Caring for someone else is a noble and worthwhile cause. Your care makes someone else’s life better, and creates a dramatic impact in his or her life that can never fully be understood.
With a condition as complicated as bipolar disorder, your care reaps tremendous benefits for everyone. It also can be a daunting and tiring task. The day-to-day tasks and the fluctuations of mood can wear even the toughest person down.
Long-term caregiving can cause personal, emotional, and physical strain on your life and loss of personal freedom, according to the results of a 2003 study involving people who care for people with mental disorders.
So how do you cope? To continue to provide the best care for someone with bipolar disorder, it’s important to take good care of yourself.
Here are some coping tips, so you can properly care for yourself while you’re caring for someone with bipolar disorder.
Take Time for Yourself
All of the time you spend caring for someone with bipolar is well spent, but don’t forget to spend time with yourself doing what you love. Caregiving can be time-consuming, but part of coping is scheduling in personal time to do things you need to do for yourself, whether that be tending to personal affairs, or simply having a few moments to yourself to clear your head.
Keep In Touch With Your Friends
Studies show that caregivers often feel isolated, experience a lack of support from family and friends, and feel restricted from pursuing their own activities.
With email, Facebook, Twitter, texts, and cell phones, there are nearly endless ways to stay in contact with your friends.
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 chores of caregiving for a little while.
Keep Up Your Own Interests
Your hobbies and passion say a lot about you, and help to relieve stress.
Remaining active in your hobbies, no matter what they are, can help you maintain your personal identity, instead of being lost simply as a caregiver to a person with bipolar disorder.
Even reserving a few hours a week to do what you love—from crocheting hats with fake beards to nude mountain climbing— 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
This is more important than you think. If you’re sick, or generally feeling low, 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.
Exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep are great coping mechanisms for anyone, but even more so for those who have to take care of themselves and someone with bipolar disorder.
Relax When You Can
The occasional pampering with a massage (or a pedicure) or any other relaxing tradition can be helpful in coping during crazier times. Even locking yourself in the bathroom with a bath and a book could help.
If you need to, tell the person you’re caring for about how important your personal time is to you and 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 without being subjected to a barrage of inquiries or other things.
Embrace the quiet, relaxing times and you’ll be able to handle a little bit more without losing your cool.
When you really—really—need some time to yourself, plan a vacation alone. This doesn’t have to be a two-week stay in Hawaii, but it does mean it should be a long enough time to devote to yourself. This can be something as simple as a few days away on a road trip to a scenic spot, or even a “staycation” at a hotel or spa in your local area.
These breaks can be important not just for yourself, but also for the person you are caring for. But be careful: you don’t want to leave the person you are caring for if he or she is in the middle of a manic or depressive episode. That is when they could use you the most.