Care for Carers
Being a carer requires a lot of physical and emotional energy. Here we have put together some coping techniques..
Working in care requires a lot of physical and emotional energy, not to mention unwavering patience and compassion. As rewarding as it is, care work can be incredibly draining and at times quite stressful. Like anyone else, carers need enough rest and recovery to be able to do their job well – physically, mentally and emotionally. Here are a few simple tools to aid carers in maintaining their own health and well being, both at home and on the job.
Controlled breathing has been used to relieve stress and anxiety, and to encourage relaxation and clarity, for thousands of years. Just the simple act of bringing awareness to your breath can instantly calm and reassure. There are many different breathing techniques but generally speaking, the deeper and slower the breath, the more relaxed you will feel. Try counting in and out, gradually increasing the length of breath. This can prove particularly useful in stressful situations, or before going to bed.
In order to function properly, our bodies and minds need to be fed, watered and rested. This can sometimes be a struggle for shift workers whose routines are inconsistent, and mealtimes and sleep disrupted. But neglecting our most basic needs can result in stress, exhaustion and poor health.
Drinking plenty of water and eating the right foods will go a long way to giving the body what it needs to keep going. Slow release energy foods are ideal for physically demanding jobs with infrequent breaks. Try to stay away from refined sugar hits and too much caffeine. As tempting as they are, their ups are short-lived and not good for your body, and you find yourself needing more and more.
While many of us are not able to get a solid 8 hours of sleep each night, there are plenty of ways to improve the quality of the sleep you do get. If you are feeling at all stressed or anxious then sleep may not come too easily. Try to wind down before going to bed so you are not lying awake with a busy mind. Warm baths are a great means of relaxation, as is listening to music and deep breathing. If you are working night shifts then use blackouts or an eye mask to allow you to sleep in darkness during the day.
Exercising your body, outside of work, has many benefits. Exercise is a proven stress reliever and will improve all aspects of the body’s functioning – including sleep and vitality. It also comes in many forms, be it group classes or solo workouts, indoors or outdoors. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is something you enjoy and not just an extra stress. Swimming and yoga are ideal for the evening so you can stretch your muscles and calm your nervous system.
We all deserve some time out from our work and carers often end up neglecting themselves in favor of others. When your shift is over, try not to take all the stresses and worries of work home with you. This is your time now, so use it wisely. You will no doubt have your own list of jobs to do, but make sure that you are able to take a moment for yourself – even just sitting with a cup of tea for 10 minutes, before doing any chores. Get changed out of your uniform as soon as you are home too. This will help to separate work from leisure.
When it all gets too much, it is important that you seek help and advice instead of going it alone. There are many support systems available to all carers, both professional and voluntary. If your health and well being is suffering, talk to your GP. Friends and family may not always be able to understand your work, which is why there are various groups that enable carers to get together.