It’s a question not often asked – ‘Who cares for the carer?’
When we talk about mental health, we tend to focus on the individual themselves. But very often when someone is in crisis or needing help there is a parent, guardian, sister, brother, friend and or work colleague who is there to support them. The ripple effect is wide reaching.
I know from personal experience that it’s important that carers take care of themselves. It’s easy to become drained and exhausted if we don’t take time to look after ourselves.
Have you ever been on a plane and listened to the safety talk? They advise people traveling with children to make sure that, in an emergency they put their oxygen mask on first. This is to make sure that they have their air to breathe so that they can then help their children. I believe the same should apply when you are a carer, supporting someone with their mental health. We should try to ensure that we keep our ‘oxygen’ levels as high as possible which, trust me, can be really hard.
The effect on your mental health
Watching those that we love and care for struggle can stir up a lot of emotions; fear, anger, frustration, panic or sometimes just a feeling of not knowing what to do. These are incredibly challenging times for anyone trying to access mental health services and if you are trying to help someone through this process you too can easily be drained.
It’s important to try and make time for you, I know it’s not easy. I always used to say “oh I’m fine, I’ve got enough energy for both of us.”
But as time went on, I started to notice my sleep pattern was affected. I was not getting out for my daily walks as I wanted to be ‘on standby’ if needed and the comfort eating had crept back in. Having been down this path before with my own mental health, I was able to spot the red flags and take notice.
Five Ways to Wellbeing
For me to be able to advocate and support those I love, I know I need to take care of myself. As the saying goes “no one can drink from an empty cup”. The five ways to wellbeing are my ‘go to’ list to check in with myself when I feel overwhelmed, frustrated and burnt out by the all-consuming effect that mental health can have.
- Firstly, take notice of what is happening right now. Take some time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you. I pop out into my garden and feed the birds and keep myself in the here and now.
- Secondly, get active, and that doesn’t mean you need to go for a 5k run. It can mean doing some breathing exercises, or taking 10 minutes at lunch to walk around the block.
- Next for me is learn, knowledge is power. Do some research to understand what your loved one, friend, or colleague may be going through. This can, in turn, help you to feel more empowered to support them to access the right professional services.
- I know asking you to give back more may seem counterproductive, but volunteering for a charity, especially one that is supporting your loved one, can help you to feel that you are making a difference. It certainly has helped me to feel that I can be a part, even if in a very small way, of a solution by raising funds for Dorset Mind.
- Finally connect – we all know that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing. But I would go step further and encourage people to connect with others that have similar experiences. For example, Dorset Mind deliver a group especially for Carers – Carers in Mind. Knowing that you’re not alone and having a confidential space where you can talk openly without judgement can be key to your wellbeing.
For me personally, my absolute ‘go to’ release is going into my kitchen and asking my smart speaker to play my favourite 80’s disco track. I have a little dance in my kitchen and five minutes of utter joy!
Our guest blogger:
Huge thanks to our Ambassador Sarah for her blog detailing her experience and tips for managing wellbeing. Sarah is passionate about sharing her experience to help others and uses her role with us to do so.
Support for carers
Group Support can help support stress – benefit from sharing your experience and learning from others in a safe, non-judgmental space. Our Carers in Mind group runs on the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month, currently via Zoom.