Mental illness doesn’t just affect the person living with the condition. Those who care for, and advocate for, people living with mental illness, can quickly become physically or emotionally unwell. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, caregivers who pay close attention to their own health are better able to support those living with mental illness.
Take Time for Yourself
While it can seem almost impossible while in a caregiver role, it is crucial to your own health that you commit to taking time away from your caregiving duties. Each month, schedule time away for yourself and write it as a non-negotiable in your calendar. Go see a movie with a friend, grab a cup of coffee alone, or go shopping. The time spent away from your caregiving duties will help you to feel less overwhelmed and even less depressed. If the person you care for needs someone with them at all times, schedule help from friends, family, or professionals so that you can get the time away that you need.
Go to the Gym
Exercise is a wonderful habit for those in a caregiving role. Not only does the endorphin release help you feel great, you can combat illness better with a pumped-up immune system. If you haven’t worked out recently, don’t worry. You don’t need to start off with vigorous training to get the physical and mental health benefits. Go for a brisk walk, take a beginners yoga class, or hit the pool to swim a few laps.
Eat Good Food
Caregivers are at an increased risk for physical illness, and eating nutritious food can keep your immune system healthy. Drink plenty of water, passing on alcohol and caffeinated drinks as much as possible, and fill your grocery cart with fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. If grocery shopping seems too overwhelming with your busy schedule, consider a delivery service where you order online ahead of time.
Go to Counseling
People living with mental illness are encouraged to see a counselor consistently to learn coping skills and talk about their feelings. Those caring for people living with mental illness should do the same! Find a counselor you can talk to on a regular basis and explore support groups in your area to connect with others in a similar situation.
Finally, it is common for caregivers to have feelings of loneliness, or to live with depression or anxiety. If you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, or not yourself, talk to your doctor about it. You cannot care well for someone else if you are not caring for yourself.