How to help manage stress as an unpaid carer

Disabled boy in wheelchair laughing with teen sister in kitchen
Nine year old disabled boy in wheelchair laughing with teen sister in kitchen

Unpaid carers are some of the most valuable individuals in communities and provide $19 billion worth of care each year in NSW alone. Providing support to those you love is a fulfilling and rewarding experience, however it can come with challenges and stress.

To commemorate National Carers Week and support those who show compassion to people in need, we’re sharing some valuable tips on how you can the manage the stress that may come with supporting others.

Track your schedule
According to Carers Australia, carers are spending extra time organising support for loved ones than they were two years ago. Yet, without spending at least a few hours focusing on yourself and your needs, it can be easy to let positive health and wellbeing slip.

You may want to try keeping track of how many hours you spend supporting others in a day. By writing your hours down in a calendar, diary or on a private device such as your phone, you can compare how much time you’re spending caring for others and how often you spend time to focus on you.

Practice prioritising
It can be hard to know what to tackle first when you’re feeling overwhelmed with tasks and errands.

If you’re a carer, there are some organisational techniques you can use to help you visualise your tasks. To start off, you might want to write down all your tasks and begin highlighting those that are the most time-consuming or difficult. To narrow down your list, you should complete the difficult tasks first then chip away at smaller tasks. This way, you’ll feel more accomplished and in control of your role as a carer.

Get networking
It may be helpful to get in touch with those sharing your role and responsibilities. It can help you discover different ways to cope with stress, isolation and mental load and can help you feel more understood. Carers Australia provide assistance and support to carers in every state – you can learn more about these support groups here.

Or, if you’re looking to find respite from caring for loved ones, Mable can help you connect with local support workers. With a direct connection to support workers, you can organise ongoing disability support or aged care and build long-lasting connections with motivated support workers.

Be in touch with your mind and body
The best way to ease stress is to take some time out and practice being mindful and thoughtful of what’s worrying you. Mindfulness is all about finding a mental space to allow your worries to subside and your mind to relax. Anyone can practice mindfulness when they have time to spare during the day – a popular way to practice mindfulness is through meditation.

You can learn more about how to optimise your relaxation time and practice mindfulness here.

Recognise the signs of burnout
According to Sane Australia, burnout is the state of feeling emotionally and physically exhausted as a result of excessive and prolonged periods of stress. Some signs of burnout include frequent headaches, loss of motivation, feelings of guilt, helplessness, cynicism or a decreased sense of accomplishment.

It can be common for those with busy daytime schedules and those who are spending prolonged amounts of time caring for others to experience burnout. When this happens, it’s important to take a step back and spend time for yourself. If you think you’re in need of some professional advice, you should reach out to your trusted GP as soon as possible. You can also access free or subsidised counselling through a number of services.

Maintain healthy bonds with supportive people
Stress can sometimes cause people to turn away from those who are most willing to help, such as family members or friends. If you’re caring for either a family member or a client but are feeling overwhelmed, helpless or isolated, there are some things you can do to help your mental health.

If you’re a carer, you an organise respite by connecting to support workers via an accessible platform like Mable. This can provide you some extra time to wind down and reconnect with friends and family.

To discover how you can access financial, emotional support as a carer, take a look at our blog. Or, if you’re a support worker and you think your client is experiencing poor mental health, you can take a look at some of our tips on how to support them here.

Are you a carer looking for respite? You can organise, schedule and monitor support for your loved ones at Mable.