First of all, congratulations on making your own wellbeing a priority! Too often carers let their own health fall by the wayside; think about how, on airplanes, they advise you to fit your own oxygen mask before helping others - you need to be fit and well in order to care for someone else.
Some simple things you can do are:
- Make sure you’re eating well. Try to eat plenty of plant foods (vegetables, legumes, fruit, cereal, rice and pasta), moderate amounts of animal foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products) and small amounts of foods containing sugars, salt and oils. Drinking lots of water and cutting down on coffee and alcohol are also healthy moves.
- Take some time for you. In the spring 2011 issue of our Carers in Victoria magazine, we have some great ideas for quick respite breaks – from baking to meditation, they can all be done in around 30 minutes. Read more here: http://www.carersvictoria.org.au/file-assets/newsletter/carers-in-victoria/. Respite can be really hard for many carers to take at first – there’s often guilt or reluctance stopping us from making our self-care a priority. Those feelings are normal, but they need to be balanced against the risks of not looking after yourself properly.
- Get moving. Regular exercise is great for your mind AND your body. It improves resilience, strength and flexibility, promotes better sleep, reduces stress and depression, and increases your energy and alertness. Starting a new exercise program is probably the most difficult part; you can start small by doing some exercises at home – a few stretches, lifting weights, a quick walk. You can also incorporate exercise into everyday activities – walk to the shops, climb the stairs, or get into the garden. (If you have a health condition, make sure you talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program).
- Talk to someone. Sometimes the stresses and demands of caring can bring difficult emotions, and it can help to talk to someone. Make time to meet with friends for coffee and talk to them about what's happening in your life, but also think about talking to a professional. Sometimes a counsellor's objective and professional advice can give that extra little bit of support. Call 1800 242 636 to talk to the Carer Association in your state or territory – they can arrange for you to meet with a counsellor and respite services in your area.
Check out our website, www.carersvictoria.org.au, for more information and advice; the 1800 242 636 number will connect you to the local Carer Association wherever you are.
You can also call LifeLine 27/4 if you feel that you are in a place of crisis.
Most importantly, remember that you are not alone - there are people out there who want to, and can, help you if you ever feel you need it.
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