Being an unpaid carer is no easy task. It’s a role that often goes unnoticed and underappreciated, yet it comes with tremendous physical and emotional demands. As you focus on caring for your loved one’s day in and day out, it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself in the process. This is why taking a break is so important for unpaid carers like us.

Meet Rosario, a wonderful carer who helps her dad look after her mother, who lives with severe Schizophrenia and Bipolar. She knows first-hand just how challenging it can be to balance caregiving with self-care, and a full-time job. “I work at a mental health charity so feeling burnt out can be a challenge for me…Seeing someone suffering through mental illness can be very distressing and stressful.”

One key takeaway from Rosario’s experience is the importance of communication when trying to take time for yourself. “Some of the ways I have managed to get a break and look after myself are working things out with my Dad and discussing what I can and can’t do…The key for getting respite has (also) been being open with my work. At times of crisis with my mother I took sick leave and made sure I was there for her but also made time for me. I have also discussed with my work my need for breaks at times and flexibility which they have taken on board and that has helped me work better and look after myself.’’

By openly discussing her needs and limitations with her family and workplace, Rosario has been able to find moments of respite and prioritize her well-being. She schedules in activities that bring her joy, and allow her to take time for herself; “I find scheduling in something for me helps a lot, even if it’s something small like going for a walk or other form of exercise and making sure I have things to look forward to.”

At Carer Support Dorset, we understand the vital role that respite plays in supporting unpaid carers. Our charity provides various opportunities for respite, including support groups, drop-ins, and our carer cafes. These spaces offer a welcoming environment where carers can connect with others, share their experiences, and find much-needed support, along with a free cup of tea and a few yummy biscuits!

We know most of the time it’s not as easy as just deciding to take a break. While friends may be off on holiday, or treating themselves to a shopping trip – for us, taking a break from the people we care for often requires hours of planning and negotiation.

But despite what it often feels like, it is imperative to remember that taking respite is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. So, if you can’t make it out for a walk today, or maybe taking a few hours for one of our carer cafes isn’t realistic for your caring responsibilities, try and take every bit of time you can to put yourself first your way. Whether its sitting in the garden in the sunshine for a few minutes, or making yourself your favourite drink and taking a few moments to simply savour it – these little things will add up the more you do them.

By prioritizing your own well-being and seeking support from others who understand your journey, you can prevent burnout and continue to provide the best care possible for your loved ones. You are not alone on this journey, and we are here to help every step of the way.