The state of our mental health directly affects our overall well-being. Being a carer it is just as if not more important to be actively thinking about our mental and emotional self-care. Caring for others while making sure we don’t neglect our own needs: carers carry twice the responsibility in this respect. Each person has limited resources and how well we take care of someone else is reliant upon how well we are equipped to take care of ourselves in the first place. Mental health, like physical health, requires the proactive approach of conscious maintenance. ‘Self-care as a carer’ essentially means putting on your oxygen mask first. The reasoning is not selfish but rather rational: our ability to help others when our own needs are not met makes us less effective, more stressed, irritable and likely to burn out. The ultimate basics of self-care are the daily rituals and rewards that we build into our lives to help us unwind, de-stress and recharge.
Practicing self-care could mean many different things; for some, it may be a form of physical activity, for others a delicious cup of coffee and for someone else, it’s calling a friend. It’s important to remember that self-care is just as personal as any other preference. Some might find wandering around in busy shops relaxing, while others will be irritated by it. When thinking of building a daily self-care routine, the simpler, the better. Our rituals don’t have to be time-consuming and our rewards do not have to cost anything. We may be able to take a walk every Sunday afternoon or go for a massage on a monthly basis, and while these are very important, they should be complementary to our daily self-care. As we brush our teeth twice a day and go to the dentist twice a year, taking care of our mental well-being should also follow a similar model; the key is to incorporate consistent, non-negotiable ‘routines’ into our lives that we consciously make time for. Having something relaxing (or invigorating) to look forward to each day or better yet, every few hours will have the most impact on our well-being overall. Drinking our favourite cup of tea or listening to a beloved playlist during our breaks can make a world of difference. While these activities have an immediate effect on our mood and comfort, their most significant impact is in the long run.
In the upcoming series, we are going to explore important concepts and practical tools to help build a personalised self-care practice. From a well-being box to the importance of our social network, each topic will be there to inspire carers: family members and professionals alike.