Self-care for carers
Here are some of the helpful and practical things that carers have told us they find helpful:
Planning is key to reducing the number of decisions you have to make. Try to do this in as many areas of your life as possible to minimise that “decision fatigue”. Suggestions include:
- Creating a file that contains the contact details of all the professionals you may need to speak to.
- Ensuring that you have the medical history and all relevant details of the person you are caring for in one safe place (locked away or password protected).
- Each morning write a short list of everything that needs doing that day. And although it may sound strange, some carers found it helpful to include things like get up, have a shower, brush teeth, have breakfast, etc. This helped them to structure the day and was found to be really satisfying as they crossed things off the list.
- If finances are an issue, there are several organisations that can help you to plan and get any benefits that you are entitled to. It can be helpful to start with organisations such as https://www.carersuk.org/
- Planning ahead for meals – one carer wrote a list of 14 different balanced meals for breakfast, lunch, teas and a list of filling “on the go” snacks.
- Write a shopping list and if possible, try not to go shopping more than once a week. If it is possible, click and collect can be great, or even having your shopping delivered.
- Organise your drawers and cupboards so that everything is in order and stays that way. This can really help your stress levels particularly when you can find things you are looking for straight away. It includes having your clothes washed and ironed for the week.
- Have a hospital grab bag packed for your loved one, so that you can just pick it up and go if you need to.
First aid kit
“I realised how important it was to do self-care activities, but when I did have a bit of spare time, I couldn’t think of anything to do!”
One suggestion was to make a self-care first aid kit. You can do this by taking a large piece of paper and cutting it up into approximately 12 small squares (you can have as many as you want). On each square write down something that you enjoy, such as watching an episode of your favourite comedy show, having a pamper hour (bath, face pack, candles, relaxing music etc.), reading a book or magazine and watching motivational videos on youtube. Think about everything that generally makes you feel a bit better. Loved ones and friends may be able to help with ideas. Then fold up the bits of paper and put them into a small container somewhere easily accessible and visible for you (e.g. next to your bed). Then if you do have some spare time, simply pick a piece of paper and do whatever was on it even if you don’t initially feel like it.
And last but by no means least recognise that there are times when you cannot do it all!
It’s crucial to consider all the support you may have around and make sure they know the situation. People like to help if they can, especially with practical issues. Make a list of people to talk to / who could help, whether they are professionals, friends or family.
And although it is not for everyone, a journal can help, especially writing in it each morning before life takes hold! This can allow you to empty your head when things get a bit too much.
Check out other information resources on emotional resilience on our website.
So you have an idea of some of the things other carers put in place; you may already be doing a lot of them, and you may have many more suggestions. But every tiny achievement can help you to feel a bit more in control.
A carer’s personal story:
“Since my Dad died I am continuing to take one step at a time, but I feel privileged to have met so many amazing people who care for others on a daily basis often for many, many years. This one quote (from Jada Pinkett) had to become a reality for me …
“You always have to remember to take care of yourself first and foremost, because when you stop taking care of yourself, you get out of balance, and you really forget how to take care of others.”