Six ways to look after yourself as a carer

Aileen Waton
Director of Risk and Governance, Care Services, at Bupa UK
27 April 2023
Next review due April 2026

As a population we’re living longer. For many of us, this means we may be the main carer for a family member or loved one. Supporting your own health and wellbeing is one of the most important things you can do while caring for someone. It will also help you to feel more able to cope. In this article, I share six self-care tips for carers.

man on wheelchair accompanied by a carer

Six self-care tips for carers

Let’s start by exploring what self-care means. Simply put, self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can stay healthy. If you don’t look after yourself, you may become ill or feel exhausted. And you may not be able to help and look after others. With this in mind, here’s a list of things you can do to look after yourself, when caring for someone else.

1. Take regular breaks

Carers often feel the responsibility burden heavily, and feel guilty for taking a break. You may find it hard to make time for yourself. But try not to feel bad for thinking about yourself. Taking regular time out may help you to cope. Even a short break, just an hour or two a week, may make you feel much better.

See if a friend or relative can come over to spend time with the person you’re caring for, to give you a break. Depending on the needs of your loved one, you could explore short-term care support options for them. This may include day care or respite care.

2. Organise your time

It’s important to plan your time carefully, thinking about different areas of your life, such as self-care, leisure, work and caring. Time away from your caring responsibilities will help you to:

Try to plan your activities based on your priorities. You can do this by getting help from people closest to you. Your community network can be a great source of support too. Or you may be able to organise regular carer support, even if it’s just a couple of hours a day.

3. Invest in your physical health

No matter how busy you are, don’t forget to look after your physical health. This won’t just help you. It also means you can give your loved one the best care possible for longer. You can help yourself to keep healthy by:

If you’re doing a lot of carrying and lifting, you need to take good care of your back. Try to maintain good posture, attend any relevant trainings and keep active. This may help to prevent, or ease, any aches and pains.

4. Boost your mental wellbeing

You may enjoy the challenges that being a carer brings. But it’s also natural to feel angry, sad or mentally tired at times. So it’s important to deal with your feelings and look after your mental health. You may find it helps to:

  • improve your sleep quality if you are not getting enough good sleep
  • keep up hobbies and interests that you enjoy 
  • share how you feel and ask for help when needed
  • attend local carer support groups

Speak to your doctor if you’re finding it difficult to cope with your thoughts or feelings, or if they’re affecting your everyday life.

5. Practice relaxation and mindfulness techniques

Try to find time to relax and focus on the here and now. This may help you to cope better with stressful situations. Have a go at these relaxation techniques.

  • Calming breathing exercises - sit in a quiet place and take deep breaths until you feel calmer.
  • Muscle relaxation – lie down, shut your eyes and tense then relax the muscles around your body, starting with your toes.
  • Guided imagery – shut your eyes and imagine being somewhere safe and restful.

Or why not practice some mindfulness? Mindfulness is a way of thinking, that helps you to focus on the present moment. This can help you to deal with negative thoughts more easily. Mindfulness has also been shown to benefit people with dementia and their carers. You can combine it with everyday activities, such as breathing, eating and walking.

6. Connect with friends and family

It’s important to stay in touch with friends and family. They can help to provide emotional support, and may be able to help you in other ways too.

  • They may be able to care for your loved one while you take a short break or do other things.
  • Popping by for a coffee will give you, and the person you’re caring for, the chance to socialise with other people.

If people you’re close live far away, they may still be able to offer emotional support over the phone or online.

Get help from the wider community

Finally, it’s worth thinking about the help you can get from the wider community. Charities such as Carers UK and Carers Trust are a great source of support and information. Both can help you to find the support you need in your local area.

If you take on caring responsibilities for a loved one, you’ll also be entitled to a carer’s assessment. This will be carried out by your local authority to identify your needs as a carer - this might include breaks from your role as a carer. It may also provide the chance for you to have some well-deserved ‘you time’.

Are you interested in learning more about your health? Discover more about our range of health assessments.

Aileen Waton
Aileen Waton (she/her)
Director of Risk and Governance, Care Services, at Bupa UK



Marcella McEvoy, Senior Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

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