Mental Health Awareness Week: looking after your mental wellbeing as a carer
It’s Mental Health Awareness week 10th – 16th of May, and this year’s theme is nature. It’s no surprise that when looking after someone else, often our own mental health gets put on the back burner, and slowly we begin to prioritise other things over our own wellbeing.
You might also find that the things that you would want to do, or things that would help your wellbeing are difficult to fit in around your caring responsibilities.
You might wish you had free time just for yourself and feel like no one understands what’s going on for you. Perhaps, you feel guilty for finding caring more difficult then you want to admit. All these feelings are valid. It’s okay to be honest about them. Caring can be rewarding, but a difficult and tiring job.
Sometimes you can get stuck in the frame of mind of, ‘I don’t have the time or the space to put me first or to think about my mental health’. This can mean you can end up staying in that all-or-nothing mind-set, thinking that because you can’t do all that you want you to do there is no point doing any at all that’s just for yourself.
Remind yourself: any self-care is worth it for you and your wellbeing, and the person you look after. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Supporting your mental health when you don’t have much time
- 10 minute rule: Make sure you make at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted relaxation a day. Make that time count and do something just for you. Even just having your favourite drink, listening to a podcast or a song, or going for a walk.
- Write self-care in the schedule as a priority. If we don’t commit to self-care, it can get pushed down the to-do list, if it’s scheduled in we are more likely to make the time for it.
- Connect with others. If you find it hard to fit things in, try texting regularly or writing email updates or letters to someone you want to keep in contact with. If it’s easier, set a regular time when you catch up with particular people. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to you can try our Talk and Support befriending service, offering regular, informal chats with one of our friendly volunteers. To sign up email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0800 181 4118.
- Think about what you listen to. Podcasts, music or the radio can all be something that can help you feel connected to others and boast your mood, even if you are doing others things. So put them on in the background when you’re around the house. We have a handy blog with suggestions.
- Meal planning. Planning your meals for the week ahead of time, can make shopping easier, but also means you can schedule in meals you like and will look forward to.
- Put 5 minutes aside to write or reflect. At the end of the day, think about or write down things that are on your mind. This is space to vent frustrations but also reflect on what moments you enjoyed through the day.
- Go outside. If you have been in all day, walk round the block, pop out in the garden or run an errand. Taking in some fresh air and vitamin D can help improve your wellbeing.
Supporting your mental health when you’re caring for someone with poor mental health
It can difficult to look after your own wellbeing if you’re caring for someone who is mentally unwell. It can become the focus and the priority because you want to help them, but it can put a strain on your mental health as a carer.
Mind have created some useful ideas on their website for ways you can look after your own mental wellbeing when caring for someone who is mentally ill.
Support lines are not just for the person you’re caring for but for you as a carer. You don’t have to feel suicidal or at crisis point to contact Samaritans or 111. They are there to advise and support you as well as who you care for and are available for free 24/7.
Call Samaritans on 116 123
Text Shout on 85258
However you’re feeling – you are not alone.
If you would like more information, advice or guidance on your caring role and the support available to you, phone us on 0800 181 4118, or email us at email@example.com