Caring for Carers

It’s normal to put your own needs and feelings aside while caring for someone who’s going through mental health difficulties. This can be fine for a short time but it’s important to take care of yourself especially as time goes by.

Dealing with your feelings

You might feel stressed, angry, guilty, lonely or sad when caring for someone. The key thing to understand is there’s no right way to feel. Everyone is different. Feelings come and go. And that’s absolutely fine.

Give yourself time to think your feelings through. Talk with someone you trust if your feelings get in the way of your daily life or last longer than usual. Your doctor or other mental health professional may also be able to help.

5 things that might help

1. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes when overwhelmed, tired or when we have a lot on our minds. We’re human.

2. It's okay to show your feelings when you’re sad or upset. Cry or express your feelings your way. You don't have to pretend to be cheerful.

3. Focus on things that are really worth your time and energy. Let small things go for now.  An un-dusted room is rarely fatal.

4. Don’t be harsh on yourself. Whatever you’re doing, it’s the best you can do right now. Whatever you did, it was the best you could do then.

5. Spend time alone to think about your feelings. You need your own time and space to make sense of things.

Going public

Some people find it helps to tell others that they’re caring for someone with mental health difficulties. Others don’t want anyone to know. It’s really up to you who you tell, if you tell and when.

Good reasons for sharing with others include how supportive some people can be, that it might take the pressure off your mind and that it might stop people putting pressure on your loved one.

Caring for yourself

Do something for yourself each day. It doesn't matter how small it is. The healthier you are, the better you will be at caring.

Find enjoyable things you can do for yourself. You could watch TV, call a friend, work on a hobby - anything that you like.

Be active. Even light exercise such as walking, stretching, playing with the kids, gardening or dancing can make you feel less tired.

Make sure you don’t miss out on your regular health check-ups or skip medication that you should be taking.

Stay connected with your friends. Are there places you can meet people close to you? Can you chat or get support by phone or email?

Give yourself a break. Ask friends or family members to pitch in. Take time to rest.

Join a carer support group. You’re not alone. Many other people are dealing with similar situations and can have helpful advice.

What does it mean?

Mental health difficulties may cause you to look at life in new ways. What’s the purpose of life? Why has mental illness come into your life and why can’t things be like they were before?

Some people turn toward their spiritual beliefs. Others turn away from them. It is common to question your faith during this time. For some, looking for meaning is a way to cope.

Your relationship

Nearly all carers and their partners feel more stress than usual in their relationship caused by the many decisions and changes. Some couples find that their bonds get stronger during mental illness treatment. Others find they get weaker.

Helping each other

Talk about how each of you feels. How are you each managing to cope? When something is stressing both of you discuss the choices you could make together to reduce the stress.

Make time to focus on things besides mental illness. Don’t let it take over your lives. It’s important, it may be urgent but it’s not everything.

Talk with your partner if you find that your sex life has changed. Tiredness and stress can affect physical relationships but they are not permanent. It’s important to be honest and talk things through.

Unwanted help   

Sometimes, you get offers of help that you really don’t need.

How do you turn the offer down without causing offence? Thank the person for their concern and tell them you’re taking steps to help your family and you’ll let them know if you need anything.