Guardian Carers Feature on BBC News London

Coping as a carer

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Carers have a very rewarding job, but at the same time quite difficult. Carer stories are all different. There is no carer which is exactly the same. Some of the care stories may have common ground, but all situations differ from situation to situation. Either way, if you’re a carer, you need some down-time to look after yourself and your mental health.

It is true that when you’re a carer it can feel unnatural to think about yourself, but this is a must. When you’re a carer, you need to look after your physical and mental well-being so that you don’t end up having a break-down. If you are well and healthy as a carer, you will be able to offer greater care for a longer period of time. You need to know how to maintain a balance between your carer life and your personal life. It is understandable that you lead a very busy life, maybe you are managing your career, family life and being a carer at the same time. It may be hard to cope with all this and have time to focus on yourself and your health. There are many things you can do to improve your overall health when you are a carer. Here are some ideas:

  • Get enough rest. When being a carer, lack of sleep can majorly influence your day to day life and it can actually increase the risk of being depressed, if you cannot meet your daily challenges
  • Eat healthy food. This is a very obvious one, but it’s very important to try and eat regular meals when you’re a carer. Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will boost your energy and help you cope with your day to day tasks
  • Do regular physical activities. You don’t have to attend a gym class every day - it is understandable that as carer you have many things on your mind and your time is stretched out. You can start by just going on a short walk every morning, or cycle to work for example

Even if it may seem difficult in the beginning, you have to put yourself first. As a carer, you have a tendency to stop caring about yourself and only caring about the person you are caring for. You need to stop that. You won’t be able to cope with life if you forget about yourself and your feelings. Here are some tips if you are struggling to cope with being a carer:

  • Simply look after your general health. If you notice your health is degrading or you are becoming unwell when you’re a carer, take these symptoms into consideration. Do not ignore
  • Socialise. Social interaction is one of the key elements to living a healthy life, especially when you are a carer. Being socially excluded can actually lead to dementia in later life. Try to meet a friend at least once a week, for one hour. If you cannot find time to do even this as a carer, keep in touch by email, phone or even better, video call
  • Learn a relaxation technique. Learning how to unwind when you’re a carer will help you feel invigorated and more rested too. Most relaxation techniques, such as yoga or mindfulness can be practiced for as little as 5 minutes a day.

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