Self-Care for Depression Caregivers
Depression is a common disorder, affecting almost one in five people of all age groups and both genders at any time. This means that even if you are lucky enough never to suffer from it yourself, at some stage and to some extent you may need to care for someone with depression.
Although caring for a depressed person is a vital role, it is far from easy. If and when the person recovers, the results and rewards will be highly rewarding. But it is often a challenging and thankless task, requiring immense patience and perseverance. Still, it could prove to be essential for recovery and could even save someone’s life.
Your role as the caregiver is vital, because even the best doctors cannot be there 24/7. As the carer, you can help by observing alterations in the person’s behavior or mood. You can also try sympathetically talking to the depressed person about their problems and feelings. Even if what they say is clearly untrue or misguided, you will understand them better afterward. Encourage them to see a doctor and reassure them that medical treatment is effective.
But there are many challenges for you along the way. Caring for someone with depression can be arduous and taxing. Depression sufferers rarely seek or welcome support, as they may feel guilt, worthlessness, poor self-esteem and apathy. They may also resist someone getting close to them and want a lot of time alone. Their state of mind can be very hard to engage with, so initially your offers of help and support may not be accepted.
Understanding the classic symptoms of depression and how best to deal with them can help enormously. You will find that many of the barriers that stop depressed people from accepting help can be overcome.
It is crucial that your own health and welfare do not suffer. You must look after yourself in order to look after your ‘patient.’ Take a step back and see whether some of the support can be delegated to help you avoid exhaustion. Make sure you get enough time to rest and sleep, and maintain your usual exercise routine.
Other positive strategies include relaxation, deep breathing and meditation. Hobbies and creativity will help you enjoy life — try not to neglect them when the pressure is on. Music is closely tied to emotions. Use it to calm down, or for a burst of energy. Humor can seem insensitive or unimportant in the context of depression, but it can be a useful way to release tension.
Good nutrition is important for everyone, but especially when caregiving is draining your resources. Try to maintain perspective and self-awareness. Knowing your patterns and habitual responses helps you work with, not against, your true nature. Constructive self-talk can help to boost your confidence when you’re flagging. With greater confidence in yourself it’s easier to be patient and confront problems.