Everyone deserves to be happy, and it is something that we all strive for. You too deserve to feel happy, healthy, and to be able to live with ease and enjoyment, whilst still providing care for the ones you love. If not more so! When we are at our best in ourselves; physically, emotionally, and mentally; we then know that we’re also at our best to offer our care for others.
Setting just a couple of minutes aside each day to focus on your health and wellbeing, over time, will help you to feel more balanced, calm, and in control of all aspects of your life- caring or otherwise!
Whether you’re new to caring, or have been on the block for years now, self-care is probably something that we can all work on in one way or another. We’ve pulled together our five top self-care tips for your health and wellbeing, just to get the ball rolling. There is a lot of information, so take your time, give it a go, enjoy the journey, and discover the difference it can make for you!
Tip 1: Get Moving
We all know that physical exercise is good for us. But getting moving can be one of the hardest things to motivate yourself to do, especially if you’re feeling rushed off your feet already…!
Why should I get moving?
Reducing stress, boosting energy, weight management, improved mood, easing everyday mobility, better quality of sleep, reduced risk of chronic health conditions, even increased libido! And that’s just for starters! Check out the stats from our friends at Carers Club:
“Exercise can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%. Not only that, but it can also have a huge impact on improving your self-esteem and reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety.” Carers Club
Still not convinced? What about making it fun?
I hate exercise!
Being active and healthy doesn’t have to be a chore, and it certainly doesn’t mean you need to invest in any expensive fancy gear, wear lycra all the time, or drink green smoothies. It doesn’t even have to mean breaking a sweat. In fact, the best thing might be to not even consider getting up and moving as exercise at all. In order to reap all the benefits listed above, all you really have to do is simply get up, get moving, and enjoy your body as it is! Make getting active something you look forward to in your busy day, as you’re taking some time out to nourish yourself!
I’ve tried going to the gym, and it just doesn’t work for me!
While diving in head first and getting a full-on gym membership can work for some people, for many of us we’d manage a couple of weeks before collapsing; bored, tired, and burnt out.
Instead, if you’re looking to make movement a regular and enjoyable part of your life, why not take it slowly, by exploring what you like doing already? Like meeting up with friends? Why not walk together? Music lover? Have a dance! Computer gamer? Try and choose active games that get you on your feet through things like motion sensors or dance mats!
Getting moving is a journey of discovery. There are so many different ways of getting active that we could go on forever, and it can differ completely from person to person.
Just as a few ideas, here are some of our favourite way to get moving throughout the day:
A refreshing swim, Gentle yoga or stretching, Cycling to work, Playing tennis or catch, Flying a kite, Gardening, Bowling, Charades!
Basically, if it gets you up and gets you moving, it counts! Even just a bit of vigorous household cleaning can be a great way to get your heart rate up (plus then you get a clean house).
What’s the best way for me to stay active?
Simple – by doing what you love! If you don’t like running, don’t run! And if you don’t like getting active in a group of people, you certainly don’t have to! The more you are enjoying what you do now, the more likely you are to keep it up in the future.
What can I do to start being more active locally?
Have a think about some of your options, and go from there. If you do feel like you really want to go for it, and already know of a gym or dance class that you fancy the look of, that’s great! Alternatively, if you feel that you’d rather grab ten minutes and head to the local park, that’s also perfect! If you’re looking for inspiration, but don’t know where to start, take a look at our Events and Groups section for carers activities in the West Midlands.
I don’t have the time to do exercise- I can’t leave the house.
With caring for someone on top of everything else, sometimes it can feel impossible to find the time to get out and get active. But even if you can’t leave the house during the day because of caring duties, or any other reason, there’s still plenty of options for you to choose from. Carer’s Club have heaps of information and advice on staying active when time is of the essence, including videos you can watch, apps to download, and free, quick and easy, home workout ideas. Just remember, getting moving doesn’t have to be a chore- try and make it as fun and enjoyable as possible.
