A carer is someone who provides in home care for a person that has a disability or an illness. Caring for others can be a rewarding experience, however if you are caring for a loved one with an illness or a disability it can also be emotionally and physically challenging. Carers often report feeling physically and emotional drained and at times report feeling frustrated, angry or even resentful of their situation. Regardless of whether you are a current or former service member or spouse, if you are caring for someone with a disability or an illness, it is important to remember to look after yourself. Not just for the person you are caring for but for yourself as well.
Looking after yourself
Sleep, diet, exercise and social connection are the four pillars of mental and physical health. Ensuring these four areas of your life are looked after will go a long way to keeping you in good emotional and physical shape.
Sleep – Everyone needs different amounts of sleep to feel rested. If our sleep routine becomes disrupted it can have a negative impact on our mood and anxiety levels as well as our levels of fatigue and physical wellbeing. Maintaining a regular sleep routine such as going to bed and waking at the same time each day and ensuring you get enough sleep will help you stay as emotionally and physically fit as possible. Please see our handout on ‘the importance of sleep and diet’ for more information.
Diet – When life gets busy, diet can be one of the first things we let slip. Ensuring we are eating a healthy and balanced diet full of nourishing foods will not only help us stay physically fit but can also have an impact on our emotional wellbeing. Please see our handout on ‘the importance of sleep and diet’ for more information.
Exercise – Many studies have showed the benefits of exercise for physical wellbeing and mental health. If you usually exercise or play sport, try as best as you can to stick to your usual routine. If you don’t usually exercise, keeping active or even just getting outside in fresh air can have a positive impact on your emotional wellbeing and physical health. Please see our handout series on ‘health and wellbeing’ for more information.
Social Connection – When caring for others it can be hard to maintain your social connections. Not only can we struggle to find time for our friends, but some people may experience feelings of guilt about going out and having fun without their loved one. It’s important to maintain your social connections as best as you can and give yourself a break from your caring responsibilities. This can help to ease the stress that many carers report feeling. If you can’t find other family members or friends to help out, the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre (1800 052 222) may be able to provide you with some respite options.
If you’re caring for someone else who is unwell accessing counselling and support may be helpful. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk through your thoughts with someone independent of the situation. Trained counsellors and psychologists can not only give you the opportunity to talk through your experiences but they can also provide you with specific strategies to help maintain your emotional wellbeing.
If you are considering seeking help, please contact one of the Psychologists at Soldier On by either telephoning your closest Soldier On Centre or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org during business hours, Monday to Friday.
Alternatively, you can contact VVCS through their national contact line on 1800 011 046, at any time of the day or night.