Taking care of a loved one can be a rewarding experience but it can also come with its fair share of challenges. Caregivers are often responsible for not only meeting their loved one's physical needs but also their emotional and mental health needs. Because of this, the role of a caregiver can be overwhelming and can lead to caregiver burnout, anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. This is why it's essential for caregivers to take steps to tend to for their mental health to ensure they are better able to care for their loved ones. Read on for some helpful tips and strategies that caregivers can use to support their mental health in hard times.
CAREGIVER SUPPORT STRATEGIES
1. Accept help from family, friends and your community.
From my experience as a caregiver, I know that you may feel guilty or like you are burdening others by asking for help. However, accepting help from family and friends can relieve some of the stress and pressure of caregiving. To alleviate some of this pressure, you can set up a schedule or use a caregiving app to coordinate help with daily tasks. This way you can take some much-needed time off for yourself to destress and practice self-care.
2. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a relaxation technique I love that involves staying in the present moment and being aware of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surroundings without judgment. Sometimes this is harder to say than it is to do, I know — but that's why it's called a mindfulness practice! Staying present in the moment can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Try it out by starting with simple exercises like deep breathing, sensory awareness, and progressive muscle relaxation. Apps like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer offer guided meditations as well as effective mindfulness exercises of varied lengths that you can try from anywhere via your phone or iPad! You can also find some great guided sessions for free on YouTube that target different goals, such as sleep, healing, and stress release.
3. Take breaks.
Caregiving can be a 24/7 job, and it's essential for caregivers to take breaks to recharge and engage in self-care activities. Taking time for yourself can help you feel refreshed, and you can return to caregiving with more energy and a better state of mind. You can use respite care services, ask a family member or friend to take over for a few hours or hire a professional caregiver to give you a break.
4. Join a support group.
Joining a caregiver support group can provide you with emotional support, tips, and strategies to cope with the challenges of caregiving. It can also help you feel less isolated and understand that you are not alone in your struggles. Online support groups like the Caregiver Action Network, The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), The Ontario Caregiver Organization and the Alzheimer's Association all offer virtual support groups and amazing resources.
5. Seek professional help.
If you're struggling with caregiver burnout, anxiety or depression, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. They can help you develop healthy coping strategies and assist you in navigating the challenges of caregiving and everyday stressors. The professional may recommend therapy, medication, or other forms of treatment to support your mental health — and will also remind you that you are not alone.
YOUR MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
Self-care isn't just a luxury – it's a necessity for humans to thrive. Whether you're a parent, a teen, a support worker, a teacher, a front-line worker or in another caretaker role, taking care of yourself is essential to be able to care for someone else successfully. These shared tips and strategies can help you create a self-care plan to improve your mental health and well-being in order to prevent long-term burnout or illness. Just remember to set realistic expectations – healing is a journey, not a destination! Be honest with and gentle with yourself. Your mental health matters.
>> For more mental health resources, click here.
>> To learn about our Mental Health Initiative, click here.
>> To explore our upcoming Spring Revival Pop-Up Shop & VIP Fashion Show Fundraiser with free guest speaker series and local community resources in support of mental health and RVH Foundation, click here!