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Self-care for carers

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Carers Week 2018

Self-care for carers

Working as a carer is a challenging yet rewarding role. Dedicating time and effort to ensuring the wellbeing of others is never easy, what is easy, is forgetting about the wellbeing of you. With a constantly full schedule, taking time for yourself is not often a priority, but it should be. Statistics show that there are approximately 6 million people who care for a sick or disabled relative in Britain, about 2 million people become carers every year, and carers are more likely to have poorer health than someone who isn’t a carer. As a carer it’s important that you look after your health and wellbeing so you can stay healthy and take better care of your loved one(s).  One You Merton has some simple tips and information on how you can take care of yourself, whilst caring of others.  So always remember the importance of self-care for carers!

Eat Well

Make sure you’re keeping hydrated (6-8 glasses of water a day) and eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day alongside a well-balanced diet is imperative to keep you in tip top shape. A balanced diet aids in weight control, can keep your heart healthy and improve brain function. Here’s how a balanced diet can be easily worked into your busy day:

Meal prepping! Meal prepping is a great way to get your goods and greens and everything in between in a time efficient way, and it can be done in an instant! When making a meal, why not make a bit extra, enough for the next few days, save the extras in a container and pop it in the fridge to consume when ready. This can be done at breakfast with oats or “overnight oats” with a portion of fruit and nuts/seeds such as almonds and pumpkin seeds. At lunch you could have hearty and healthy vegetable and protein packed soups and salads, and at dinner with a good source of lean protein like chicken, fish, tofu or beans and some starchy carbohydrates like brown rice, couscous or potatoes, alongside some veggies! So the next time you make a meal, just make extra and you’ve saved yourself from making a meal for the next few days and ensured you’re eating you’re 5 A DAY!

For inspiration why not:

Check out healthy meal recipes on the FREE One You Easy meals app which provides you with easy, healthy recipes and can be found on our Easy Meals app page

There are also some great family recipes and kids meals from Change4life

Drink Less

Many people enjoy drinking alcohol, the main thing to be aware of with alcohol is to drink in moderation. The NHS recommends that both men and women drink no more than 14 units a week (which is about 6 pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine). Being aware of these units can help you to enjoy yourself responsibly.

Why not try:

Taking the FREE One You Merton Drink Checker test.  After answering some questions the drink checker will tell you if you are drinking to much alcohol and if so will give you some tips on reducing how much you drink: Take the FREE test!

Or try:

The FREE One You Drink Tracker and One You Days Off apps. The Drink Tracker app is used to track what you drink as you go along and the Days Off app is used to help you plan alcohol free days and show you the money you can save and the calories you can cut out of your diet.  Both of these apps are available on our Drink Less page

You can also call our friendly One You Merton health advisors on 020 8973 3545 who can help you set goals towards drinking less or you can email us at oneyou.merton@nhs.net

Move More

Instead of trying to achieve 10,000 steps a day, why not try walking briskly for at least 10 minutes instead. Research from Public Health England has shown that rather than focussing on the number of steps you do per day it is the intensity and time you walk for which is most important. The more sessions of walking briskly for at least 10 minutes a day the better.  This is a great way to introduce exercise into your life and build towards the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week recommended by the NHS.

Brisk walking can be done when you’re already on the move, such as on your way to work or when you’re out running errands.  You know you’re walking briskly when you can talk but can’t sing, if you’re able to hold a note, pick up the pace!

Why not try:

If you’re driving to a destination, such as work, park further away and walk briskly for at least 10 minutes to your destination. If you tend to be a very leisurely walker, try walking briskly for 10 minutes and if 10 minutes doesn’t feel like a challenge, increase this to 20 minutes or try doing intervals, 10 minutes of brisk walking and 10 minutes of walking at your normal speed!

Get the FREE One You Active 10 Walk Tracker app to track how many brisk 10 minute walks you do and how to fit more into your day.  The Active 10 app is available on our Active 10 app page.

Or

Why go to a FREE health walk in the borough! There are a number of different FREE health walks provided by Merton Walk 4Life and you can always walk the excellent Wandle Trail – details can be found on our Be Active page.

Quit smoking

Even though many people smoke to reduce stress levels, the truth is that smoking actually increases stress and is a serious threat to health. Stopping smoking is never easy, but it is one of the best ways for you to take care of yourself. You and your body can feel the effects immediately, in fact just 20 minutes after a cigarette your pulse rate returns to normal, after 8 hours Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels reduce by more than half and your oxygen levels return to normal  After 48 hours, carbon monoxide is completely eliminated from the body, your lungs clear out mucus and other smoking debris, nicotine is removed from the body and your ability to taste is improved. In the long term, your circulation will improve, your lung function increases, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker and your risk of a heart attack falls to the same as a person who has never smoked.

Why not try:

Visiting our Quit Smoking page to find out about the stop smoking support available locally or call our friendly health advisors on 020 8973 3545

Sleep well

It may well be difficult for you to get enough sleep especially if the person you care for is often awake at night or seriously ill. Getting enough sleep is of great importance though and there are things you can do to help you relax before going to bed so you can get at least 8 hours rest in order to recharge your body and improve your mood.

Why not try:

Having a pre-bedtime routine, such as having a relaxing bath, reading your favourite novel or doing a short meditation, these are great methods of self-care and can improve your night’s sleep getting you ready for the day ahead.

Blog written by Abeke Lawal and Sinead Simpson
MSc Health Psychology students