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You’ve heard the old adage: “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” It's important to take care of yourself so you will have the energy to take care of others. Supporting a loved one through their mental illness can be stressful, taxing, and emotionally draining. While our loved ones need care, we cannot forget to care for ourselves.

Here are ways to ensure you are taking care of your own mental health while supporting another.

Support Groups


  • Even if you're not struggling with mental illness yourself, consider seeing a counselor or therapist to help you process your own emotions and the stress that comes with supporting someone else. Use the "Search for Help" button to search for providers in your area.
  • If you cannot see a professional, talking about your stress with a trusted friend or relative may help relieve tension.

Maintaining Parental Relationships

Children with mental illnesses can put great strain on their parents, especially when their disorders manifest in impulsivity, defiance, or exhausting rituals. Additionally, tantrums, meltdowns, or aggression toward playmates can alienate other families, making you feel isolated. Sometimes parents disagree about a diagnosis or the type of treatment a child needs. Sometimes one parent is obsessed with helping the child, and the other feels left out. Here are some tips to help support relationships between parents:

  • Make time for your relationship. Devote 20 minutes daily to spending time with your spouse or partner without talking about the children. Focus on each other.
  • Get a diagnosis you both trust. It's important to be on the same page about your child's diagnosis so that you can agree on treatment. Both parents should participate in decisions about the course of treatment.
  • Remember you are on the same team. Both parents should agree to the same rules of discipline and setting limits. When parents are inconsistent in what they expect of their children, behavior can worsen.

Online Resources

  • Free Apps
    • Mind Shift
      Designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety.
    • SAM
      Helps you understand what causes your anxiety, monitor anxious thoughts and behavior over time and manage anxiety through self-help exercises and private reflection.
    • Happify
      Helps you overcome stress and negative thoughts and build resilience.
    • Calm
      An app for meditation and sleep.
    • Headspace
      Using mindfulness meditation to positively impact mental and physical health.
  • Websites
      Educational materials and tools for parents of children with anxiety disorders, from the Children's Center for OCD and Anxiety.
      Information, tools, and resources from the Anxiety Disorder Association of America.
      National Alliance on Mental Illness, a source of comprehensive information on mental health.
      Families for Depression Awareness (FFDA)
      American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry – Depression Resource Center

Self-Care Strategies

  • Set Boundaries
    As a caregiver or supporter of someone with mental illness, you have to set healthy boundaries to preserve your own well-being and emotional health. Setting boundaries is not selfish. You cannot effectively or successfully care for others without caring for yourself first. Remember that it's okay to say "no" if you don't have the time or energy to do something for another person.
  • Establish a Routine
    Sticking to a regular routine can lessen stress throughout the day.
  • Sleep Hygiene
    Getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your mental well-being. Your body and mind can heal and process information while you sleep, so you can handle your waking life better.
    • Try to stick to a sleep schedule to regulate your body.
    • A bedtime routine can help you fall asleep faster. Try journaling, meditating, or reading 20 minutes before bedtime.
    • Avoid TV, video games, and other electronics 30 minutes before bedtime to help your brain wind down for sleep.
  • Nutrition
    Sometimes stress or mental illness causes unexpected changes in appetite, which can lead to under- or over-eating. This can leave you feeling foggy-headed, dizzy, and low-energy, and can be harmful to your overall health. Choose foods you enjoy and that leave you feeling energized and satisfied. Other helpful tips:
    • Stay hydrated, especially in hot weather.
    • Share a meal with friends or family. It can be a great way to connect while enjoying good food.
  • Exercise
    Self-care is about taking care of not only your mind, but also your body. Exercising releases endorphins in your brain, elevating your mood and lowering your stress. It also improves blood flow throughout the body, leaving you feeling refreshed and energized. There is no need to push yourself too hard or engage in exercise routines you don't enjoy; even light activity like walking or playing sports can benefit your health. Inviting a friend or family member along can make exercising a fun, social activity too.

Tools to Help Manage Stress

  • Deep Breathing Exercises
    • Take in slow, deep breaths and breathe out slowly, focusing on the rise and fall of your lungs.
    • Practice deep breathing at least once a day. It's a great way to get your day started, center yourself during the day, or wind down for bed.
  • Music
    • Listening to music that matches your mood can help you release some energy and emotion.
    • Listening to soothing, relaxing music can also help you calm down and unwind.
  • Hobbies
    • Any hobby or activity that brings calmness without causing harm to self or others can help you cope with stress. Some mindful, relaxing activities you may enjoy are:
      • Reading
      • Journaling
      • Playing with a pet
      • Coloring
      • Gentle yoga
      • Playing an instrument
      • Guided meditations
      • Going outside for a walk in your neighborhood or in a park

The information on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, mental health providers, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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