In Australia, there are 2.7 million carers providing unpaid care and support to family members and friends who are ageing or have a disability, mental or terminal illness, chronic condition, or alcohol or drug-related issue. These carers are often also juggling study, paid employment, other family responsibilities, and conversations with services about funding and paid support.
But as a carer, what can you do to take care of yourself? You may think you can survive on less sleep, ready meals and no downtime but unfortunately, you could burn out. And this never happens at a convenient time, especially as a carer.
Here are some 10-minute fixes for taking care of yourself. You can’t just “do” self-care for a week and go back to how things were before, so let’s make it sustainable.
1. Exercise. Everyone says you need 45 minutes a day, three times a week. But if that seems impossible right now, download a fitness tracker and see if you can reach a daily target. It’s possible to clock up almost 8,000 steps just by doing what you normally do.
2. Do what you love. Again, this doesn’t need to involve a weekend of painting. By having a small project on the go, you can work on it when you have a few spare minutes. It could even involve listening to or discovering new music, something you can do instantly on Spotify. This helps remind you of who you are and what you love to do.
3. Breathe deeply. With a few deep breaths, your muscles relax, those feelgood endorphins are released and your “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system is activated. You could also try Take 10 mindfulness sessions, available for free on the Headspace app.
4. Get some help. Having a Better Caring care or support worker you know and trust to support your family member or friend every now and then will give you some relief. A worker with similar interests can even take your loved one out of the house to a show, a football match or something else they’d really enjoy. Take 10 minutes to sign up now.
5. Choose your people. With limited energy and time, you need to be selective about who you hang out with. Some people recharge by spending some time alone. Others recharge by seeing a friend and having a chat. If you can only spare 10 minutes, you can pick up the phone to a friend.
6. Buy something nice for yourself. In the spirit of taking 10, why not limit it to $10 and use your imagination?
7. Do something nice for yourself. Not everyone wants a bubble bath but whatever you choose to do, make sure you remind yourself that you deserve it.
8. See the funny side. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy, reduces pain and protects you from stress. What’s not to laugh at? You can find a laugh with friends, pets, children, a book, a funny 10-minute clip on YouTube or even a stand-up comedy night (take the person you’re caring for with you!).
9. Change your diet in bite-sized pieces. Good, healthy food can take time and money. You can tackle this head on by trying a meal box from companies like Hello Fresh, Marley Spoon or PepperLeaf. Or start with a small change like less caffeine or at least one piece of fruit a day.
10. Make a list. Now that you’ve got some ideas for self-care, make a list so that it’s easy to know what to do with your next spare 10 minutes. Be as creative as possible. Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? Put it on the list, and see if you can sneak in not just 10 minutes, but half an hour or even an hour!