This blog article was provided by the team at Arafmi Ltd. Arafmi are a not-for-profit community organisation that has been providing quality services to people with mental illness, their families, carers and volunteers in Queensland for over 40 years. During COVID-19 they’re right there alongside family, friends and carers of people with complex mental health issues and today they’re sharing their insights from the front line.
Being a Carer
During these days of unease and constant change, taking care of our mental health has never been more crucial. Many carers look forward to regular social outings with friends and family, as their caring role is often 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But with physical distancing and isolation requirements still in place many public places are being closed up – respite options are disappearing as quickly as our ability to enjoy dinner at the local pub!
What many carers don’t tell you is that their job is two-fold. Not only do they care for their loved one who is unwell, they must also remember to take care of themselves. It’s like a pre-flight safety demonstration, the message is clear: put your own mask on before attending to others in need. But just like most people don’t pay attention to the flight attendant’s presentation, many empathetic carers continue to prioritise their loved ones before themselves. Doing this means they are well enough to be the strength and support that their loved ones need. But how do they do this in isolation?
It would be easy to fall into a trap of feeling alone during this time. It may seem like there’s nothing to do but sit on your hands and wait out this whole pandemic, when in reality this is a great opportunity to forge connection. It will take more effort, but maintaining your mental health as a carer during this global experience is possible. Remember, physical distancing does not mean that we have to be emotionally or socially isolated.
Recently, Arafmi released a video (below) highlighting the message that carers are not alone. We shared with our carers that there are many ways to stay connected until we can all meet face to face again.
7 Ways Carers Can Maintain Positive Mental Health During Physical Isolation
As we have mentioned, being physically distanced from others does not equate to being socially and emotionally isolated. We have listed below some helpful ways we can maintain our mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please pass these on to any carers you may know.
12 Weeds A Day
One of our (ARAFMI) staff members has set herself a task of pulling out 12 weeds a day. She acknowledges that it doesn’t sound like much, but she uses this goal as a way of ensuring she’s out of the house and in the sunshine at least once a day. Removing 12 weeds a day will certainly add up, it’s an achievable goal and there’s something symbolic and cathartic about removing unwanted things from the garden. Another staff member has found common tasks to be somewhat grounding, such as delegating small chunks of time focused on cleaning the house. We think it’s a perfect way to get the job done especially if there’s been a looming task that you’ve been putting off. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Nominate somebody that you could reach out to each day and get in touch with them. It works both ways too: if you’re feeling down or need to connect with people, call or text someone. On the flip, it’s not uncommon for people to have little emotional support around, or not as many friends and family they trust to open up to, if this is the case, there’s still support for you - you can call:
Arafmi 1300 554 660
SANE 1800 187 263 (10am – 10pm Mon – Fri)
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Meditate or mindfulness
Starting the day with mindfulness has benefits of quietening the mind and allowing you to focus on just one thing, breathing. The meditation doesn’t need to be long; it can be done in just 10 minutes. Check out this meditation here!
Limit News Intake
Minimize the reading of news articles, blogs or social media posts that talk about the Coronavirus. Remaining informed about the situation is certainly helpful, but reading excessive amounts, especially negative press can be harmful to your mental health. The Forums have a dedicated COVID19 thread, which includes link to trusted websites.
Create a Routine
You may find it tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day as the only colleague who will catch you out is your tabby cat, but creating a routine for yourself is crucial in maintaining your mental health. It doesn’t have to be too strict, just doing your best to stick to regular times for eating, sleeping, exercising and socialising (virtually of course!). Respite in routine is also really important, redirect some of the compassion you utilise as a carer back toward yourself and prioritise downtime where you can.
Move your body
For now, you can still throw your sneakers on and head out for a walk, or jump on your bike and go for a ride, but if you’re not in the mood for fresh air – online options are boundless! A lot of fitness studios have adapted their programs to an online setting, check out what your local yoga, gym or pilates studio are up to on google!
With the state of life now, it would be easy to fall into the trap of eating chocolates and chips and other easy to grab foods. But (and you know what’s coming), we need to be eating whole foods in order to keep ourselves healthy mentally and physically. While some grocery items are difficult to access, fresh fruit and vegetables continue to be available in ample supply. This is great news because we can still have a fresh salad or stir-fried vegetables on the menu!
We want to hear from you
Are you a carer? Do you know a carer? How are they dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic? Are there any tricks or tips that you’d like to share with our carers? We’d love to hear from you - please email ARAFMI firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment below and we’ll share it amongst our carer community.
If you are feeling vulnerable or need to talk, please contact our 24 hour Carer Helpline on 1300 554 660. You are not alone.
Join hundreds of carers sharing strategies just like this! Start a discussion in our online community right here.
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