Finding help and support
Caring can involve a whole range of complex emotions and feelings. These can also fluctuate and change over time. Some people feel resentful about how their life has changed and then guilty for feeling that way. Although they are common, these feelings can be hard to deal with so we have provided some suggestions on how to cope.
As a first step, it is important to acknowledge your feelings and try not to bottle them up. Try not to feel guilty about feeling the need to take some time out for your own needs.
This section offers some suggestions of ways to cope and find support.
Exploring feelings of guilt
We are often our own worst critics. You may feel that you should be doing more, or doing something better, in terms of your actual caring role. Then you might feel guilty because in your eyes perhaps you "aren't doing a good enough job".
Take a step back and remind yourself that you are only human and nobody is perfect – it is likely that you are underestimating the good qualities you possess.
If you struggle to see your own qualities, you could ask a good friend or relative to list what they value in you. Developing good self-esteem can be a strong foundation for building the emotional resilience necessary to cope with the challenges of caring.
In some situations, the person you are caring for may also feel guilty. This can sometimes lead to people expressing themselves in exasperated or hurtful ways. It could be helpful to consider the root cause of why someone might be coming across as unreasonable. Perhaps they are frustrated that they no longer feel as independent as they were. It is possible they feel guilty if they see themselves as a ‘burden’ or they see the effect caring for them has on your life. It is possible to see how this might trigger feelings of resentment on both sides.
Exploring feelings of resentment
Feelings of resentment do not define you or make you a bad person or carer. These feelings are natural and are commonly expressed among carers. You may miss your own sense of independence or wish you had more time for you and feel resentful that often time is taken up with caring matters. The person you are caring for may not always seem to appreciate or recognise what you are doing for them.
There are a number of different types of depression so it's important not to generalise or underestimate what you are going through. If you are experiencing a persistence of any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor and talk it through. You may find it helpful to speak to a close friend or relative first. The important thing is not to bottle up your feelings; opening up can be the first step to recovering. If there is no one you feel you can turn to, the Samaritans run a 24-hour helpline where you can talk to someone confidentially.
It can feel very difficult to reach out to others when you feel this way, but taking that step to join a community such as a walking group or online social support group may help to switch your mind to a more positive area of focus. We host Share and Learn sessions which are held on Zoom and cover a range of topics from activities like dance and seated martial arts, to the arts, crafts and wellbeing. You can also search for local groups using our local directory or contact your council or trust for details of what's available in your area.
What might seem like very small changes to make your lifestyle healthier can make a very positive difference to how you feel. Many people take up dancing, running or walking for the physical benefits and are amazed at how it can also transform their mental health.
Eating regular meals with a good variety from the main food groups may seem obvious, but it can be easy to neglect our needs in this area and slip into bad habits, such as comfort eating which can make us feel worse. Drinking the right fluids is also important for maintaining a good mood. Too much caffeine or alcohol can also really cause your mood to plummet so reducing your intake or cutting them out altogether could also help.
Time is often very limited when you're caring. If this is the case for you, try to take small chunks of time to do therapeutic exercises for you such as 10 minutes of yoga or taking five conscious minutes to observe nature. Some people find practising mindfulness a very helpful tool.
See our wellbeing hub for more ideas and the mental health charity Mind have lots of helpful suggestions on their website.
In addition, the Hub of Hope is the UK’s leading mental health support database. It is provided by national mental health charity, Chasing the Stigma, and brings local, national, peer, community, charity, private and NHS mental health support and services together in one place for the first time.
Getting professional support
The effects of depression can be debilitating and it's important to seek professional support if this is the situation for you. Your doctor will look at the best way to treat it, just as they would any physical ailment. For an idea of what types of therapies are available, you may find it useful to look at this section of the NHS website.
If you are feeling particularly anxious, do not hesitate to reach out to the Samaritans anytime, who offer trained advisers support through their helpline around the clock.
