Caregiving – Is your Cup Empty?

Caregiving – Is your Cup Empty?

Image by Eko Anug from Pixabay

“My caregiver mantra is to remember: the only control you have is over the changes you choose to make.”

Nancy L. Kriseman - Social Worker & Author

Over the past two years, in my role as a carer coach, I have coached over 100 individuals and one of the things I have learned is that caring is not a one size fits all. It depends on who you care for, what their care needs are, your relationship to them, and caring can be both a good and challenging experience. (Hill & Broady, 2019).

Some see their caring role as a positive experience, it gives them a sense of purpose, (Quinn & Gill, 2018), but for others, it is draining.  These responses are backed up by research by Carers NSW where more than half of carers surveyed reported experiencing low wellbeing. (Carers NSW, 2022).

When talking to carers they tell me of their overwhelm, they share wanting to get a good night’s sleep, to be able to connect with family and friends, have some time for themselves, and they say they often feel resentment and anger. 

I too am a carer, and I know it can be hard to take care of yourself when you are taking care of someone else. Some days it feels like I am pouring from an empty vessel.

So as carers what can we do to regain our sense of purpose and build our wellbeing? One great framework I often use, as do many other organisations is the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Evidence-based, it encourages carers to look at how they Connect, Be Active, Give, Keep Learning and Be Aware. The first four in the list are pretty self-explanatory, it’s the fifth one, Be Aware, that I find myself talking about the most. 

To be aware is to not get lost in your thoughts and feelings but to instead just be aware of them. We might also know this as mindfulness, research has shown that we can reduce stress, loneliness, and anxiety when we practice mindfulness, (Tkatch et al., 2017) the other great thing is it can be done anywhere, anytime, and can cost nothing.

Image by 育银 戚 from Pixabay

Another way to practice being aware is to keep a gratitude journal (5 Ways to Wellbeing)  As simple as it seems journaling your gratitude not helps in increasing awareness, it can also lower your anxiety, and improve your physical health. (Sutton, 2018)

If you want to give gratitude journalling a try here are some easy steps from Positive Psychology.

  1. Get a journal, it can any notebook but it’s just for journaling.
  2. Grab yourself a pen you like writing with.
  3. Find a moment when you can write.
  4. Think about the past week, and list five things in your life that you are grateful for. 

Don’t have time to write, or don’t like to, then maybe the hand of gratitude is an awareness exercise you might like. Carers NSW also has a great well-being resource you might find helpful,  Pouring from an Empty Cup.

I am working on refilling my cup, tell me what will you do to refill your cup?



5 Ways to Wellbeing (n.d.)

5 Ways to Wellbeing (n.d.) Be Aware

5 Ways to Wellbeing (n.d.) Evidence supporting the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’

Carers NSW (2022). National Carer Survey 2022 Carers NSW

Carers NSW (n.d.) Pouring from an Empty Cup – a Guide to Carer Wellbeing

Ekoanug. (2020, June, 27) Empty cup of coffee beside keyboard, Coffee, Work desk image. [Stock Image]. pixabay.

Fierce Kindness (2020, November 20) Giving Thanks: Easy 5 Finger Gratitude Exercise and Ritual!

Hill, T., Broady, T. (2019). Understanding the social and emotional needs of carers: Final report (SPRC Report 2/19). Sydney: Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney.

Kriseman, N. (2014) The Mindful Caregiver. Rowman and Littlefield,

Nortje, A. (2020, May 20). The Gratitude Journal: Prompts, PDFs, and Worksheets. Positive Psychology.

Quinn, C., & Toms G. (2019) Influence of Positive Aspects of Dementia Caregiving on Caregivers’ Well-Being: A Systematic Review. The Gerontologist, 59(5), 584-596.

Qiye. (2014, August, 19) Notebook, Book, Leather image [Stock Image]. pixabay.

Tkatch, R., Bazarko, D., Musich, S., Wu, L., MacLeod, S., Keown, K., Hawkins, K., & Wicker, E. (2017). A Pilot Online Mindfulness Intervention to Decrease Caregiver Burden and Improve Psychological Well-Being. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 22(4), 736–743.

Sutton, J. (2018, May 14). 5 Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health. Positive Psychology.

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