• Carolyn

Self Care for Your Mental Health

Being a caregiver for a loved on who suffers from mental illness is difficult. Caregivers often care for others before caring for themselves. This is not good for both you and the person you are caring for. In order to live a healthy life, your best life, and a life where you take care of another, you must first take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself takes many forms but focuses on two main areas; your physical health and your mental health. Below are some examples of how you can take care of yourself in both areas.

Take Care of Yourself Physically

  • Exercise

  • Get Plenty of Sleep

  • Eat Healthy Foods

  • Limit Consumption of Alcohol and Drugs

Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve mood and reduce stress.

Sleep allows our bodies to repair itself. Poor sleep or lack of sleep is linked to physical problems like weakened immune systems and mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. A good night's sleep puts you in the right mindset to tackle whatever challenges you are about to face.

The brain needs essential vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and function properly. Eating healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins helps promote positive mental health.

Alcohol and drugs effect the chemical makeup of your brain and can negatively impact your mental health. Alcohol and drugs lower levels of serotonin and disrupt your brain's normal chemical balance.

Take Care of Yourself Mentally

  • Stop Feeling Guilt

  • Surround Yourself with a Support System

  • Have a Positive Mindset

  • Meditation

  • Journal

  • Seek Help

Caregivers often feel guilty for a variety of reasons. You may feel guilty for being angry for the position that you are being placed in, you may feel guilty for being mentally healthy, you may feel guilty for enjoying life, you may feel guilty for feeling resentful. This must stop. You are permitted to feel whatever feelings you feel. When you begin to feel guilty, let the feeling happen. Don't push it down or away. Process the feeling. Why are you feeling this way. Give yourself permission to feel this way. Remember, feelings and thoughts are different than actions. Thoughts and feelings impact your actions, but you decide how. When you can properly process feelings of guilt, anger, or sadness, you can learn techniques to internally deal with them without taking those emotions out on our loved one.

Surrounding yourself with friends, family, and people who lift you up is essential. The people you surround yourself with effect your mood, both positively and negatively so choose wisely. Select people who lift you up, you stand with you in your struggle, encourage you, and bring you joy. Share your story with people so they can help you, support you, and care for you.

Having a positive mindset can be hard, especially when your loved one is suffering greatly with their mental illness but you must keep your head up. Don't allow yourself, no matter how easy it is, to get pulled into the negative spiral of your loved one. You cannot be of help to yourself or to them if you find yourself both suffering. Develop tools you can utilize to keep yourself in that positive mindset. It may be socializing with friends, meditation, journaling, or seeking the help of a mental health care provider yourself.

The important piece in all of this is even though you may feel it, you are not alone. There are 8.4 million Americans who provide care to an adult with an emotional or mental illness. There are steps you can take to care for yourself so you can properly care for your loved one. There are support groups out there to help you develop those tools, support you in your struggle, and provide a positive environment for your mental health. It takes Small Steps Everyday to maintain your mental health and provide the necessary care for your loved one.

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