Ohhhh boy! I tell you what, the list of things that we “need to do” and “must achieve” is never ending and at times seems to be ever growing.
Always “too much to do and not enough time”! Is that something you can relate to?
Being a carer and parent in modern day society can be beyond challenging. High level “responsibility” in carrying the health and well-being of others in our hands, the confronting decisions to make and information that we are expected to face daily, ongoing financial and social pressures, the sometimes unattainable standards of expectation of ourselves to perform and add to that the noise of social media can leave us feeling deflated, overwhelmed and simply not good enough.
When all we really want to do is provide the best quality care to the ones we love. Let’s face it, most of us would give our left leg if it meant we could take away the pain, hurt and suffering our loved ones experience.
Many people that I talk to simply don’t see any way out of this “catch 22” situation… No light at the end of the tunnel and no way to change or adjust the pressures of their lives. The sad fact is that more often than not, something is missed, something or someone comes last and doesn’t get the attention or fuel they need to go on. So the stressors continue and the stress levels increase and become prolonged.
As humans we release a series of hormones when our body perceives it is in “danger”, these are adrenaline, cortisol and oxytocin. But when we are in longer term stress, these hormones get ‘depleted’ and this is when we get into real trouble.
What we start seeing in carers (and anyone who has long term stress) is:
- lowered immune function – higher risk of catching colds, flu’s and viruses
- drop in the production & release of serotonin (happy hormone) – increase in depression, anxiety, and mental health concerns
- drop in the production & release in melatonin (sleep hormone) – poor quality sleep leading to issues with normal growth and repair of the body and ineffective cognitive function
- impaired digestive function & increase in sugars in the blood – risks of weight gain/loss, digestive upset, Type 2 diabetes, inflammation
As you can see carers are at increased risks of developing their own chronic mental and physical health and wellbeing conditions. One of the biggest objections to making positive changes or accepting help are time and money. The simple yet harsh fact is illness and disease don’t care about time… there is no good timing for becoming sick. Complacency has us thinking it won’t happen to us, but I am an example that it can and does at any time. Let’s reduce the risks of this happening for you!
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The good news is that as individuals and as a collective community we can work together to lower the risk of chronic health conditions for carers and increase carer and parent wellbeing.
How can we do this?
- Manage Stress: Having practical ways to manage short/immediate and long-term stress is key.
This could be simple breathing activities or ways you interrupt the patterns. It could be organisation & planning in your role, accepting help & clearing clutter from the home which creates a clearer mind. You may choose to see a professional in the medical, allied or holistic health field to help you with this.
- Nourish: your body with whole foods from plant and/or animal sources and lowering the amount of processed foods and sugars you consume.
In addition, ensuring that you get adequate hydration is vital for the optimum function of all of your organs, body systems especially your brain.
- Movement: physical activity or what I like to call a bit of “huffy puffy”!
Exercise promotes the release and uptake of serotonin our happy hormone and boosts our energy levels believe it or not! Add some music, do it with others and you are definitely on your way!
- Support: Have a support network around you can rely on that are happy to listen without judgement or opinion.
This could be face to face and can even be online like the Carers Connect Community on Facebook. There are also care organisations such as Carers Australia or others in your local community who have funding for a range of support services that can make a world of difference. Having people you can talk to, especially those who “get it”, can be invaluable. Those closest to us can help with our other responsibilities.
- Feel good: Doing something often that “lights you up”, makes you feel good about you, happy and fulfilled.
This could be anything from some quiet time with a book and a cuppa, to dancing, spending time at the beach, anything that is for you.
- Sleep & Relaxation: Adequate sleep and relaxation are essential for growth & repair of the body, for clarity of mind and optimal cognitive function.
Sleep happens to be one of the biggest issues among caregivers yet is one of the strategies that can most help us get through our day. Sleep routines are very important. Keeping hydrated will aid quality sleep, turning “screens” off an hour before sleep is suggested in addition to a regular and reliable routine such as “bath, tea, book, teeth, lights out”.
My suggestion is to work out what is most critical for you right now. Sleep and hydration are deal breakers and without them having the energy for anything else is near impossible. For more detailed tips on how you can improve these things in your life download the Burnout Buster for carers here!