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How to hold onto our sense of ‘self’ when caring

Illustration of two friends socialising.

This March for our Mobilise Moment (monthly check-in with carers), we asked carers “What would be one tip you would pass onto other carers?”

Surprisingly, most tips carers shared were not practical tips, but emotional tips.

Particularly emotional tips that can prevent us from being overly focused on caring for someone we love, that we lose our sense of ‘self’ in the process. Which will neither serve us or the person we care for.

What carers really want us to know about caring

When we hear about things we should do as carers, we’re often pointed towards more of the practical tasks. Making sure we’re registered with our GPs or having Carer’s Assessment booked in.

But when asked ‘what is one tip they would share to other carers?’, carers in the Mobilise community really emphasised the importance of wellbeing. Of course the practical tips are important too, but it’s likely we’ve already done those things.

Once those are ticked off, what next?

What does ‘not losing yourself’ as a carer look like?

Before we dive in, we really want these tips from other carers just like us to really speak to us as individuals. As if they are coming from a virtual friend who understands because they are.

And remember, they may not all apply to us right now, so simply pick the one(s) that do.

1. Take time away for yourself

One of the common wellbeing tips coming from carers included making some time for ourselves, away from caring when we can.

Carers acknowledge that this is not a simple thing to do. But if we keep pushing it further out, it will eventually happen out of necessity if we reach something known as ‘carer burnout’.

“Make time for yourself regularly”
“Build in time away”
“Find a moment of time for yourself each day, for your own well being.”

Making time for ourselves (even if it is 20 minutes) can really help. Our guide ‘How to care for yourself when there is no time to care for yourself’ may be a good starting point.

Look for small ways we can achieve this, rather than focussing on the barriers.

2. Don’t be responsible for everything just because you are a ‘carer’

Often as carers, we feel like we should do everything for the person we care for because we want what’s best for them. There may be times however where the things we do aren’t received the way we expect it to be received. Or, we may be setting ourselves unrealistic expectations that we can’t fulfil, making us feel stuck.

Ask ourselves, are there some things we can let go of? Does the person we care for just value the fact we are just simply there for them?

“I now realise that my central role is to provide a loving caring and nourishing environment, in which the illness can take it’s course”

In other cases, not taking responsibility for everything can require establishing boundaries with the person we care for or those around us.

“Convey to people in the best way you can, that you are not the person you care for's keeper and are a person in your own right”

3. Take it one day at a time

Small steps eventually lead to big changes. Even if we don’t feel like it does in the moment. Here are some small steps carers recommend:

“Try and take one day at a time. If this is to hard try one hour or even 5 minutes.”
“Take a quiet 5 or 10 mins whenever you can. If you’re a 24hr carer get a hobby, one you can easily pick up to do.”
"Do what your body is telling you to do. If it’s a day in the chair then that's ok"

4. Talk about your feelings and challenges

Naturally, caring can feel very isolated. Is there someone close to us that we can talk to?

“If you have one friend who knows you well, text them or talk to them. A lot of the time family don't understand but friends do.”
“Involve others in your caring responsibilities. Friends, neighbours, family and professionals”

And now with the digital era blooming, are there any online groups with like-minded people we can join? If you are not yet part of the Mobilise community, pop on over and say hi! We’re all ears and ask all sorts of questions to do with caring.

5. Practise gratitude

There is a quote by Max Lucado which goes, "what if we woke up tomorrow with only the things we were grateful for today?"

Perhaps for some of us, gratitude is not something we want to practice every single day. The beauty of it is that we can exercise gratitude in a range of different ways. They can be words of affirmations, through journaling, or having a conversation with a family or friend.

“Count your blessings and think of the positives”

Thank you to everyone in the Mobilise community who shared their responses.

Check out some resources which may be useful:

1 Comment

Mar 22, 2022

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