Whether you are a nurse, family carer, counsellor, or teacher – caring for other people on a daily basis can be emotionally (and physically) draining. Throw in a busy schedule and the normal stressors of life, and our own mental health and wellbeing can feel like an afterthought. Just another box that will never be ticked on our already long to-do list.
The result? An increased risk of developing more serious and long-term mental health conditions such as chronic anxiety, depression, and burnout.
As a counsellor myself and someone who is regularly exposed to other people’s trauma, I know first-hand just how important it is to safeguard my mental health through self-care. In fact, I can see tangible improvements in my quality of life (and the quality of care that I am able to give to my clients) when I am able to follow a consistent self-care routine.
In essence, you cannot fill from an empty cup.
Practicing Self-Care as a Carer: 6 Practical Tips
If you work in education, hospitality, or healthcare, here are a few practical tips on how to practice self-care when your life is devoted to caring for others.
The following tips are adapted from my article “How to Practice Self-Care in Caring Professions” on the My Little Therapy Box website.
Practice good sleep hygiene
Because caring for others can be emotionally draining, you might need more rest than other professions. It might also be more difficult for you to switch off at night because of the things you’ve experienced during your working day, so give yourself the best chance of a peaceful night by reading something soothing before bed, listening to relaxing music, spritzing some pillow spray, meditating, or noting down in a journal anything that’s lingering on your mind.
Use all of your holidays
You’re more likely to suffer from fatigue if you’re not taking regular breaks. It can be challenging to take time off when you know that other people are relying on you, but it is absolutely essential that you’re taking all of your annual leave – even if you don’t go anywhere. Time off is a chance for you to recharge and reconnect with yourself. If you work for yourself, be sure to factor in holidays like you would if you were employed.
Nourish your body through diet and exercise
This is the same advice that you’d give to the individuals that you work with. Why? Because you know that looking after your body has an enormously positive impact on your mind. You might be too busy to hit the gym every day of the week, but practising some gentle yoga stretches in the morning or before bed, and eating nutritious foods more often than you turn to takeout, will really help you to safeguard your wellbeing when you’re busy supporting others.
Create healthy relationships
You spend a lot of time with people that need your help, and rely on your guidance – but what about people who are there to simply spend time with you? Connections are crucial for personal wellness, so don’t neglect relationships with friends and family, or cut yourself off from meeting new people, simply because you have a hectic caring schedule.
Express yourself through hobbies
When your job revolves around helping others become the best version of themselves, it can be easy to lose sight of yourself. So when you’re out of work-mode, turn your attention inwards. What do you enjoy? How can you express yourself? Get creative with art, writing, music, dance, theatre, or anything else that brings you joy.
Explore Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)
CFT encourages mental and emotional healing through self-compassion, which is something that care professionals can really benefit from. CFT can help to strengthen your distress tolerance, which can prove helpful when you’re party to other people’s emotional and mental distress. Learn more about from CFT from Anxiety UK here.
About The Lily-Jo Project’s International Weekend of Self-Care
This blog article is a part of The Lily-Jo Project’s International Weekend of Self-Care campaign which takes place every year in August. To learn more about this campaign and access additional self-care resources, visit www.thelilyjoproject.com/internationalweekendofselfcare.
Further Resources on Self-Care as a Carer
If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources and support.
- Natasha’s free downloadable, One Week to Better Wellbeing
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, How to Self-Care: Lily-Jo’s Story
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, How to Self-Care When Battling Anxiety: Mari’s Story
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, How to Self-Care When Battling Depression: Alexis’ Story
- The Lily-Jo Project’s Facebook support group for parents, teachers, and youth workers, Recharge
About the Author: Natasha Page
Natasha Page is a BACP accredited integrative counsellor and psychotherapist based in Nottingham. She is also the founder of My Little Therapy Box, which provides therapeutic mood cards, courses, and tools for individuals and therapists.
To stay in touch with Natasha, you can follow her on the following platforms:
- Facebook / mylittletherapybox
- Instagram / my_little_therapy_box
- Twitter / @mylittletherapy
- LinkedIn / Natasha Page
You can also learn more about her story in our interview with her here: An Interview with Counsellor and Founder of ‘My Therapy Box’, Natasha Page.