry,
"Look after your mental health, Australia."
... and today we're talking about the mental health of some of the most dependable and resilient Australians we know: our carers.
Let's look at the signs of carer stress in aged care and disability care, and measures to combat this stress:
Common signs of carer stress
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried.
- Feeling tired most of the time.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Losing or gaining weight.
- Being easily irritable.
- Dropping out of the interests that you once enjoyed.
- Feeling unmotivated, not completing tasks and doubting your abilities.
- Feeling sad.
- Turning to alcohol to cope.
Without doubt, the carer's road can be a long one, with little or no light at the end of the tunnel. And as mentioned in a prior blog, Overcoming The Guilt Felt As A Carer, I firmly believe that if you do not take care of your own health and wellbeing, you won't be able to care for anyone in the long term.
Prolonged giving of care can overwhelm the most resilient of us and see the carer succumb to depression or anxiety and physical health problems. This has been confirmed by an academic study that found 18% of carers of people living with dementia die before their parent.
Com Mental Health Day and Week, now is the time to put in place some strategies to help you manage your stress.
Stress management strategies for carers
- Share the load. List all your care duties and identify the ones that can be shared on a regular basis with a 'care team', be they relatives, friends or paid carers. Draw up a structured weekly care plan. Remember, your loved one would like you to have a life of your own.
- Bring balance to your emotions. You may feel guilt in sharing the load and anger in life having taken this turn. Accept these emotions, talk about them with a trusted friend, relative or counsellor, and shed the tears. This will help you let go of the pain.
- Remain active. Make sure you take those regular walks; sign up and commit to classes; and/or join a group exercise activity.
- Consume well. Eat a balanced diet and reduce your consumption of alcohol, caffeine and sugar.
- Sleep well. Keep to regular hours of sleep.
- Take time out. Take some time out for yourself and get back into one of those activities you enjoy, be it reading, gardening, cooking, music, star gazing, writing, crosswords, Scrabble, Bridge... the list goes on! Share the activity and search for a club.
- Reach out for support. Call up friends and relatives who are supportive, and do this on a regular basis.
- Get professional help. Seek the professional advice of a psychologist or counsellor to help you adopt strategies aimed at looking after yourself. It is actually a sign of strength to do this.
Some of these strategies will resonate, some will not. I suggest writing them down, putting the list by your bedside, and checking-in on your progress each week.
Accept that making these changes may be hard. The concept of 'looking after yourself' or 'taking care' can be difficult for those amongst us with high levels of empathy and those born to care for others.
At any time in the care journey, I encourage you to contact me, Danielle Robertson, to discuss how you can share the load with others through a structured care plan, and look after yourself. Get in touch here and let's start caring about the carer too: