It’s carers week and we want to celebrate the resilience and dedication of those caring for a loved one. Sara Challice, who cared for her husband Neal for 13 years after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, shares her top tips to help carers look after their own wellbeing, and some of our Young Ambassadors tell us what’s helped them when caring for a loved one.
Check in with yourself
As a carer, you’re often too busy being there for everyone else that you ignore your own health. You may feel you’re coping, but you’re often treading water, and slowly sinking. The pressure can build up, bit by bit, and go unnoticed. It’s best to not wait until a crisis strikes but to keep an eye on your own health, as difficult as this can be at times.
Do you have a good friend or family member you could check in with for a short time, once a week? This can be either face-to-face, over the phone or via Skype. Or you could try journalling. Writing down how you’re feeling and the issues you’re experiencing can help you to observe what’s actually happening.
Drop the mask, and ask!
You may find yourself putting on a brave face, as you need to be strong for your loved ones. You may accept your situation and feel you have to struggle on alone and hide your feelings, for fear of being judged. If others ask how you are, be honest, open up and ask for more support. You never know what they might offer. Also, find out what local charities and services in your area can provide to help you. If you do ask family for help, try getting a date in the diary to make the commitment more certain. Otherwise time may drift along with empty promises.
Take a break
We all need to recharge our batteries, but you can often feel guilty heading out to enjoy yourself when a loved one is left at home. You need regular breaks, not only to recoup, but also to enjoy quality time. You’re then in a better frame of mind and can better deal with the challenges.
- Go outside – being in the outside space can give you time to reflect on the inside space.
- Socialise – as a carer, it can be easy to feel isolated, so it’s important to keep in contact with friends and have regular breaks to socialise. If you struggle to get out, you could invite family and friends over, or, if that isn’t possible, you could organise a phone or video call.
- Plan regular breaks throughout the day – try taking a breather between each task to do something you enjoy, such as reading a book or going out for a short walk.
You’re allowed to feel upset and annoyed at the situation too… it’s taking its toll on you and if you don’t admit that you need help and allow yourself to have a break then you’re just going to crumble.
Surround yourself with those who care
Your support network is key to helping you through these challenging times, but not all your friends and family may have the empathy and compassion you need right now. Also, if you’re the one stepping forward to do the caring, there may be others stepping back, leaving you with feelings of resentment and frustration. Some people may even make judgemental or negative comments. As hurtful as this can be, try keeping your distance, either emotionally or physically, from anyone who is draining. Focus on those who are there for you.
Create your support network by making a list of family, friends, charities and any other services that are there to help and support you. You may be pleasantly surprised by how many there are.
…as long as someone’s willing to listen and chat with you about any issues you have in your life [it helps you to feel] supported.
Join our online support community for carers
Our online support community for carers is a safe space where you can connect with others who know what you’re going through. With over 2,500 member, it's the perfect place to ask questions, seek advice or get things off your chest.
Focus on the good stuff
Because you’re often in survival mode, focussing on the problems and issues arising from caring and a loved one’s illness, it’s easy to forget to focus on all the great things in your lives. One way to stop negative thoughts is to pop an elastic band around your wrist. The next time you notice yourself starting to have a particular negative thought, give it a quick ping to stop yourself.
Don’t think about what you can’t do, think about what you can do. Think of the things you’re grateful for. It could just be a hot shower in the morning, good time with friends, or something you’re looking forward to. Getting into an attitude of gratitude can help shift your mood and put you in the receiving mode.
Something that has helped me is…meeting other people that are going through the same thing. It makes you feel constantly validated knowing that there’s other people worrying about exactly the same things as you are and that there’s people to talk to.
Online Meet Ups for carers
If somebody you care for has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, our Online Meet Ups for carers and loved ones are a great chance to connect with others and support each other through these testing times.