Tip 2: Get Out & About
There’s nothing like fresh air or a change of scenery to lift your mood and make you feel more alive. But with the responsibilities of caring 24/7, we know that it’s not always that easy to get out of the house with your loved ones.
There’s so much to think about whenever we go somewhere, how do I even begin to organise a day out?
It is important to us that you feel confident getting out and about when supporting someone who has additional needs. As friends or as family, you deserve to have the freedom to choose when and where you want to go together, without letting the pressure of organising a suitable trip put you off.
Carer’s Club have some fantastic information that focuses on helping you to get out and about with the one you care for, whether that’s a day trip, a holiday abroad, visiting a college or university together, or just feeling confident when travelling with equipment and medicine.
Where can I go to that is carer friendly?
If you’re feeling confident, and are looking for places to go that are a bit more local, all of the events in our Events and Groups section are organised specifically with carers and their families in mind. You might also be interested in our local Deals and Discounts section, especially for carers like you, with discounted events and activities across the West Midlands.
If you’re looking a bit further afield, you can download your FREE Rough Guide to Accessible Britain from Carers Club, to help you explore all of your options across the UK.
If you are a parent carer or young carer, you’ll also very likely be eligible for a MaxCard too. Designed for caring families, MaxCard gives you access to discounted group days out at hundreds of exciting venues both in the Midlands and across the UK.
Tip 3: Make Time For Sleep & Relaxation
Getting a good night of quality sleep can lift your energy and mood- there’s no doubt about it, it just feels wonderful. Believe it or not, giving yourself just a couple of minutes to relax during a busy day can actually make all the difference between waking up feeling refreshed and ready for the day’s challenges ahead, or waking up on the wrong side of the bed…
Why is relaxation so important? Shouldn’t I be doing something more productive with my time?
Many people struggle with the idea of taking time to stop and relax during the day, as there is such a big focus on ‘doing’ and ‘achieving’ in society today. Relaxing and taking time out might be seen as lazy, unproductive, and even selfish. Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your mind and body both need rest in order to work at their top capacity. Whether that means being more focused at work, supporting a friend or relative through a difficult time, or caring for someone physically, everyone benefits when you are at the top of your game.
What’s the best way to relax?
Relaxation comes in many forms – it doesn’t always mean sneaking in an afternoon nap (although we wouldn’t blame you if you did!). There are a multitude of different ways to relax and recuperate your mind and body that don’t involve sleeping at all. From practising mindfulness, to engaging in your favourite hobby, laughing with friends, to cuddling with a pet, self-massage, to simply taking a few seconds to breathe consciously. In our busy and often stressful lives, any precious moment you take to relax is never a moment wasted.
The best part is, by engaging in relaxing and enjoyable activities in the day, your body and mind will be better prepared for rest at night. And with better sleep, as you know, mood and energy lift, ultimately leaving you feeling more calm, centred, and in control of your life.
What activities near me can help me relax and de-stress?
Your local Carer support organisation will be able to tell you about the events and activities available in your area, this may include, yoga, relaxation or tai chi. You can find your local support here.
“I don’t have the time to relax!”
Sometimes, as a Carer, you simply don’t have the option of taking time out to get involved with group activities as much as you might like to, or perhaps you can’t leave the house for more than a couple of minutes. Whatever the reason, if that’s the case, you’ll need something quick and easy to help you relax more throughout your day. Mind, the mental health charity, has produced a fantastic short video full of useful tips to help you manage stress and start to feel better – take a look here.
Every time I try to unwind, my mind just won’t stop spinning?
If you’re one of those people who is constantly rushing about it can be extremely difficult to even begin to switch off and relax at all. With constant anxieties about the future and worries about the past, even drifting off to sleep at night can seem near impossible.
If this sounds familiar, you could try giving mindfulness a go. Mindfulness is all about consciously quieting the mind by focusing on the present moment, giving yourself permission to sit and just breathe for a while, without the constant chatter of thoughts. It takes a bit of practice but there’s lots of free resources and guidance available to support you and the benefits of spending just a few mins a day can be significant. Take a look at the Carers UK wellbeing hub for some great introductory videos.
