Achieving a Good Work/Life Balance as a Carer

Chris Minett, author of Action for Ageing, looks at how work and life can balance when caring for a partner or elderly relative.

We can all appreciate that simply looking after ourselves, going to work and running our home life can be stressful enough as it is. If we add the extra challenges that a partner, children and parents can bring to the mix, sometimes all at once, then we have a fairly strong recipe for stress. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance can help us perform better, improve our focus on what we are trying to achieve and help pave a way to engage better with our children, partner, family and friends.

Here are Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Work/Life Balance...

Maintaining Our Own Health:

  • Exercise - keeping our body fit helps maintain mental wellbeing.
  • Eating well - maintaining a healthy and balanced diet also has a direct and significant impact on our mental and physical wellbeing, hence our capacity to look after ourselves and provide care and support for others
  • Sleeping - Getting enough sleep is very important to help us function well.
  • Avoiding bad habits - e.g. excessive alcohol, smoking, drugs. No surprises there!
  • Laughter - It's the best medicine. It can help relieve stress, let us enjoy the moment and share good times with our loved ones.

Managing Life and Responsibilities by:

  • Accepting help- from family, friends, neighbours and organisations. People like to (and often want to) help, it makes them feel good to be able to do so.
  • Accepting 'Good enough' - instead of demanding 'perfect' from ourselves - and others.
  • Maintaining social connections- this is important for us and for those we are caring for. Seeing and engaging with other people will help relieve stress and provide an opportunity to share our thoughts and feelings. It's also important to remember that loneliness and depression are common experiences amongst carers, so maintaining active links with others is important. The Campaign To End Loneliness has many resources and info that can help.
  • Utilising technology- taking action that can help reduce our workload, personal admin pressure and travel requirements. Examples are arranging direct debits for bills, having groceries ordered online (and home delivered) and using FaceTime (or other video calling applications) to 'visit' family and friends who live a distance away.
  • Being organised- good time management can mean doing things more efficiently, not rushing and forgetting things, plus if we have a specific time designated for 'work', then by default we have the remaining specific time for 'life'.
  • To compare is to despair!- try and avoid looking at the seemingly 'easy' life of friends or relatives and comparing it to ours, as often things are different than they appear. We all know this, 'the grass is always greener', etc, but it helps to remind ourselves too.
  • Try to avoid guilt- if we are doing the best we can, then no one can ask any more of us. Doing our best doesn't mean 'working' 24/7. Guilt is a very common issue that care givers universally struggle with. Many people find reading about the experience of others and sharing their own, on dedicated forums can be of great help.