Toolkit for Carers

The greatest gift you can give to the person you’re caring for is the gift of your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. If you’re caring for someone with a chronic illness, disability, mental illness or who is frail aged then you need to care for you first. If you make time for YOU first, you’ll have boundless energy left over to care for others. Remember, you’ll never FIND the time. You need to MAKE the time because caring for the carer is vital! 

Get Help if you’re fretting about the future, for yourself or the people you care for, feel stuck, tired or experience conflict on a daily basis. Call the Quest for Life Centre on 1300 941 488.

Are you an exhausted carer?

Keep healthy and active
  • Exercise regularly – 20 minutes daily will help you sustain the physical demands of caring and provide a break from your daily activities
  • Eat regular, healthy meals to fuel the strength and stamina you need for caring
  • Get enough sleep – tiredness and exhaustion increase the stress of caring
  • Look after your back – if you need to lift the person you’re caring for, get professional advice on the safest way to do so. Is there equipment that can help?
  • Talk to your GP about your caring role and the demands it makes on you.
Practice relaxation
  • Make time to relax. Do these activities while practicing being present:
  • Breathe in to the count of 4. Hold for the count of 4. Breathe out to the count of 4
  • Take a walk
  • Meditate or practice Coming to Your Senses
  • Do some gentle stretches
  • Listen to music with eyes closed
  • Mindful colouring in.
Take time out
  • Continue with activities you enjoy. Make time to follow your interests outside your caring role.
  • Take a break (respite)
  • Respite is a break from the responsibility of looking after someone. It may be for a few hours, a day, a night or longer. Respite is a way of relieving the stress of being a carer.
Stay connected
  • It’s easy to become isolated as a carer. You might be too busy to keep up with friends and family. People may visit you less often. Loneliness can be a serious side effect of being a carer.
  • Talking to someone who understands can be a relief. Sharing your experiences with someone you trust – family, friends, neighbours, other carers or workers – can help.
  • Support groups offer a safe place to talk about your role as a carer. Being in touch with other carers experiencing similar things to you allows you to share stories and support each other.

Feeling overwhelmed?

It’s common to feel overwhelmed at times, to reach a point where you feel like everything is getting to be too much. It can be difficult to work out why you’re feeling so hopeless. Sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed doesn’t come from the tasks themselves, but from the mental clutter that occupies our minds. Remember, nothing lasts forever. Below are some quick and easy ways to calm down when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Let go of things
  • Take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself, “If I don’t do it today, will it matter a month from now?” Sometimes the urgent tasks aren’t the really important ones.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed, break tasks down into manageable goals and focus only on the things that really matter.
Make ‘just one thing’ your mantra
  • When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of things you need to do, it’s hard to know where to start.
  • The best way to get your mind to quieten is to focus on just one thing. Pick one small task and begin. One task at a time.
Meditate and come to your senses
  • Meditation is conscious relaxation for the mind. It’s an extremely effective way to increase focus and address the problems you’re dealing with.
  • Whenever you feel overwhelmed by tension, close your eyes for 5 minutes, and focus solely on your breath.
  • For more tips on meditating and mindfulness visit toolkit for adults/meditation-practices.
Get moving
  • Any exercise you engage in – be it walking or dancing to your favourite beat – helps pump some ‘feel-good’ hormones called endorphins, through your body. They also clear your mind.
  • Staying active increases your productivity, enhances your ability to cope with stress and helps relieve nervous tension - boosting your mood and changing the thoughts that induce the sense of being overwhelmed.
Change your surroundings
  • Go outside for a few minutes and enjoy the sunshine.
  • Stop at a park instead of driving straight home from work.
  • We need fresh air and time in nature. Sometimes changing surroundings and doing something different is all it takes to change your perspective and find creative solutions to complex or overwhelming challenges.
Press pause and laugh
  • Literally, stop everything and take a break to tickle your funny bone. Laughing and smiling frequently have been proven to reduce stress levels, making you less prone to anxiety. Next time stress builds up, take a moment to browse through funny images on YouTube or watch a comedy.
More omega-3 and vitamin B please!
  • Anxiety affects our brain and body therefore, recovery involves nourishing the brain and body. Give them the nutrients they need by eating foods rich in omega-3 and vitamin B. 
  • Studies have linked vitamin B with good mental health, and omega-3s can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. 
  • Cut down on sugar, processed food and caffeine as these foods increase symptoms of anxiety.

Do you need to calm your mind?

As humans, we spend a lot of time in our heads. Worrying, replaying, speculating, rehearsing. We’re almost always thinking about the past or the future.

Even when we think we are in the present, we get caught up wondering about how we are seen by others or what they make of us. All of this uses up a great deal of our mental energy. We rarely experience a moment as it is. Without judgment. Without commentary. Just purely as it is. This is what meditation or ‘coming to your senses’ is all about.

Meditation benefits include:
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Lower heart rate
  • Increased immunity to infections
  • Less perspiration
  • Slower respiratory rate
  • Less anxiety
  • Lower blood cortisol levels
  • More feelings of well-being
  • Less stress
  • Deeper relaxation

In meditation we unveil the treasure of our human ‘being’ beyond our human ‘doing’. Meditation is like relaxation for the mind. It is very simple. Observe and let go. Not holding onto thoughts or feelings, not adding to them, not resisting them, just observing and letting go.

As we quieten the chatter of our minds we discover an inner wellspring from which insight, joy, inspiration, imagination, wisdom, creativity and contentment can effortlessly flow. Meditation becomes a sacred space in which we replenish and refresh ourselves.

The practice of coming to our senses can become a way of life, a way of being in the world that gives us access to our intuition, creativity, clarity, humour and more. It’s simply about coming to our senses, wherever we are, in whatever activity we might be engaged. It is worth remembering that our bodies are always in the present. One of the most effective ways of bringing our minds to rest is to focus on the senses of our body.

Do this simple practice now while you’re reading:
  • Take a couple of long, slow, deep breaths. As you exhale, feel your body soften and relax.
  • Become aware of your weight and posture. Feel the pressure of the chair against your body, the floor against your feet or whatever is supporting your body. Become aware of the space between your feet and the floor.
  • Feel the touch of your clothing against your skin. Notice its texture, the temperature your clothing helps create.
  • Feel the touch of the air against your hands, your cheeks.
  • Become aware of all the sounds within and outside the space you’re in – not judging, labelling or resisting anything, simply allowing every sound to be heard – letting them come, to pass. Let your listening travel right out until you hear the silence beyond all sound. This state, where the mind is at rest is what we’re aiming to achieve by focusing it in the present moment.

Doesn’t that feel better! The richness this practice brings to our everyday experience is a treasure beyond words.

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