Carers are a foundation of our community. Every day they are making a difference and improving the lives of so many people. But the emotional and physical demands of caring are very real, and they can take a serious toll.
Compared with the general population, studies have shown that carers have a significantly higher risk of developing a mental health issue. They are also much more likely to report feeling stressed, fatigued and rundown. That’s why it’s vital our carers feel they have the support and resources to care for their own wellbeing too.
Warning signs of carer distress
A common question is, ‘how do I know if I’m just having a bad day, or whether something more serious is going on?’ The truth is that we all have ups and downs, and we’re not going to feel happy every single day. That’s a normal part of the human experience. But these negative feelings shouldn’t persist. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms – and they don’t go away – it is sign that your emotional health may be struggling.
- Feeling overwhelmed or worried
- Sleeping difficulties
- Feeling emotionally and/or physical exhausted
- Being easily irritated or short tempered
- Withdrawing from your social circle
- Feeling unhappy or sad
- Losing interest in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed
- Lacking motivation to complete tasks
- Depending on alcohol or substances to cope
Caring for carers
If you feel like you’re struggling with your mental health, or want to prevent yourself from getting to the point where you are, there are resources that can help you – so you can keep on caring.
1. Professional counselling
Many healthcare professionals and services offer some level of counselling support. Start by speaking with your GP. They may then refer you to a specialist counselling service, if needed.
You can also visit:
- Head to Health (to find digital health resources)
- Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 224 636 or chat online
- Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) — online help
- headspace (online tools for young people)
- Mensline Australia — call 1300 78 99 78
2. Peer support
While talking to a family member or a friend can help (and is always better than keeping your feelings bottled up), it can be even more helpful to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through. In fact, there’s been several studies recently that have demonstrated how carers who have strong peer networks have better mental health than those who don’t.
Being able to share your feelings and struggles with other carers can help validate what you’re going through, and help you process and overcome negative emotions. Other carers can also share practical advice on what helps them when they are having a tough time.
If you don’t already have access to a peer network, you can search the internet for online forums to join. You can also search for in-person community groups where you can connect with other carers in person.
3. Practice relaxation and mindfulness
Relaxation and mindfulness techniques have been shown to help manage stress and anxiety and improve your overall mood. While these approaches may not be effective for everyone, we recommend giving them a go because the benefits can be significant.
- Relaxation techniques can help manage stress and bad sleep patterns – two big risk factors for poor mental health. You can learn helpful relaxation techniques from an instructor, course, or apps such as Smiling Mind or those available from ReachOut.
Practising mindfulness can help centre your mind on the present, rather than worrying about the future. This can reduce stress, improve your mental wellbeing, and help you enjoy your activities and hobbies. Organisations like the Black Dog Institute provide some excellent tips and resources on wellbeing and mindfulness.
4. Make time for your wellness
We understand that carers are incredibly busy. But it’s essential to take some time, even if it’s just 10 minutes, to do something for yourself. Take that small window of time to do something that makes you happy and brings you joy, whether that be reading, gardening, dancing, cooking, or taking a relaxing bubble bath.
The connection between our physical health and mental wellbeing is also something we can’t overlook. Ensuring you get enough sleep, take time to exercise, and eat a healthy, balanced diet, are all things that can help you not just feel better in your body, but better in your mind as well.
5. Manage your stress
Overcoming your stress as a carer might sound like an impossible task. But there is good news – thanks to the internet, we can now try out a range of stress management resources to see what works best for us.
If are looking for more intensive support, or would like guidance from a professional, This Way Up and the MindSpot Clinic run online courses on stress management. You can enrol online in these courses and complete them in your own time, and your own pace.
At AlayaCare, we believe in better outcomes, including the better health outcomes of our clients and the industry. Contact AlayaCare To learn more.