This week we’re shining a light on the role that carers play in aged care and disability support and the strategies they can use to reduce the impact of daily stress with self-care.
For the 856,000 primary carers around Australia who spend a lot of their time looking after a loved one, it can be easy to overlook steps to actively engage in self-care.
Self-care is a term that includes any intentional actions you take towards caring for your own physical, mental and emotional health. That might sound complicated, but self-care is often quite simple, and need not take up a lot of time, effort or money.
The thing is, self-care is really important because evidence shows caring can have an impact on both physical and emotional health leading to things like fatigue, frustration anxiety and even depression, if carers don’t look after themselves and make time for it.
So, when you’re caring for someone, making the decision to actively engage in ‘self-care’ is critical. Here are some easy and simple ways to get started:
It can be tempting not to make eating well a priority, or even to skip meals when looking after someone else and with pressure on your time. But eating a healthy, balanced diet at regular times each day, particularly during times of stress, is a great starting point.
Stay active and engaged
Try to keep engaged in the activities and hobbies you enjoy. They can act as a balance to the stresses of modern life like caring. Or, take up a new hobby or reconnect with an activity you’ve done previously like reading, gardening, cooking, photography, or music.
Get a good night’s sleep
A common pressure on carers is sleep. It’s super important to get an adequate and regular amount of sleep each night. This includes trying to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, and aiming for around eight hours per night. If you continue to have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor as they may be able to help.
Balance work/life and caring
Set boundaries and recognise your own limitations. Remember, it’s okay to say ‘no’ to others when you need to take time out for yourself. Also, look to build a support network around yourself and the person you care for so you’re not carrying all the caring burden.
Take a break
This is where respite is useful. Think about taking small breaks throughout the day for yourself, and plan larger breaks over longer periods of time where you can de-stress. It can be the case that carers often deny themselves fun and relaxation to keep their energy high but this can lead to burnout and ultimately impact the standard of caring.
The practice of mindfulness can also assist to manage stress and emotions. Activities such as yoga can help with maintaining mindfulness and wellbeing so that you’re able to support others. There are many mindfulness apps available to download – one of our personal favourites is Headspace– or you could consult your local library or community centre for mindfulness books or activities.
And always remember if things are getting overwhelming, consider reaching out to a professional expert who may be able to help. Talking things out can assist and there are counsellor, psychologist, or peer support groups out there. It may also be helpful to speak to your doctor about a Mental Health Care Plan as you may be entitled to Medicare rebates for up to 10 individual or group appointments with a psychologist, an occupational therapist or social worker per year.
We understand that caring for a loved one is rewarding but also demanding. Get in touch with us to discuss how our team can support you and your loved one to get the respite you need.