What if there’s an emergency?
Sometimes every time we try to relax our minds have a funny way of jumping to the worst conclusions. Put yourself more at ease by having a pre-discussed plan in place for emergency help: check out Planning for an Emergency in our Advice section to learn more.
Tip 4: Talk About It
Talking about your feelings can be a great way of getting a load off your mind. It can also help by ensuring you have the support you need, not only for caring for someone else, but to care for yourself.
I don’t want to talk about it.
It can be difficult and scary to talk about your feelings with someone else. Even if you’re talking to a close friend, you might feel like you are putting yourself on the line to be judged or even laughed at. It can feel like you are unjustified to feel the way you do, and that what you feel is ‘unimportant’, especially when comparing yourself to the person you are caring for. Maybe you tell yourself that feeling down is some sort of weakness on your part.
For any of these reasons, and more, people will often bottle up and ignore difficult emotions, feeling safer in leaving them unstated and unaddressed. But the truth is that this can be damaging, for you, the one you care for, and those around you.
What happens if I don’t talk about my feelings with anyone?
Suffering in silence may seem like the easiest option right now, but those feelings of stress or isolation can build into anxiety and depression, surfacing down the line as physical manifestations or even illness, impacting directly and in a very real way on your health and your life. And when you fall ill, it will affect the one’s closest to you, none more than the one whom you care for. Therefore, it is extremely important as a carer to look after your emotional wellbeing by letting go of things that weigh you down. One very simple and effective way of doing this is by talking it through with someone who you trust.
Who should I talk to?
If you do decide to talk things through with somebody, make sure to choose someone who you trust and feel comfortable sharing with. This person could be a professional, such as your GP, a family member, a religious or spiritual guide, or even someone at work. Take it slowly. It can be extremely difficult sometimes to express strong emotions in words, so try not to be put off if you find that when it comes to it, you suddenly have nothing to say. Sometimes just sitting in silence with a compassionate presence close by can be just as beneficial as talking things through aloud.
What is Emotional Wellbeing?
Carers Club have a wonderful guide on Emotional Health and Wellbeing for Carers. It covers a broad range of topics, explaining what Emotional Wellbeing is and how to apply it to yourself. It also contains a number of useful contacts and resources in reference to Emotional Wellbeing. We’ve listed some of the key chapters and topics explored so you can get an idea of what to expect:
- The Brave Face – It is often hard to think of our own health when our difficulties may seem insignificant to that of the person we care for.
- Roles – We are often defined by our roles. Role change is an inevitable part of becoming a carer, which can in turn lead to a change in how we feel about ourselves and others.
- Anger – Anger is a common emotion amongst people who are carers. This chapter looks at ways of managing these emotions.
- Guilt – Guilt is another common feeling amongst people who are carers. This chapter looks at ways of managing these feelings.
- Isolation – Surrounded by people, but feeling alone? Lost contact with friends and family? This chapter looks at isolation and ways of managing loneliness.
- Stress – How to recognise stress and some ways of managing it.
- Low mood – One in four people will experience a depressive illness in their lifetime. Feelings of hopelessness and suicide are common but should always be taken seriously. Get the support you need.
- Negative thoughts – How negative thoughts affect the way we feel and ways of managing negative thinking.
- Bereavement – Who and how they can support you, adjusting your role. Also see the section When Caring Ends
If any of these sound familiar, you may find it useful reading through the guide on Carers Club to find out what help might be out there for you. Sometimes, just reading about how you feel written down in someone else’s words can help you come to terms with your own situation and allow you to feel less alone.
I can’t think of anyone I would be comfortable to talk to in person. Where else can I go to get emotional support?
If you are ever feeling like it is all getting too much, there is always someone to listen and talk through your problems with at Samaritans. Call 08457 90 90 90 any time, any day, and you will get through to someone who is trained to provide emotional support.
