Caring for someone else is a noble and worthwhile cause. Your care makes someone else’s life better. With a condition as complicated as bipolar disorder, your care reaps tremendous benefits for everyone. But it also can be a daunting and tiring task. The day-to-day responsibilities and the mood fluctuations can wear even the toughest person down. Research shows that long-term caregiving can cause personal, emotional, and physical strain on your life.
To provide the best care for someone with bipolar disorder, it’s important to take good care of yourself. So how do you cope?
Here are some tips to help you care for yourself while you’re caring for someone with bipolar disorder.
Take time for yourself
Caregiving can be time-consuming. All of the time you spend caring for someone with bipolar is well spent, it’s true. But don’t forget to spend time with yourself doing what you love. Part of self-care is scheduling in personal time to do things you need to do for yourself. This may be tending to personal affairs or simply having a few moments to yourself to clear your head.
If you need to, tell the person you’re caring for about how important your personal time is to you. Request 10 to 30 minutes to yourself, especially when you get home from work. This will give you a chance to tend to things you need to get done.
Keep in touch with your friends
Caregivers often feel isolated and restricted from pursuing their own activities. They may also experience a lack of support from family and friends.
With email, Facebook, Twitter, texts, and cell phones, there are nearly endless ways to stay in contact with your friends. But instead of spending even more time in front of a computer, use that technology to arrange a meeting with your friends. Get together over coffee, take the dogs to the park, or even drop by just to say hello. Friends can offer you support, or at least let you escape the responsibilities of caregiving for a little while.
Keep up your own interests
Your hobbies and passions say a lot about you, and remaining active in your hobbies can help you maintain your personal identity.
Hobbies can also help relieve stress. Even reserving a few hours a week to do what you love — from crocheting to mountain climbing and anything in between — is great for coping. It can help you feel connected to your own life and identity while still being able to care for your loved one.
Mind your own health
Exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep are great coping mechanisms for anyone. They’re even more important for people who have to take care of themselves and someone with bipolar disorder. If you’re sick or generally feeling low, you can’t help others to the best of your ability. Keeping up with your health will give you enough energy to give the best care you can while still having enough left over at the end of the day.
Relax when you can
Caregiving can have a major effect on your mental health. Research shows that partners of people who have bipolar disorder are at risk of depression, hypomania, and psychological distress.
Counteract hectic times with some pampering. Try a massage, pedicure, or any other relaxing tradition. Even spending a few minutes in a soothing bath with a book could help. Embrace the quiet, relaxing times and you’ll be able to handle a little bit more without losing your cool.
When you really need some time to yourself, plan a vacation alone. This doesn’t have to be a two-week stay in Hawaii by any means, but it should be long enough to devote time to yourself. The getaway can be something as simple as a few days on a road trip to a scenic spot or a “staycation” at a hotel, spa, or campground in your local area.
These breaks can be important not just for yourself, but also for the person you are caring for.