It’s physically, emotionally and mentally tough caring for a child who is terminally ill or has a disability. Add to this the current climate caused by COVID-19 and many unpaid carers find themselves in particularly challenging times.  

There are about 2.7 million unpaid carers in Australia. Having worked with many of them over the years, I know a lot of carers are good at being supportive and giving to others, but often don’t offer that same level of care to themselves. This can lead to mental and physical exhaustion – a situation of no benefit to the carer, or the person who relies on them.

Now more than ever carers (and everyone for that matter) should make their mental and physical wellbeing a priority to help them navigate through this uncertain period. Here is some evidence-based guidance that might help you with this.  

Self-compassion is important

I often say to carers that they should show the same kindness to themselves that they do to the person in their care. Try to be patient with yourself and remember that it’s okay not to be perfect, you aren’t always going to get things right.

Finding this clarity of thought can be difficult in the midst of a busy or difficult day, so it’s important to create brief moments where you can relieve stress. Some simple breathing exercises can help. One of the Carer Gateway counsellors I work with at The Benevolent Society is also an accredited Breathworks Mindfulness teacher. She recommends finding a couple of minutes to sit in an upright position, inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. Repeat this process and do it a few times a day if possible. Slowing down your breathing can help produce feelings of calmness and self-compassion. Some great apps to help with this are Smiling Mind, Insight Timer and UCLA Mindful.

If this exercise isn’t for you, try singing your favourite songs around the house. Singing releases endorphins and oxytocin that relieve anxiety and stress. So don’t worry if you can’t sing; it’s good for you.

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