COVID-19 Q&A: Tips for caregivers


I’m a caregiver of someone with mental health concerns and I’m having a hard time taking care of myself. 

Juliet Haynes, MSW, RSW, Family Engagement and Experience Coordinator

Being a caregiver can be challenging at the best of times! It can be even more so now, given that many of the sessions, drop-ins, and other supportive resources we rely upon are cancelled. And the solace we get from other comforts – like church or other community groups – is also suddenly missing from our lives. Even maintaining relationships with friends and family is put to the test as we all try to maintain a two-metre distance between ourselves. 

These are tough times, but here are some tips that might be helpful as we try and get through it:

Be prepared:

  • Stay informed while also limiting media – refer to reliable sources.
  • Practice hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and regularly disinfect common areas.
  • Keep your immune system strong – eat well, sleep well, take vitamins, drink water, get fresh air where possible, even if it is by opening a window.

Anticipate and address stress reactions: 

  • Normalize, empathize, and validate feelings. 
  • Be wary of increased substance use.
  • Reduce potential conflict, blame, shame and stigma – seek to understand rather than judge – believe that we are all doing the best that we can.
  • Realize the situation is temporary, that this too will pass and the majority of people will be okay.
  • Remember we are resilient. We have overcome adversity in the past and we will recover.

Reduce stress:

  • As much as possible, maintain your routine and keep schedules consistent. Ask how can you still do these things, albeit differently.
  • Shift expectations and priorities.
  • Make lists and check things off.
  • Set boundaries – strive for work-life balance.
  • Take breaks, especially media breaks!
  • Recognize those things within your control and choices you can make (hint: we only have power over ourselves and our reactions/responses!)
  • Meet basic needs – attend to personal hygiene. 
  • Be mindful of self-care.
  • Practice relaxation by slowing down your breathing and scheduling “nothing time.”
  • Exercise.

Practice “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing” 

  • Use virtual means to connect with friends, family, colleagues, and other supports.
  • Schedule regular check-ins with others.
  • Are you living with people or pets? – hug them! Hug a teddy bear!  Give yourself some self-love!

Focus on the positive and what you can do:

  • Honour others’ contributions to improving the situation, positive news stories, look for the good. 
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Discover meaningful activities – there are many options online!
  • Find ways to practice creativity. 
  • Discover fun, enjoyable, uplifting distractions and activities.
  • Read inspirational material, affirmations.

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