Every 10th of October the world celebrates World Mental Health Day, which was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the (WFMH) World Federation for Mental Health. The day was established to create awareness about mental health and advocate against social stigma. The past 18 months have been very challenging for everyone and especially those providing care for loved ones due to lockdowns and reduced support around us. Even though caregiving for a loved one has many rewards it can also be very challenging at times, and you can feel overwhelmed.
This may leave you feeling exhausted, stressed, sad and isolated. Over time, this can lead to mental health problems. It is important to take care of your mental health as studies have shown a link between mental and physical health. Maintaining a healthy mind reduces the risk of physiological and psychological illnesses and improves the quality of care being provided to your loved one.
As a caregiver here are a few tips that can help improve your mental health every day.
Take some time off when you feel like you need it, taking a break from caring can help you feel reenergized and manage your mental health. If you are taking care of a family member taking a break could be a tough decision to make because of guilt or fear of letting, go but you could ask a family member or friend to take over even for a few hours.
Research shows that even 20 minutes of light exercise can reduce the effects of stress and improve your mental health. Exercising doesn’t just mean going to the gym or playing a sport, but it could include light impact activities like walking the dog, walking in the park, or even gardening.
These are healing techniques that integrate meditation and physical activity. These activities use personal thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and the body to stimulate a relaxation response and improve mental health. These techniques include Yoga, Massage, deep breathing, meditation, visualization, and listening to music.
Create a routine
When giving care, plan the tasks and break the activities into smaller steps that you can work through one at a time. Establishing this routine removes any uncertainty and provides a comforting structure and predictability to the person receiving the care. The routine should also have regularly scheduled breaks for yourself where someone can take over to give you time to rest.
Connect with others
Giving care to a loved one can oftentimes make you feel alone, it is important that you don’t lose touch with friends and family. You can gain strength from others through discussions and share experiences about taking care of a loved one. There are several ways you can connect with other carers like by joining a local carer group, participating in an online forum or discussion group for carers, or get in touch with carers charities like the Carers UK forum.
By John Madete