February 8, 2024

Supporting a loved one who is struggling

When someone we love is struggling, it’s only natural to want to help and provide support and care to that person. Being a carer for a close friend, family member or partner can be a rewarding experience but also difficult and upsetting at times. It’s important to consider the impact any caring role may have on you and whether you may benefit from some support.

Caring for a person who is struggling with their mental health can be a varied role and may include: providing emotional support, supporting them to seek help, helping with day-to-day responsibilities, personal care, providing somewhere to stay, medical care, supporting attendance at appointments, and helping to advocate for their needs or checking in on their safety.

Many carers report finding it difficult to cope with the change in relationship taking on a caring role can bring. For example, a relationship could evolve from a mother and daughter or husband and wife to also being that of carer and patient. The dynamic of your relationship may change and sometimes it can feel like you’ve lost someone or part of yourself in this transition.

Supporting someone else can have an impact on your own mental health. Caring for someone can be upsetting, stressful and isolating. Carers have been found to experience anxiety, worry or low mood, particularly if the caring role is over an extended period of time. For most people who help to support those they love, this is in addition to other commitments. For example, their job or career, children or other dependents. Therefore, caring for someone can sometimes lead to feeling stretched with only minimal time left to give to other people or things in your life, or for yourself.

It can be difficult to take time to think about yourself, but implementing some of the following techniques might help you when supporting someone:

  • Talk about how you feel. You could try talking to someone you trust, such as a friend or family member. Alternatively, there are support groups for carers where you can talk to others with similar experiences.
  • Ask for support. If you are struggling, it’s ok to ask for additional support. Most carers could use the extra support so don’t be afraid to ask for it.
  • Be realistic about what you can manage. Taking on too much isn’t helpful for yourself or the individual who you are caring for.
  • Support their independence. Rather than rushing to do something for the person you are caring for, try supporting them to feel able to do more for themselves.
  • Remember the positives of the relationship. Sometimes when you are caring for someone it can be easy to forget what your relationship with them used to be like. Try making a list of things you enjoy about your relationship outside of caring, and try to make time for the things you enjoy doing together. Indeed caring in itself can be rewarding.
  • Take a break and make time for yourself. This can be the most difficult to implement, but is necessary for everyone. If you need additional support to take a break, please see here
  • Look after yourself. Making good choices when it comes to diet, exercise and sleep can make a world of difference to how you experience the world and your wellbeing.
  • Learn to live in the present. Try meditation or mindfulness techniques to help you become more present focused and less caught up with any thoughts about the past or future. See here

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