Caring for your family means caring for both yourself and your loved ones physically, emotionally, and financially. But when you’re struggling with mental illness, it can seem like an impossible feat.
While mental illness runs the gamut from general anxiety disorder to schizophrenia to major depressive disorder, all types of mental illness can affect every aspect of our lives, including how we care for ourselves, children, spouses, partners, and other loved ones.
If you’re one of the more than 50 million Americans affected with mental illness, here are seven tips on how to care for your family when you’re struggling to battle your own mind and body.
Focus On Your Family as a Whole
Whether you live with a spouse or partner, have children, or care for older parents or relatives, it’s important to assess your family unit as a whole.
Identify what it is that everyone in the family needs and how you’re responsible for meeting those needs. Be sure to put yourself on the list too. The better you care for yourself, the better you’ll be able to care for others.
Create and Stick to a Routine
Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., affecting more than 6.8 million adults. If you’re one of them, you already know that even mild anxiety can make it difficult to do everyday chores, such as cooking, cleaning, and working, and enjoy quality family time.
One thing that can help is to create a routine and stick to it. Feed, bathe, do homework, and play with your children at the same time every day. Cook and eat dinner with your family at the same time every night. Create a schedule for exercising, shopping, cleaning, and running errands.
A schedule can make it easier to stay on track and not get derailed from your daily responsibilities.
Maintain Communication with Your Loved Ones
Suffering with mental illness can make it difficult to connect with others emotionally. Carve out time in your schedule to talk with your loved ones, let them know how much you care about them, and create an open dialogue where you can talk freely about your needs and theirs.
Let Your Loved Ones Know That You’re Struggling
While young children don’t need to know the details of your mental illness, the adults in your life should. Rather than trying to conceal or minimize it, let your loved ones know what you’re feeling and how it affects you. Be open and forthcoming, even if it may be hard to do.
Ask for Help and Accept Help When It’s Offered
Mental illnesses can make it difficult to create a balance between work, family, and personal time. So when someone offers help, take it.
Allow older children to pitch in and help with household chores. Let your partner shoulder some of the responsibilities of cooking and cleaning. If your neighbor offers to mow your lawn or shovel snow from your sidewalk, let them.
Your partner, parents, adult children, relatives, and friends may not offer to help because they might not realize how much you’re struggling. When you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Prepare for Your Family’s Future
If your income helps to support and sustain your family, now is the time to put a financial plan in place for your future, just in case your mental illness progresses.
One way to do so is with a robust healthcare insurance policy to help you pay for treatments and therapies. Another way is to protect yourself with disability insurance, which allows you to continue to collect a portion of your paycheck, even if you’re too ill or too injured to work.
Read this article from Physicians Thrive to learn the ins and outs of what disability insurance is all about.
Seek Professional Help
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s no different than having a physical illness.
Would you go to a dentist if you had a toothache?
Would you see your family physician if you had the flu?
Would you visit an orthopedic doctor if you had a broken leg?
If you’re struggling with mental illness, seek the help of a mental health professional now. From learning coping mechanisms to providing different types of therapies to prescribing medication, a visit to a mental health professional is in order, even if you think your symptoms are mild.
You can cope with mental illness and care for your family at the same time if you face it head on. Mental illness comes in many forms, so the earlier you start battling it, the better off you and your family will be.