Caring for a loved one with mental health issues can be over-whelming and at times exhausting, Mental health affects the whole family and although a lot of focus may be being placed on the person with the illness. This doesn’t mean that the rest of the family aren’t suffering too.
It can be a constant battle to be a carer, partner of other family to a depressed person or to one with a mental health issue or personality disorder. You might elect to attend first aid training in case of injury or talk to a loved one.
Carer burnout is very real and it’s important to take care of yourself too. Here are some tips to help you care for you when you are taking care of others.
1. First of all, realise you matter to
It can be easy to let your own feelings and needs slip away a bit if you are caring for someone else. You may feel as though you are being selfish for having them when another appears to be suffering so badly. But remember that you are no good to anyone if you don’t make yourself a priority too.
2. Get help and support for yourself
Make sure you schedule in time for yourself to get some support as well. It might be a group meeting of an organisation relevant to your issues or it might be a loved one. Remember that as much as your loved one’s family might be supportive and helpful, it can be hard for them to hear certain things about their cherished family member.
If you have a friend or support person who is out of the situation, it can be quite helpful. Quite often, we may be so deeply ingrained in a situation, we can’t see things clearly. Having that outside view point can put things into perspective for you.
Counsellors and support groups are available and can help you regain strength, clarity and perspective.
3. Have Boundaries
Mental illness can alter a person’s perception and coping mechanisms, but that doesn’t mean you are responsible for everything. Decide what you are comfortable and able to accomplish and assist with. Their whole life shouldn’t become your total responsibility. That is unhealthy for you and for them, as they have nothing to motivate them to focus on and attempt to assist them in moving forward or engage in daily routines.
Be clear and honest about what you’re able or willing to do and what you can’t. Delegate the rest to other family members or friends who can assist and let the rest go.
4. Have outside hobbies and interests
Find something that brings you joy and keeps you occupied that is outside of the situation. It might be an activity you do in another room of the house or it can be a class you attend each week. If you already have a pursuit you cherish, keep it up, don’t let it go.
Keep focussing on your own goals and take steps to achieve them Celebrate and share your positive outcomes and tribulations with those nearest and dearest to you. In some situations, this may help the depressed person see there is still positivity out there.
This can also aid you in keeping stronger and more resilient in the situation. Sometimes, a short, temporary escape can help you feel calmer and more prepared to continue helping your loved one.
5. Stay as healthy as you can
Keeping your physical body healthy will support your mind to be stronger and more alert. If your physical health starts to decline, then your emotional and mental health will soon follow and you may be a detriment to yourself as well as those you are trying to help.
Whilst it can be hard getting a person affected by depression or another psychiatric illness to take care of themselves, it’s vital you do it for yourself. Eat healthy melas and don’t skip any. When you’re spending a lot of time and energy helping others, you tend to burn through more of the sustenance you get from food than you realise. Being busy means, you need a little more than normal.
Drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated and sleep as best you can.
6. Keep the lines of communication open with your loved one
This may at times feel as though you are butting your head against a brick wall. Be mindful not to buy into every fight that may occur with your loved one. Defiantly keep your boundaries firm, but also be aware that they may not be thinking as rationally as they normally do.
Continuing to communicate with them, or even just trying to can allow both people to express their feelings, and fears and this can help create a healthier relationship. It can help your loved one know they have a support system and show you where their mind is.
7. Get outdoors.
Nature is a great healer. Getting out of the house and breathing in some fresh air will be of great benefit to you physically and mentally. It can soothe your soul, calm your spirit and help you find your Zen again, even if it is just for the time, you are out in the sunshine.
8. Safety first
Always remember, you need to be safe first, especially if there are children involved. As much as you want to support your loved one, if they become violent and unpredictable, call the police and get help. Situations can escalate very quickly and if a person’s behaviour has become unstable then their rational thinking may not be present.
Your safety and that of others, especially children are of paramount importance. Abuse and violence should never be condoned.
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
Lifeline: 131 114
Mensline Australia: 1300 789 978