Help For Carers: Looking After Yourself As A Carer
With a rapidly ageing population, the pressure on us is becoming ever greater. We are not only expected to raise families but also maintain a career, relationships, social life, and care for elderly family members.
In 2019 there were 8.8 million carers in the UK alone – and this number will continue to rise each year as our ageing population lives longer and longer. Naturally, as we age, our bodies deteriorate and so we encounter more and more physical and mental health issues. 1.3 million carers in the UK provide a huge 50+ hours of care each week, according to Carers UK. Their research also highlights how 72% of carers have suffered ill mental health as a result of caring, and 8 in 10 caring for loved ones say they have felt lonely or socially isolated. This is a staggering number, no doubt made worse by the social distancing enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Caring is physically and mentally exhausting, and it can certainly take a toll on a person,” explains Dr Rafael Euba, Consultant Psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre.
“We understand that looking after yourself as a carer can sometimes take a back seat, but it’s vitally important that you take time to care for your own wellbeing, too. If you’re feeling like you are run down, physically exhausted or mentally unwell, it’s unlikely you’ll be in a very good position to be able to support others. Below, we’ve outlined some practical advice that can really make a difference.”
Charge your batteries
In order to function well you need to charge up your batteries, so to speak. If you become unwell or run down, you’re not able to provide care effectively. When you’re stressed, it can be difficult to get to – and stay – asleep, but it’s intrinsically linked to our mental health. You can read more about this in one of our previous blog posts, where Dr Rafael Euba explains how they are connected and gives tips for sleeping better.
Say yes to help
Are you coping? Many of us feel like we need to do everything ourselves and outwardly, give the impression that we are coping but are actually struggling on the inside. Try not to ignore your emotions and let the pressure build until breaking point. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Friends and other family members might not necessarily be able to help with day-to-day care, but they could help support you in other ways – aiding you with something that you don’t have time for, for example.
Get it all out
Feeling stressed? Anxious? Worn out? Angry? Don’t downplay how you’re feeling. Be honest about your own needs and talk about your emotions. Confiding in another person, whether that’s a friend or family member, about how you feel can help reduce stress, make you feel less isolated and can even offer a new perspective. Some find it difficult to talk openly about their emotions to people they know; if you’d prefer to talk to an impartial specialist in an entirely confidential setting, we can arrange this for you at The London Psychiatry Centre. Therapy can feel very cathartic and help you work through what you’re feeling. If finding time is an issue, we can arrange for a telephone consultation from the comfort of your own home. Simply call our administration team on 020 7580 4224 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or would like to book an appointment.
Find the positives
Try to find positives in each day. It can really be helpful to keep a diary and each day, reflect and write down the things about your day that have been positive. It could be a big life event or something small, like enjoying a particularly delicious coffee or having a nice conversation with a neighbour.
Make time for yourself
Do something you enjoy every single day, no matter how small. When you’re feeling stressed it’s so important to make time for yourself to pursue your own interests. An hour or two a day can go a long way, whether that’s a run, walk, bit or gardening, or losing yourself in a book or film. It’s easy to feel guilty about it but it’s necessary to help maintain your own mental health. If it’s not possible to dedicate an hour or so a day, try to take smaller breaks throughout the day – 10 minutes to make a cup of tea, 15 minutes to get some fresh air. If you need to schedule it in, that’s ok too.
As a private psychiatry centre, we are able to provide gold-standard care for our patients, without the wait. If you, or someone you know, needs support please don’t hesitate to call us and arrange for a consultation.