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It is important to look after yourself physically and emotionally. Looking after yourself is not only important for you, but also for the person that you support.
This page provides advice on how to look after yourself including:
- avoiding stress and burnout
- staying healthy and feeling well
- understanding your mental health
- finding support.
Avoiding stress and burnout
Providing support to people with intellectual disability can be stressful. Supporters of people with intellectual disability and mental illness may be exposed to physically and emotionally demanding situations for extended periods of time. This can cause stress and burnout.
Stress and burnout can have negative effects on health and wellbeing. This can include:
- new or worsening health problems
- reduced care standards (e.g. expressing negative emotions, feeling detached, being less responsive to the needs of the person with intellectual disability)
- the person receiving support feeling concerned or blamed.
Avoiding stress and burnout can help you to stay healthy and feel well.
Tips for staying healthy and feeling well
Talk to someone
Talking to others can be important for your wellbeing. It may be helpful to:
- talk about your concerns with close family and friends
- talk about things you enjoy and make you happy with close family and friends
- ask for help when you feel overwhelmed
- maintain relationships.
You may not want to talk to your family and friends about your concerns. That is OK. You may want to speak to people outside of your life, such as a mental health professional or support group.
Talking to a mental health professional
A mental health professional, such as a counsellor or psychologist, can support you to talk about your concerns and suggest strategies to cope with challenges.
Carer Gateway provides free counselling to carers in the following formats:
- in-person one-on-one counselling
- in-person group counselling
- phone counselling.
To find out more, call 1800 422 737, Monday–Friday, 8am–5pm.
To find out more about talking to a mental health professional, see the Health workers section
Join a support group
A support group is a group of people who share similar situations and experiences. They can provide each other with encouragement, comfort and advice.
Support groups can also allow you to build connections with other carers or support people. There are different groups online and in-person. Online support groups are often known as forums.
You may want to join a support group specific to your situation. For example, a support group for:
- young carers
- parents or grandparents
- sibling carers
- people from your cultural background or who speak your language
- people with particular conditions such as intellectual disability and mental health concerns.
See below for more information on support groups and forums.
Self-care means taking the time to look after your own wellbeing. It includes engaging in activities that help prevent stress and manage stress in a healthy way when it arises.
How self-care is practised will differ from person to person, depending on their individual needs and preferences.
Some examples include:
- activities for a healthy lifestyle
- exercising regularly
- eating a varied and healthy diet
- taking care of your physical health (e.g. taking leave when you are unwell)
- activities for psychological wellbeing
- monitoring and improving self-talk (i.e. the way you interpret events and consider your role in these events). You can find more information about self-talk on healthdirect and ReachOut.
- completing self-care resources. To find out more see below.
- monitoring for mental health problems. If you think you are becoming anxious or depressed, you can talk to your doctor, use the healthdirect Symptom checker, or the MindSpot Clinic online assessment to see how you are going.
- activities for balance between caring responsibilities and personal time
- establishing a routine (e.g. regular times for meals, exercise, and sleep, if possible)
- doing hobbies and activities for enjoyment
- spending time with people who are important to you
- recognising your limits
- considering accessing respite. Respite is a short period of rest from supporting responsibilities. To find out more visit carer gateway.
- activities for relaxation
- listening to music
- getting a massage
- reading a book
- doing activities that allow you to switch off
- practising mindfulness or meditation.
Carers’ mental health
It can be a very positive experience to know you are supporting someone else.
While caring for someone can be rewarding, it can also be emotionally and physically challenging. You may feel lonely or isolated. You may feel that the needs of the person you are supporting take priority over your own. You may not even feel entitled to seek or get help. But if you take care of yourself, you are then able to help others more effectively.
When caring for someone else, you might experience difficult feelings such as stress and anxiety.
Stress is often the reaction to situations that put pressure on you and make it hard to cope. For example, times where we have lots to do, or you do not have much control over your situation. Over time, these feelings can become overwhelming and lead to mental health problems.
You can find out more about recognising and coping with stress here:
Anxiety is when you feel very worried, especially about the future or what you think could happen in the future. If you spend a lot of time thinking about the health, wellbeing, and future of the person you support, it may be hard for you to switch off. Over time, these feelings can become overwhelming and lead to mental health problems.
You can find out more about recognising and coping with worries here:
Also see About mental health and Intellectual Disability within the section for people with intellectual disability.
Support workers may also like to view the section Support and self-care for professionals.
Supports for carers and support networks
Support groups: Forums and in-person
- SANE Australia provides the online forum Mental health support for family, friends & carers
- Beyond Blue provides the online forum Supporting family and friends with a mental health condition (carers)
- ReachOut has a Parent discussion forum
- Carer Gateway provides a safe, anonymous online forum where carers can connect and support each other. Carers can connect socially on the Carer Community Forum as well as discussing:
- money and work
- managing and work
- managing health
- tough times
- good resources.
- To find out more, visit Carer Gateway Community Forum – Getting Started.
- Carer Gateway also facilitates in-person support groups where carers can connect in the community. Carer Gateway facilitators will design and run the group to suit the people attending and to cover areas of interest to you. To find out more call 1800 422 737, Monday–Friday, 8am–5pm.
- Carers NSW Australia provides a Support groups directory to help find support groups near you.
- Smiling Mind is a free mindfulness app that can help you practise mindfulness or meditation from your device. You could also use other mindfulness apps or techniques that you are aware of. This factsheet by the Black Dog Institute can provide you with more information about mindfulness.
- THIS WAY UP has a range of coping and resilience tools that may be helpful for coping with stress. They are also available in other languages.
- The Black Dog Institute has a range of self-care and self-help resources. They also have digital apps like myCompass (developed for people with depression, anxiety or stress symptoms in the mild–moderate range) and HeadGear (designed with a male audience in mind but suitable for all adults).
- healthdirect, Black Dog Institute and the Australian Psychological Society also provide information about recognising and coping with stress.
Other Support services
- Carer Gateway provides emotional, practical and financial support for carers. To find out more call 1800 422 737.
- Mental Health Carers Australia provides mental health resources, and support for carers. To find out more call 1300 554 660.
- Carer Connection Helpline in NSW, is supported by Mental Health Carers NSW. They assist mental health carers to navigate the NSW mental health system. To contact the Carer Connection Helpline call 1300 554 660, Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm.
- Siblings Australia provides information and support for siblings of children and adults with disability.
The NSW Family and Carer Mental Health Program is a state-wide program delivered in partnership between Local Health Districts, the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network and five specialist community-managed organisations.
- Area: Wollongong, Nowra and Hurstville
- Support: individual and group programs for carers and tailored support for family members.
- Area: Western NSW
- Support: CatholicCare Wilcannia–Forbes service finder can help you find services near you.
- Area: Nationwide
- Support: Mission Australia’s Service directory can help you to find services near you.
- Area: Hunter New England, Murrumbidgee, Southern NSW, Sydney, and South Western Sydney.
- Support: One Door can help you find services and programs that support recovery from mental health problems. To find out more, call One Door on 1800 843 539.
5. Uniting (previously delivered by Parramatta mission) Uniting Family and Carer Mental Health Program (FCMHP): Northern Sydney
- Area: Northern Sydney
- Support: Parramatta mission provides community education and training programs, individual support, and support groups for families and carers of those with a mental illness.