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Do you want to be a better carer? Look after yourself first.

You’ve done the dishes, hoovered the house, paid the gas bill, driven around town running errands, almost cried a couple of times, crammed a sandwich in your mouth and now it’s getting dark outside.

Time to relax?

Not likely.

Now you’ve got to get home and vacuum your house and wash your dishes while trying to hold back the tears as once again you feel completely exhausted and on the edge.

Being a carer for a loved one, whether it’s your day to day life or an extra duty on top of your current full-time job is tiring. You try to tell yourself you’re fine, and that you can handle it. You feel guilty every time you wish you could stay in bed, instead of making breakfast for your flesh and blood.

How can you provide your loved one with quality care, if your quality of life is non-existent?

Before my Mum went into care, I’d often reach boiling point as a carer. I’d find myself snapping at my husband, feeling bitter because I never felt like I had any fun and I’d start my day feeling alone, and end it by worrying what the next day would bring.

Self-care should be a non-negotiable.

Here are some self-care tips that you can easily slide into your everyday life.

Go for a walk

Lacing up my boots and going for a walk out in nature was a great way to breathe in some fresh air and gain some perspective. Sometimes I’d go out for a couple of hours, and sometimes just twenty minutes.

There’s no time limit or challenge here. It’s just an excuse to be with yourself, pick up a coffee, stretch your legs and gain some clarity.

Make time to relax

Relaxing seems like a pretty obvious suggestion, but so many of us truly don’t know how to do it.

We’re often distracted by what we feel we should be doing, so we don’t give in to just living in the moment. Take a long bath, have a nap, go for a massage or try meditation.

Find what works for you and what helps you turn to down the white noise in your brain.

Laugh out loud

Being a carer for a loved one can, at times, be a lonely and sad existence. Depending on the circumstances, you can feel like the world is against you.

What makes you laugh? I’d love nothing better than putting on a TV program that I knew was going to have me in stitches in the evening. Laughing is the best medicine, if only because it’s a healthy distraction away from the stresses of the day.

Be with friends

My Mum has Alzheimer’s Disease, and she’s only 64. When the going gets tough, friends often don’t know how to help and it can be really difficult for them to relate to you. This can leave you feeling isolated and disconnected.

Don’t let it. If your friends truly love you, they’ll raise your spirits and try to take you out of the caring zone you can sometimes feel trapped within. Give them a chance, explain how you’re feeling, but also don’t dwell on it if they don’t always tell you what you need to hear.

Join a support group

Talking is key. Seeking out a support group through the NHS or various charity organisations is an excellent form of self-care.

You’re affording yourself the opportunity to communicate with people who understand your circumstances and can offer tangible advice and support. You may even make long-lasting friendships.

Be productive at home

I’d often find that as I threw myself wholeheartedly into caring for my Mum, I’d let my own life dwindle.

The pile of clutter in the corner of the room would grow, the stuff in the boot of my car I wanted to take to charity had been in there for a month and the phone contract I was supposed to sort out six months ago was still costing me an arm and a leg. I just didn’t have the energy.

When you’ve got free time, really motivate yourself to finish those odd jobs. Ok, so it’s not as relaxing as a massage, but it’ll give you a sense of accomplishment and pride in your own life and a clear home equals a clear mind.

Self-care for carers is so important. It’s not just about a week or a day here and there, it’s about maintaining a routine of looking after yourself. Never lose sight of your own life, even if you feel like you’re drowning in somebody else’s.


Written by Leanne Brookes

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