Sometimes as carers, it’s difficult to acknowledge that we need to also care for ourselves.
Pushing your feelings aside, believing the old adage that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” and that you need to just “carry on” regardless of the stresses you are under, ultimately puts both yourself and those you are trying to care for and protect at risk.
World renowned grief counsellor Dr Alan Wolfelt says, “whenever stress rises, self-care tends to fall”. This can lead to burnout and mental and physical health issues as your immune system becomes compromised.
Caring for yourself does not have to be complicated. What is sometimes hard is acknowledging that you need that time for yourself, and recognising that it is in everyone’s best interests.
What can you do? Firstly, rest whenever you get the chance. When stress rises, so does your body’s and mind’s need for restorative rest. Take moments to breathe and recentre yourself. If you are having difficulties sleeping, remember to exercise, consider meditation to rest your mind, or contact your GP.
Next, eat well and drink enough water to stay well hydrated. Not doing so can lead to fatigue and headaches, making it harder to deal with situations.
Connect with friends and loved ones. No matter how busy you are and what the needs of others, you need and deserve some quality time with those you love, Dr Wolfelt reminds us.
Share your thoughts and feelings rather than keeping everything inside. Remember, even while you are caring, there are others who care for you and will be there for you. “Open up regularly to the good listeners in your life”, Dr Wolfelt encourages.
Being thankful may seem like a strange, contradictory, even an impossible ask at a time of grief and stress. However, on days when you’re feeling the most overwhelmed, it is important to remember there are still many things to be grateful for.
“Intentionally place your awareness on good people and happenings around you. Notice all the kindnesses and support. Have compassion for mistakes or failings,” Dr Wolfelt advises.
Finally, Dr Wolfelt encourages us as carers dealing with grief and stress to “make room in your daily schedule whenever possible for something that gives you pleasure. Give yourself permission to spend at least a few minutes on something that brings you enjoyment and helps you to decompress and relax”.
Those you are caring for need you, so for their sake as well as your own, take care of yourself.