No matter how difficult things seem, you can become healthier and happier, and make your relationships with those around you more positive, by learning how to manage your stress levels and emotions. Having regular breaks will help preserve your mental health and protect you from the common problem of carer burnout.
Monitor your feelings
Take a moment from time to time to check in with yourself. How am I doing? What’s changed for me? Am I feeling more tired than usual? Am I more short tempered or teary? Do I feel run down? Am I drinking or smoking more? These and other things like frequent headaches, difficulty sleeping and withdrawing from social interaction and activities you used to enjoy are warning signs of stress and depression.
Learn to relax
Relaxation doesn’t always come naturally, even if you’re having a respite break. If you’re wound up and stressed, you need to teach yourself to relax. Breathing exercises, meditation and positive self-talk are all proven techniques for calming the mind and managing stress.
You’re not Superman or Wonder Woman. You’re a human being with all the strengths and frailties that entails. You can only do what you can do. Doing your best is good enough. Focus your energy on changing the things you can and learn to live with the things you can’t. Reach out when you need support.
Take the breaks you need
You’re no good to anyone if you allow yourself to burn out. Compassion fatigue puts people at risk from those who support them. Sustained periods where you feel ‘at the end of your tether’ are a danger zone. You’re not only risking your own health and wellbeing, but that of the person or people you support.
- Help and support for depression
If you feel you’re not coping, reach out. Depression is a medical condition experienced by many family and whānau carers. Talk to your doctor if you feel you’re not coping. There are many other sources of help and support too. The Depression Helpline is available 24/7. You can speak to a trained counsellor who can talk through your situation and find you the right support. The Freephone number to call is 0800 111 757. You’ll find information to help you recognise depression, find a way through and stay well at www.depression.org.nz Resources include The Journal – where John Kirwan and a range of experts guide you through a six-step self-help programme. Feedback from carers who have tried The Journal has been really positive!