I’d rather talk with people who are in my position, is there anywhere near me that I can go?
Another option might be to join one of our many local Support Groups that provide carers with an open safe space to get together and just talk. There are a number of different groups, for a whole array of carers in different cultures and communities, including women only groups, and for young carers. Find one that suits you best in Events and Groups.
Tip 5: Eat Well & Stay Hydrated
Eating well sets the foundation for everything we do in our lives. Our physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as our energy levels and mood, all depend on what we feed ourselves on a day to day basis.
When days are busy and money is tight, it is all too easy to reach for the instant gratification sugary foods, like chocolate and crisps, and avoid the fruit and veg section altogether. We all do it, and while these may seem like the easiest options in the moment, and might give a quick pick me up when you need it, you probably already know they aren’t the best for you in the long run.
Thinking about how to begin eating healthily can be a daunting task, especially when you have so many other things on your mind already. Luckily, Carers UK has created a comprehensive guide to nutrition for carers, covering how to eat healthy on a budget, quick and easy stove top recipe ideas for the whole family, and why it is important to stay hydrated throughout the day.
What about feeding someone else?
This guide is all about feeding you, if what you’re looking for is information and advice on feeding someone else, including tube feeding, signs of a problem, and improving nutritional intake, you’ll find all of that and more under Caring Safely in the Advice section.
Tip 6: Caring for Your Back
If you are a Carer looking after a friend or relative with restricted mobility, you may need to pay extra attention to looking after your own back, as your role is likely to involve manually lifting the person that you care for
As a Carer, you may find you need to move or lift someone in less than ideal conditions, such as without equipment, alone, and in small spaces.
There is no such thing as perfect safety, and sometimes it is difficult or near impossible to adapt your surroundings to suit the caring role. However, it is important to look after yourself as much as you can, and reduce the risk of injury to yourself, and the one you are supporting.
BackCare have produced a wonderfully clear and easy to read guide to help Carers with safer moving and handling of people. Have a read through some of their key points below to find out more…
The Key Points to Consider When Assisting a Person to Move:
Once you have worked out how best to assist the person you care for to move and you have prepared the environment and any necessary equipment, the following factors will help you provide assistance more safely.
- Good communication is vital – Check that the person and anyone else assisting understands exactly what is going to happen.
- Think about your posture, your position, and how you move.
- Get in as close as you can to the person you are assisting – The further away the person is, the more strain you are likely to suffer.
- Relax your knees – this allows you to adjust your position as necessary and use your large leg muscles to provide the power for an assisted move.
- Adopt a balanced position – For example, in standing, feet apart or with one foot slightly forward.
- Use a secure and comfortable hold – Use your whole hand. Usually the best place for you to provide support is over the shoulder blades and hips.
- Pull in your stomach muscles before you move- these help support your back.
- Always avoid twisting, stooping, and side bending when possible.
- For upward movement, lead with the crown of your head- this will help keep your back in the correct natural ‘S’ shape position.
- Carry out the move in a controlled way – Moving in a slow and smooth manner can avoid straining the back, as well as making it more comfortable for the one you are assisting
Tip 7: Vaccinations
Unpaid Carers are eligible for both the free flu jab and the Covid19 booster jab (which is currently available five months after your second dose of the Covid19 vaccination). You can book to have both the flu jab and the booster at the same time, or you can choose to have them separately.
The Covid19 vaccinations and booster are available to anyone who is the main Carer for someone with support needs who whose welfare would be at risk if you as their Carer became ill, or anyone in receipt of Carer’s Allowance. The flu jab is available to anyone registered as a Carer with their GP. If you are not currently registered with your GP or are not sure if you are, contact your GP practice. It’s useful to be registered for a variety of other reasons too, including the possibility of booking joint appointments for you and the person you care for, and other support they may offer.
You can find out more about the flu and coronavirus vaccines here