How to look after yourself while supporting someone
Many of us will find ourselves supporting someone close to us with a mental health condition at some point. Being a caregiver or a support person, you may feel the need to be emotionally strong all the time. The problem with this is when it comes at the expense of your own wellbeing. At times like this, we need to think of ourselves too and practice some self-care.
Supporting someone through a mental health condition can be exhausting, demanding and rewarding all rolled into one. If you’re supporting a partner or close friend, you might also feel like you’ve lost someone close to you to talk about what’s going on in your day-to-day life. Caregivers can often experience intense periods of isolation and anxiety.
It’s easy for the person you are supporting to become your prime focus but remember that if you do not look after yourself, you won’t be able to look after others. Here are some healthy tips on how you can find balance:
Learn about the mental health condition your loved one is experiencing
Uncertainty on your part can lead to a lot of stress. For example, if you’re supporting someone with depression, it’s good to know phrases to avoid when talking to them about their condition. Similarly, there are common misconceptions when it comes to anxiety. The best thing you can do is to learn the facts so that you can understand what they are going through and how this affects their day-to-day behaviour.
To learn more about common mental health conditions, check out 3Ts’ online library of download Self-help Guides (Audio & PDF)
Accept how you feel
Supporting someone with a mental health condition can bring up lots of emotions. These may include fear, confusion, hopelessness and guilt. You might find yourself constantly wondering, ‘How am I supposed to feel?’ There is no single or short answer to this – how you feel is how you feel. Accept that aspects of the situation are beyond your control and allow yourself to feel your feelings, knowing that you still love the person you are supporting either way.
Take time for yourself
You need to rest to keep yourself healthy. It’s not a luxury – it’s a necessity. Find the time for yourself, away from the person you are supporting. You shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying these moments of me-time. Your work as a caregiver will benefit from this self-care.
There is only so much you can do as a caregiver. Often there is no ‘quick fix’ you can do to make your loved one feel better immediately. This can be frustrating, especially if they’re resistant to getting support. As far as possible, keep an open dialogue that acknowledges your feelings too, encouraging the person you are supporting to seek other support services.
You don’t have to do this alone. If you don’t want to speak to a family member or friend, or your mental health symptoms intensify, your GP is the best starting point for getting support. Other easily accessible services that you might find useful during this time are:
- Text 58080, a free SMS support service. Text ‘3Ts’ to 50808 to start the conversation.
- Call the Samaritans on 116 123 for a listening ear and advice.
- If you think someone is in immediate danger, call emergency services on 999. For tips on bringing someone to the Emergency Department, see here.