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Looking After Yourself

When you’re concerned about a young person, it’s easy to focus on their situation and their needs first. But if you want to be able to give them support then caring for yourself is important too.

Living with ongoing, and sometimes intense, stress can be draining and exhausting – physically, mentally and emotionally. If you don’t look after yourself, then your own health, wellbeing and ability to cope with future events can be negatively affected. It’s not being selfish – it’s being smart!

“I’m on alert all the time. I am so worried and feel so helpless. I just want her to get back to her old self again. I am trying so hard with her, but I’m getting so, so tired.”  - Jen

“I’d be thinking about how to help my son most of the time. I got forgetful at work and couldn’t concentrate on anything. I started to explode with anger over even small stuff, which didn’t help. A friend pointed out how awful I looked and that I was drinking most nights. I wouldn’t be much good to my boy if I didn’t get myself sorted out.” - Ali

What can you do?

  • Get the basics right - eat healthy food, get regular exercise, have enough rest and sleep, drink lots of water, and see a doctor if you get sick. Limit how much alcohol you drink and avoid drugs or taking other risks to deal with your stress, because these things can create more problems
  • Te Whare Tapa Whā - Think about the physical, spiritual, social, mental and emotional aspects of your own life. Do you have a good balance of each of these sides of wellbeing?
  • Talk with someone you can trust about what you’re dealing with and what’s on your mind. That person might be able to encourage you or give some suggestions
  • Share the load – you’re not expected to do miracles. Take a team approach and use the time, caring and skills of whānau, friends, relatives and support professionals, to support your young person. You don’t have to do it alone
  • Spend time with people who support you - make time to relax with friends or family. Don’t withdraw from others. Keep connected
  • Take mini breaks during the day - grab some time to do something for yourself. You could enjoy a hot drink, listen to music, phone a friend, play with a pet, watch a movie, or get into nature. Even short breaks can help reduce your stress, clear your thinking and improve our mood
  • Only do what you need to - avoid taking on extra things. When you’re feeling tired and caught up with a young person’s situation, limit what you need to do each week. Keep up your routines as much as possible and don’t take on responsibilities that add to your load. Learn to say no sometimes
  • Calendar some personal time. In advance, make time to do something for yourself. Choose something you will enjoy and that will replenish your stores of energy, then make it happen. If you miss it, reschedule
  • Try some deep breathing. This is the simplest, fastest way to relax your tension and deal with rising emotions.  It calms your whole central nervous system down and helps clear your thinking. Take a few minutes and breathe very slowly in and then very slowly out. You’ll soon see how it helps you
  • Keep your sense of humour. Laughter releases stress and helps you feel a lot better.  It can give you a new perspective on things. Spend time with people, or do things that make you laugh every week
  • Meet others in the same boat. Talking to people who are dealing with similar things can help. It’s good for information sharing and mutual support. It’s a relief when someone else understands because they’ve been there too
  • Seek out some help for yourself if there are areas of your life that might be adding to your stress.  For example, help with health challenges, financial budgeting, housing issues, grief, anxiety, anger management, addiction or relationship difficulties

If you are feeling extremely stressed it might be a good idea gain some advice and extra support for yourself. Here are some ways to ask for help. 

Te Whare Tapa Whā

Te Whare Tapa Whā is a way of understanding how to stay well in all aspects of life. If we think about our wellbeing as a wharenui or meeting house, then all our four walls need to be equally strong for the building to stand strong. The four walls represent the physical, spiritual, social and mental or emotional aspects of our lives.

Here are some ways you could help yourself to stay well in all aspects of life:

Te taha tinana, physical health:

You could join a sports team, or go for a walk or run. Eat healthy meals and try to get enough sleep and drink plenty of water.  Do things that help you relax, pop a reminder somewhere so you do it often. 

Te taha whānau, family relationships:

Spend time with family, friends and people who make you feel good, and you trust. Learn about your whakapapa, or your cultural identity. Think about and identify the parts of your life where you feel like you belong.

Te taha wairua, the spiritual side:

These are the things that build someone up and give them a strong sense of identity. Write down the things that make you who you are. Do you have a faith or religion you could draw strength from? You could also go for a bush walk, sit by a river or beach or get in touch with nature in some way.

Te taha hinengaro, mental and emotional health:

How do you show your emotions to others? Try to understand and express how you are feeling. You could find new words for different emotions, write down how you’re feeling, draw something or play some music. You can also get extra help or find someone to talk to if you need it.

Five Ways to Wellbeing

The Mental Health Foundation's Five Ways To Wellbeing is a fantastic resource to help you remember the five things in life that help us stay happy, healthy and well, by giving small examples to practice the Five Ways each day.

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