Looking after yourself can often be the last thing on your mind when you have multiple responsibilities.
If you care for someone with a disability, taking time out for you can bring about feelings of guilt, especially if you are also juggling work or other family commitments.
However, looking after your mental and physical health will improve your overall wellbeing and make it easier to look after others.
In this extract from the Leap in! ebook Future planning: A guide for parents and carers, we take a look at how to care for yourself when you care for someone with a disability.
Health and wellbeing.
Try to incorporate the following four aspects of a healthy lifestyle into your regular routine.
1. Be active.
Try to undertake some physical activity or exercise you enjoy every day. If you find it hard to do a class or join a group, try taking a walk around the block or visit the park with your pet.
2. Eat well.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of skipping meals, snacking or overeating when you are on the go, but your body runs on the fuel it gets from the food you eat.
Takeaway and fast foods are super tempting because they are fast and easy but they’re ineffective at providing for long-term energy needs. The first step to eating well is to be aware of your habits and target any areas you’d like to change. This could be eating a more balanced diet or reducing processed foods, sugar or alcohol.
3. Get enough sleep.
It’s easy to underestimate how important getting a good night’s sleep is for energy and maintaining good health.
Take the time to relax before bed (a hot shower, a cup of herbal tea, simple stretching), ensure your room is the right temperature and minimise screen time before bed.
4. Get outside.
Research shows that being in nature can reduce stress and fear, decrease blood pressure and lift your spirits. Spend time in a green space (a park or a community garden), go for a walk on the beach or treat yourself to a take-away coffee.
We don’t often think of mental health as something we need to manage but looking after our mind is as important as eating healthy food and getting enough sleep. Caring for someone can be stressful and emotionally demanding which makes it even more important to look after your own emotional health.
Here are some useful mental health strategies:
- Build a support network of caring family and friends you can talk to and connect with.
- Join an online group of like-minded people or other carers such as a Facebook group.
- Connect with others who are going through the same thing via a community support group.
- Practice mindfulness or meditation. Free apps such as Smiling Mind, Calm and Headspace offer short exercises you can do anywhere, at anytime.
- Seek professional help. Being able to turn to a professional counsellor or psychologist can really make a difference when you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or depressed. They can help reduce overwhelm by providing you with tools to improve your ability to cope with difficult situations.
Taking a break from caring is key to looking after yourself and ensuring you can maintain a caring role for the long-term.
Planned breaks or respite can be for a few hours, a day, one night, a weekend or longer. Respite care is covered under Short term accommodation and assistance (incl Respite) in the Assistance with Daily Life budget.
Respite benefits everyone.
- Reduces stress for you and your family
- Relieves feelings of frustration and exhaustion
- Allows you time to interact with family, friends and the community
- Improves the relationship between you and the person you are caring for
- Allows the person you are caring for to interact with other people.
For more information, check out our other article on Respite care and the NDIS: Everything you need to know.
Be kind to yourself.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself and remember that it is ok to ask for help if you need it.
The information provided here is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial or legal advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any of this information, you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial/legal situation and needs.