Being a carer for a loved one with a mental illness is a challenging role. You are trying to keep their spirits up, whilst attempting to keep yourself afloat. Each day is different; something may trigger your loved one and cause them sudden distress. Trying to be a cheerleader and support crew whilst managing school, work, the house and social outings can bring you to your knees. There is a danger of burning yourself out. Your adrenal glands go into hyper-vigilance, meaning that even when times are tranquil, you are on edge, waiting for the wheels to fall off.
It is imperative that you find ways to de-stress.
Here are my 9 tips for for carers to keep their mind and body healthy:
- Don’t make alcohol or caffeine your go-to remedies! Alcohol is a depressant, and should certainly not be used in solitude, after a hard day. Caffeine will fray your nerves further. Intent is everything; if you have these two on a night out with good friends, that is another thing entirely. Beware using them as a crutch to simply get through.
- Watch your diet. You are likely putting yourself last on the list, and grabbing something easy on the run. Load up the fruit bowl, and remember to hydrate with lots of water and herb tea.
- Treat yourself at least once a month. You need something to look forward to. Whether that be going on a long walk or seeing a movie. Do anything that will replenish your cup!
- If you are sinking, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Your first port of call may be your GP. Talking about what is happening with your loved one releases the pressure.
- Watch for enmeshment, where their moods become yours. It is easier said than done, but try to find times for autonomy, where you can be completely yourself. Schedule in times with friends.
- Try some apps after everyone has gone to bed, or first thing in the morning. I suggest 10% Happier, Calm or Headspace.
- It’s okay to cry, to feel frustrated or angry. You are human, with human emotions! It isn’t healthy to hide it when you are overwhelmed.
- Ask for help. Tell those in your circle what you are going through. Write a list of support people you know you can count on.
- You may feel very alone in your experience, but thousands of families are going through this with you. Check out online support.
You already know that by taking care of yourself you are in a stronger position to help others. So make sure you don’t forget to give yourself much-needed TLC too.