Why do I need to look after myself?
Looking after someone can be hugely rewarding, but it can also be extremely challenging. The demands upon you mean that you’re often putting someone else’s needs before your own. You may face frustrating situations which can provoke negative feelings in you, or be plagued by guilt which can be really hard to deal with. These are all very normal experiences for carers.
There is no doubt that caring can be exhausting and your mental health can often bear the brunt of this stress, but there are some steps you can take which may alleviate some of the strain.
It’s important to make sure you don’t let your own physical, mental or emotional health slip. If you have medical appointments for yourself make sure you keep them. If you’re worried about getting away, or postpone appointments because it’s difficult to make arrangements, then do ask for help. (It’s a great idea to let your GPs know you are a carer.) You might find involving friends and family is an option but if not, speak to your GP’s surgery – or to us!
Try not to let your everyday self-care slip… Aim for five portions of fruit or veg a day, try and incorporate some gentle exercise into your routine and, where possible, ensure you get the sleep you need. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it might be worth speaking to your GP.
Talk to others
Remember that you’re not alone in this. There are huge numbers of carers up and down the country and while everyone will have an individual experience, you may find it helpful to connect with those in a similar situation.
It can also be really beneficial to talk to friends and family; it’s very common for carers to feel isolated so try to involve others in your caring where possible. We’ve got carers support groups running every week all over Surrey: take a look at our support groups.
We’ve lots more information on emotional support here.
Take a break
Although it can be very difficult to fit this in, for your own wellbeing and that of the person you’re looking after you need to take a break when you can. Taking a break can take many forms but it’s a crucial part of supporting your mental health. Fifteen minutes with a cup of tea and a crossword can make all the difference to your day.
If you can get outside all the better – lots of research shows the benefit of fresh air and sunshine. Vitamin D in particular helps our brains release chemicals which improve our mood. Hobbies and activities can often fall by the wayside when you’re looking after someone else but if you can schedule time in to do the things you enjoy you’ll really reap the rewards. If you’re doing something you enjoy, chances are you’re quite good at it which in itself can boost your self-esteem and lift your mood.
For longer, more regular breaks you can call our team to find out more, or take a look at our breaks and respite pages.