Losing someone close to you
It can be an incredibly difficult time when someone you are close to dies. Even if expected, it can come as a terrible shock. Everyone’s experience of bereavement is different and understanding how to cope with the loss and range of complex emotions felt is very personal.
If you have been caring for the person you have lost, the emotions can be all the more intensified. With insights from those who have been there, we have developed some guidance to offer some support and comfort. See Coping with bereavement.
Everyone experiences grief differently. Sometimes it’s easy to underestimate the impact loss has on someone if they appear to be coping well outwardly.
Some people also experience what’s referred to as ‘anticipatory grief’ – sometimes experienced by someone caring for a relative with dementia. There is sometimes a sense of mourning the loss of the person they used to be, even though they are still with you. When someone’s health is deteriorating, it is possible to feel their loss before they finally slip away. This can be hard to recognise and deal with.
Feelings of stress
Some people describe caring as an ‘emotional rollercoaster’. Often because of the conditions of those being cared for, each day can be very unpredictable. This can be a huge source of stress and having your own support mechanisms and ways to relax become doubly important for your own health and wellbeing.
Try to pace yourself and tackle one thing at a time. Be realistic about what you expect of yourself. Learn to say “no” to other people, some of the time at least. Try to find mindfulness exercises to take your mind away from the issues that trigger stress for you.
Feelings of depression
When a feeling of low mood persists, it can be a sign of being depressed. This can feel very oppressive and debilitating. It’s important to seek help and support if you’re affected. Certain organisations like Mind offer a wealth of resources and services to provide support: www.mind.org.uk
Make an appointment with your doctor if you or someone you care for continues to feel this way.
Talk about it
If you can, talk about it with the person you care for or if that’s not possible, talk to someone else who understands. Your needs are valid and if you feel that it’s ‘all give and no take’ on your part, it’s easy to build up negative feelings, which can escalate.
If you don't feel able to share these feelings with friends and family members, talking to other carers can help. They might be familiar with what you are going through and may be able to suggest solutions that have worked for them. Do you know someone who has been a carer? Are there carers' groups nearby? To find one close to you, try using our local directory.
Can you join an online carers' discussion forum? Talking to others about it will help give some context to how you feel so the feelings don’t get blown out of proportion. The Carers UK forum is a place where you can share what's on your mind, day and night. You can talk about current issues with people who understand and who can help support you.
You could also talk to your GP. They may be able to refer you to a counselling service, or give you information about local support groups, as could your local social services who may also be able to provide a sitting or break service so you can have some time to yourself. For more information about taking a break, see our break resources.
Jostling with feelings of frustration and even resentment
My dad was the calmest person imaginable, but then because of the illness, he became short-tempered with me. This builds up and up and it’s hard not to snap at times.”
As Lucy says, it’s hard to keep your cool when your parent’s or partner’s temperament has become volatile.
Lucy goes on to explain how you would not take the shouting from anyone else, but the matter is personal – you almost feel a sense of duty to accept it.
If you’re caring for a partner, the dynamics of your relationship may have changed which may lead to complex feelings. It can really help to talk out what you find hard or upsetting. It may be more helpful to talk to someone further removed from the situation who can be objective with you. The charity Relate can offer specialist support and services: www.relate.org.uk
Other ways to support yourself
There are various ways you can support yourself. It's important to keep active as well as finding time to rest and recharge your batteries, such as going for a walk, listening to music or watching a favourite film. There are some ideas on these pages to help:
Looking after yourself
Dealing with depression and stress
Although everyone’s story of caring for someone is unique, there are common threads weaving throughout many carers’ experiences. It can help to share your experiences with others on a forum or through joining a local carers’ support group. To find one close to you, use our local directory.
If you have reached a point where you feel like you have no one to turn to, there are other sources of support available and you should not think twice about reaching out. Services such as Mind (0300 123 3393) can offer advice and support – as can No Panic, nopanic.org.uk (0844 967 4848). The Samaritans also provide a 24-hour listening service: 116 123 and there are many other sources of support available to contact with some focusing on specific needs such as bereavement or eating disorders.