Why caring always starts with yourself
The conventional wisdom about caring and carers is that it’s about being selfless, about putting the wellbeing of others before yourself. Whilst this is undoubtedly true in many cases, it might not always be the wisest thing to do.
People get into caring precisely because they care. They can emphasise and put themselves in other peoples shoes. That’s what keeps them going despite the difficult working conditions, less than inspiring wages and often demanding hours.
It’s incredibly admirable but this kind of career comes with a downside, and it more often than not affects the carer’s own health. As a carer, you are more likely to be in poor health than in most other careers, and this can prevent you from doing your job properly.
So, here’s what you need to do to look after yourself.
Take a break
This could range from a quick five minute time-out to a longer more coordinated respite. Taking the time to recharge the batteries is essential to maintain a high level of care.
Getting enough sleep
Caring often involves working long or unsociable hours, so sleep patterns can suffer. Few things are as detrimental to your health than lack of sleep. Even if it’s at unusual times, between six and eight hours of good sleep a night are an absolute must.
Back problems are the curse of the carer. All that bending and load bearing can wreak havoc with your back. And as any one who has suffered can tell you, a bad back can be incredibly debilitating. Look after yours by following good practice and ensuring you are given adequate training and the correct equipment, such as hoists and evac chairs.
A regular check up with your GP is always a good idea. Let them know what it is you do and explain your working situation. GPs are trained to help people in the caring profession and have access and connections to people who can offer support.
Coping with stress
Poor health is both caused by and causes stress. It’s a nasty vicious circle that is hard to break. Watch out for the signs of stress and do something about it (the above measures will all help).
Coping with guilt and resentment
So many carers do what they do because they want to help, this can lead to feelings of guilt when you put yourself first. But you have to remember that if you’re not in good shape, the standard of care you are offering will never be as high. For some carers, feelings of resentment can also start to appear, which is a sure sign that you’re ignoring your own well-being and need to act.