Filling your cup: 13 self-care tips to get your energy back when caregiving

Caring for someone with a mental illness can be arduous and stressful, and more so when caring for someone with severe mental illness.  Such is the impact of caring for the mentally ill that studies have shown that carers face mental ill health as a direct consequence of their caring role and experience higher rates of mental ill health than the general population.

It is therefore important for you as a caregiver to take care of yourself.  Not only is it essential for your mental health, it’s also imperative for long-term caregiving.  To ensure that this happens, schedule regular breaks into your routine.  This allows you to make plans in advance, it gives you something to look forward to and ensures that the person you look after knows what to expect.

1

Self-validate the work that you doing – take time to acknowledge the effort and resources that you are putting into the relationship.
2

Recognise your own limits to potential burnout; know your limits in terms of your availability and how much you are able to take on. If it’s getting ‘too much’ seek support: whether its family, friends, or professional support, to help you recoup.
3

Take micro-breaks during the day: whether it’s a long shower, or a quiet tea break.
4

Prioritise your joy: what fills your energy cup? Reading, gardening or going to the movies, schedule it.
5

Maintain your relationships and set aside times to spend with family or friends. If you can’t leave the house for long periods of time, invite people over.
6

Spend time in nature. Grounding or earthing by walking barefoot outside or sitting barefoot with your feet on the ground transfers energy from the ground into your body. Emerging research supports the concept that the Earth’s electrons induce multiple physiological changes such as reduced pain and better sleep.
7

Exercise is an effective stress reliever, mood enhancer so find an exercise routine that you can build into your day or week.
8

Take care of your own health; don’t miss doctors’ appointments and take supplements to promote well-being. If you’re not healthy, you won’t be able to care adequately.
9

Eat well. Nourish your body with fresh fruit, vegetables and lean meat.
10

Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep affects energy, mood, productivity and your ability to handle stress.
11

Develop a mindfulness practise: deep breathing, meditation, yoga or keeping a diary. Even a few minutes a day can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed.
12

Spend time away from the house where you are caring for the patient.
13

Share your feelings; you know when you need to offload, so speak to a family member, friends, a caregiving support group or a mental health professional.

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