When someone close to us needs our care we want to do the best we can to help, so we:
try to think of all the ways we can look after them
and put our energy into helping them
because we are busy thinking about someone else’s needs, we forget about our own
AND WHAT’S MORE:
if they don’t seem to appreciate our efforts we can feel annoyed, frustrated and hurt
We all know the safety advice on an airplane: put on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. We can only be of help to others when we look after ourselves properly. Like a car running out of petrol or water or oil, we can run out of fuel if we don’t pay ourselves enough attention.
Listed below are some of the feelings you might experience as a carer and how you can help yourself to manage them:
Caring for someone else is demanding. Sometimes your efforts seem unappreciated. If you are tired or stressed, it’s more likely that you’ll feel angry or irritable.
Managing anger: try not to be hard on yourself, find helpful ways to express your feelings to supportive people who will listen or write them down in a journal, and allow yourself to have some time out
When it feels as though things are outside our control, we often feel anxious. This can show itself in impatience, trouble sleeping, feeling tearful or physical symptoms.
Managing anxiety: don’t ignore your anxiety, it’s nature’s way of telling us that something isn’t right. Making a cup of tea or breathing steadily can be ways of allowing yourself a break
Sometimes caring for someone stops you doing things that you enjoy, and if you do have some free time you might feel too tired.
Managing boredom: having a break will help you do something that gives you pleasure. It can be as simple as having a warm bath, going for a walk, settling down with a magazine, chatting to a friend. By giving yourself breaks you will find you feel less bored and more able to be patient.
We know that being a caregiver increases the likelihood of developing depression. This can result in you finding it hard to get up and face the day, feeling hopeless, feeling tearful and finding it hard to sleep.
Managing depression: If you feel like this, it’s important to talk to someone – your GP can help. Joining a support group for carers and asking your friends and family for support can help you feel less alone. There is evidence that even gentle exercise helps relieve some of the effects of depression.
Sometimes caring involves intimate care, such as helping someone in the bathroom and cleaning up after accidents. Understandably, this can cause uncomfortable feelings.
Managing disgust: Remind yourself that it’s normal to have these feelings and that the situation is difficult for both you and the person for whom you are caring. Finding ways to decrease the amount of times you help in this way, by arranging help with care.
You may feel envious of others who can do things you are not able to because of your responsibilities. You may feel that family members are not pulling their weight. Feeling envy is uncomfortable and hard to admit. It is normal to feel envious of those who seem to have it easy.
Managing envy: envy is normal and is only problematic if we dwell on it and let it stop us enjoying the things we are grateful for. Think of a few things you are grateful for, however small. It can help to jot them down.
The responsibility of being a carer can lead you to worrying about things that might happen or go wrong: spending time thinking ‘What If?’ This can feel paralysing at times and stop you being able to live in the moment.
Managing fear: while we can’t know what will happen in the future, sometimes it can help to have a back up plan. For instance if you worry that you may become ill yourself, or unable to care for another reason, you can arrange who would step in to help. When you feel fearful, talking to someone who understands your situation can help you become calmer and step back a little.
It can feel like however hard you try, something seems to go wrong. If you are tired, feeling frustrated is more likely and can lead to anger.
Managing frustration: be honest with yourself about how frustrating being a carer is. Meeting with other carers can help you share experiences and tips. Make sure you take breaks and allow yourself time to exercise and rest. Make a list of the things you can control and those you can’t and decide what actions you might take.
Being a carer can involve many losses; for example losing a sense of control and independence, and activities you can no longer do with the person you are caring for as well as changes to your relationship as a result of illness. These losses are reasons to grieve. If you don’t allow yourself to do this, the feelings can come out in other ways
Managing grief: Identifying and acknowledging losses will help you cope. Speaking about them with someone you trust can help.
Guilt can take many forms; guilt that you’ve been impatient, guilt that you couldn’t prevent the illness, guilt that you sometimes feel dislike, guilt at thinking about your own needs
Managing guilt: being kind to yourself and remembering you’re human, not superman – no one is perfect. Changing guilt into realism ‘I’m human and sometimes get impatient’… ‘I’m trying to do what I can even though it doesn’t always feel like enough’.
Being a carer can lead to isolation. If you stop taking part in your normal activities you can lose a sense of yourself and feel you have less to talk about when you do have contact with others.
Managing loneliness: make sure you get a break out of the house to meet a friend, take a class, attend your social activity/place of worship etc.
Being dependent on someone’s care and having to receive their help can be hard. Sometimes you will feel rejected by the person you are caring for and this can be hard to take.
Managing: even if you don’t feel appreciated, think about all the things you are doing to help, you could note them down. Give yourself a pat on the back. Use your support network of family/friends to cheer you up.
Being a carer often involves interrupted sleep, either because of caring tasks or because of worries preventing sleep.
Managing sleep: ensure your sleep is a priority: don’t try to catch up with other tasks instead. Lack of sleep makes the task of caring much harder. Pushing yourself to keep going will wear you out and this can harm your own health. Remember to prioritise breaks and ask for help so you can be an effective carer.
Where can you go for more help?
The Carers Trust https://carers.org
Carers UK www.carersuk.org