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Supporting yourself while caring for someone

Learn how to manage your own wellbeing while caring for someone else. Get information and tips on looking after your mental health and finding support.

This page is also available in Welsh.

How to look after yourself as a carer

When you spend a lot of your time focusing on someone else, you may feel as if you have no time for yourself. But looking after your own wellbeing is important for you and for them.

We have listed some self-care ideas that others have said they find helpful. Even trying one small thing might help you feel more able to cope.

On this page:

For general tips about managing your mental health, see our page on how to improve your wellbeing.

What to do if you cannot cope

Sometimes the pressure of caring for someone else can build up until it feels like you can no longer cope. This is completely understandable, but may be a sign that you need to try and look after yourself. If you are feeling desperate and in crisis, you won't be able to keep supporting someone else.

Try and take a small break. If that's impossible, have a moment to yourself and take some long deep breaths. Knowing that things will get easier in the future can help you feel a little calmer.

If you need help or advice for yourself now:

  • You can talk to the Samaritans 24 hours a day on 116 123. To speak in Welsh, call 0808 164 0123. They are there to listen and to help you find a way through.
  • Call the Carers UK helpline from Monday to Friday, 9am – 6pm on 0808 808 7777. And use the Carers UK local support search – a tool for finding support in the area you live.
  • Have a look at our info on organisations who can help you and think about who you could contact for support. It might help to make a note of your next steps so you feel more in control.

Share how you feel

It's important to have someone to talk to, especially if you're struggling to cope. You could:

Not all of these options may feel right for you. Or you might feel like you have nobody to share your feelings with. If you are feeling isolated or alone, our pages on coping with loneliness offer more information.

"Try to find someone you can be honest with about your feelings, without judgement."

Try to be realistic

If you take too much on, you may feel as if you never achieve anything. Try to get a clear idea about what you can do. By accepting the things that you can't change or do alone, you may feel more able to cope. You could try identifying and writing down:

  • a list of all the support needs of the person you are caring for
  • what you can do and what you'll need help with
  • how you'll know when you need a break.

"Respite is possible – and necessary. You can't give your all as a carer – you just can't. You have to save a bit of yourself just for you."

Find ways to stay organised

Staying organised can help you feel more in control. You could keep a schedule or planner of your daily routine. Make sure that you keep all important information and medication in one place. But don't be hard on yourself if you get muddled or things get lost. You've got a lot to think about.

If you feel comfortable using technology and have access to a smartphone, you can stay organised digitally. Find out more about carer-specific technology, apps and online services on Carers UK.

It may also help to tell someone else where the information is and what to do if you become unwell. This could be a friend, family member or paid worker.

Support their independence

It's important to help them have some control over their care. You may find this means taking a step back or supporting decisions that are not what you would do. But it may also mean that you can find a balance in your relationship, and perhaps a little more time for yourself.

Work with them to find out:

  • how they can help themselves
  • what support they need from you
  • whether there are times that they can cope on their own.

"After I passed my driving test, I encouraged Mum to take lessons. I knew Mum had driven a car before she became so ill and liked it. It was the best thing she ever did, it gave her some independence."

Find positives in your relationship

Looking after someone can change your relationship with them. Sometimes you may feel close and connected. But at other times you may feel angry and irritated. It can help to talk openly and honestly to find ways of coping together.

You could try to:

  • consider yourself as their friend, partner or family member first and foremost
  • talk together about how to strengthen positive parts of your relationship
  • find common interests or hobbies to do together as well as day-to-day responsibilities.

Take a break and make time for yourself

Try and take a break, especially if you're worried about your own mental health. You may not be able to take a break whenever you need one, but it's important to have some time that's yours.

You may need an hour or two to clear your head, or a day to help you feel more rested. You could go out, have a nap or turn your phone off for an agreed period of time. Try to make time for things you enjoy.

"I love running and being able to get out for half an hour each evening allowed me to clear my head and relax."

If possible, try and plan regular breaks into your routine. This can allow you to:

  • make plans in advance
  • give you something to look forward to
  • make sure the person you look after knows what to expect.

The Carers Trust has more information about how you can get help to take a break. Sometimes you may need a longer break, especially if you're worried that you're becoming unwell. See our pages on holidays and respite care for more information.

female smiling, wearing glasses

Caring for the carers

"At my lowest, an hour crocheting or playing around with my paints has grounded me and brought me relaxation and calm."

Look after your physical health

It's important to try and make time to look after your physical health as best you can.

  • Try and eat as healthily as you can and do some kind of regular physical activity. See our pages on food and mood and physical activity for ideas you can fit into a busy daily routine.
  • Try to get enough sleep, as a lack of sleep can make it harder to cope with everyday challenges. It can also make stress and depression worse. For more information, see our pages on sleep and mental health.
  • Use relaxation techniques, as these can help your mind and body feel more rested. You need just a few minutes a day to do most of these exercises. For more information, see our pages on relaxation.

"I have come up with my own saying, which is 'you have to make your own normal'. Your life changes so much as a carer and you have to make a new life for yourself. You do not want to feel excluded from life, so you make your own normal."

This information was published in May 2021. We will revise it in 2024.

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