If You Are Caring for Individuals Living with Mental Health Challenges, Take Steps for Self-Care
We have just wrapped up Mental Health Awareness week when we focused on reducing the stigma and supporting those who are managing mental health struggles. But, we also need to remember to support individuals who are the caregivers of individuals with mental health needs. If you are an individual supporting family members or friends, you need to give yourself permission to take time for self-care. Self-care provides us with many benefits that result in our ability to better manage our circumstances.
Self-care can be actions or activities that contribute to the overall well-being of our physical, spiritual and mental health. Self-care practices include a number of lifestyle choices such as getting exercise, eating well, good hygiene, meditating, pursuing personal interests, taking time to relax, getting sufficient sleep and avoiding health hazards such as smoking.
For everyone, self-care:
- promotes healthy growth (physically, mentally and socially)
- increases confidence, self-esteem and resilience
- delivers an outlet for managing stressful situations
- helps with pain management
- prevents illness and disease, and strengthens the immune system
- provides a balanced approach to life so that one aspect of life is not so overwhelming
- enlightens individuals about the relationship between diet and exercise, and mental attitudes and bodily functions
- lowers the cost of health care for society.
Self-care has the following benefits for parents or guardians of children living with mental health concerns:
- improves parental resilience by having time to rejuvenate, which ultimately leads to a more positive attitude when facing the next challenge
- helps parents to maintain physical and mental health, promoting increased capacity
- provides children with a positive role model as they learn constructive ways to take care of themselves
- allows parents to have a separate identity outside of care-giver, or interests outside of child raising, which provides a balanced approach to life and feelings of personal competence
- educates parents about the effects of trauma on the mind and body, and the impact of self-care as a management tool
- teaches healthy boundaries around caring for oneself and meeting the needs of those in need of attention
- connects parents with the community, providing supports and decreasing isolation.
When working in a care-giver role with clients managing mental health challenges, taking time for personal self-care:
- prevents professional burn-out
- improves resilience in managing challenges and stress in the work environment
- provides a positive role model for co-workers and the clients you serve
- normalizes for clients that others need to invest energy and time into maintaining positivity
- provides workers with practical strategies and skills to impart to clients
- supports a positive work attitude that leads to positive work relationships, positive teams, positive outcomes with clients, and a desirable and satisfying work life
- reduces sick time and stress leave