Tips for looking after mental health and wellbeing
Looking after your wellbeing is essential, and even more so if you are supporting others*
You can’t afford not to do it. We have compiled some tips that have helped us, and other carers, find a way forward towards becoming healthier and happier.
Pick what works for you, adapt it, and keep at it!
*Carer burnout is a common problem, and one which should never be underestimated. Read our resource about carer burnout here. If you feel you are at serious risk, check our resources at the bottom of this page to seek further help.
Start with the basics
It’s not exciting, but it’s essential. Keep taking your regular medication: set reminders if you have to. If your situation allows you to, keep to regular bedtimes. and get enough sleep to keep you functional. Eat at regular times, shower, do your chores.
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.
Find a physical activity you enjoy, and turn it into a regular routine. An energetic half hour a day, every day, can bring huge positive changes to your overall mental health.
Accept the emotions you are currently feeling. Observe the details in your immediate surroundings, without judgement. Make a gratitude list. Then take note of your daily actions and connect them to a higher purpose, making sure to include those that may feel minor. For example, the act of washing your hands regularly can potentially save lives.
Allow yourself to relax
Relaxation doesn’t always come naturally, even if you’re having a respite break. Breathing exercises, meditation and positive self-talk are all proven techniques for calming the mind and managing stress. For you, it might mean something else: maybe it’s curling up with a book, dancing, sport, coffee with a friend, going for a long walk. All of us have ways in which to reenergise ourselves: explore which ones work best for you.
Channel yourself into creative activities
Creativity has elements of both planning and living in the moment. Seeing something take shape, whether it’s a loaf of bread, a flowerbed, a house project or a Lego city, lessens feelings of helplessness and brings satisfaction and peace.
A growing body of research suggests that even trivial interactions with strangers, like chatting to supermarket cashiers or stopping to ask for directions, may strengthen feelings of connectedness to others. Set small challenges, like saying hello to everyone you pass in the street on a given day, or asking your neighbour if they need any help.
Take the breaks you need
Compassion fatigue puts people at risk from those who support them. Write a ‘self-care’ wishlist and aim to tick off each item one at a time. It may include spending time with a friend who actively listens and supports you, channelling yourself into a project, going on a holiday, or simply sitting with a cup of tea, a biscuit, and a view.
Limit your online interactions
Engaging with social media and news reports can increase feelings of anxiety or stress. Use the news to stay informed, but limit your daily intake, especially with news items that increase anxiety. And keep safe online. Netsafe has good guidelines to help you steer clear of scams and / or fake news.
Some of these ideas have been taken from © Family Care.
The University of Auckland have created CALM – a motivational tool for students struggling with depression, anxiety, stress
Download The Ministry of Health’s Guidelines on Physical Activity for Older People
Active Wellness with children
Some info on NZ’s respite system: Giving yourself a break
A carer’s personal story on self-care
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.
Lifeline 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland. Free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Depression Helpline Help and support for depression. The Freephone number to call is 0800 111 757
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Let’s End Loneliness for those struggling with loneliness
For help with supporting young people with stress, anxiety, or depression, download this guide
Staying on Track is a free online course that helps you take care of your wellbeing during these uncertain times
What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.
thelowdown.co.nz – or email firstname.lastname@example.org or free text 5626
Anxiety New Zealand – 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)
For further counselling support, go here.