Health Changes Caregivers Can Make Today For Their Overall Health
If you are looking for ways to improve your health but are overwhelmed about how much time it will take or how expensive it will be, I’m here to help! I know that as a caregiver, you don’t have a lot of time or money to dedicate to your own well-being. I also know how detrimental this can be to your long-term health.
Making health changes is easier when you do one small thing at a time. If you feel like you don’t have the time or energy to do it for yourself, you can do it for both you and your caree. You can both get healthier together!
If it has been so long since you’ve focused on your own health, you may not even know where to start. I went through a stage where I was resentful about my chronic illness so I stopped eating healthy since I used to eat healthy and ended up with an autoimmune disease anyway. Silly rationale, I know. Once I started taking better care of myself, I felt better about myself. It didn’t necessarily cure me, or affect my chronic illness, but it makes me feel good to know that I am taking care of myself.
How To Make Small Health Changes
Here are some simple things you can do that don’t cost a lot of money but can improve your health.
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- Get more sleep. I’m guessing you are sleep deprived. Most caregivers are, so you probably fall in that group. However, sleep is critical to health. If you struggle with sleep, check out my post on sleep hygiene. You can also talk to your doctor if you are truly having a tough time. My doctor recommended Melatonin supplements for nights when I’m really struggling. One caveat, you shouldn’t take it nightly for an extended timeframe as it will affect your body’s ability to produce melatonin on its own. I have also had luck with ZzzQuil (by the makers of Nyquil but without the medication part). Proper sleep hygiene is best, but if you are still struggling, you may need a little help. I know I sometimes do!
- Snack healthy: If the thought of cooking healthy meals when you’re busy is overwhelming, start with healthy snacks. It’s easier to eat healthy snacks since they don’t require as much prep. You can snack on fresh fruit, raw vegetables (think carrot sticks, snap peas, sliced cucumbers, bell peppers), yogurt (try plain yogurt with honey and fruit), nuts or hummus and carrots or even cheese sticks. None of these snacks take a lot of time to prepare and they aren’t that much more expensive than processed foods.
- Get moving. You don’t need to start hitting the gym for an hour every day to get the health benefits of exercise. As little as 15 minutes a day can impact your health in a positive way. If you don’t even know how to start an exercise routine, start with a walk around the block. If that is too much for you, park your car at the back of the grocery store parking lot. Don’t get overwhelmed at the idea of exercise, just do it. Some things I’ve started to do are setting aside time for a long walk on weekends, doing stretches before bed and doing the 37 minute “gentle yoga” routine on my cable network’s OnDemand programming. Not one of these things cost money or takes more than 37 minutes. I also can do them at home, which is especially important to busy caregivers.
- Cut back on one unhealthy habit. I am a sugar junkie. I admit it. I love chocolate and have no intention of giving up chocolate, even though it isn’t the healthiest habit. However, I have cut back on my candy eating significantly. I now stick to one piece of chocolate a day (if that), rather than handfuls throughout the day. If you have an unhealthy habit, rather than trying to cut it out cold turkey, consider cutting back. Maybe, eventually, you’ll cut it out or cut back so drastically that it becomes a treat.
- Health before treats. As I mentioned, I love chocolate. And candy. And cookies. When I’m stressed, I stress eat. If you are in the same boat, you can try what I’ve started doing. If I’m stressed out and want a piece of candy, I make myself eat a piece of fruit first. Sometimes, I don’t need the treat, sometimes I do. But at least I’m eating less treats. I’ve also started drinking a hot cup of tea that tastes a bit like dessert after dinner. It cures my craving for sweet most nights.
- Find ways to de-stress. If you are constantly living with stress, it could have a negative impact on your health. While you probably can’t eliminate your stress (it’s not like you can get rid of all of your obligations), you can find ways to decompress. I started doing yoga when I was under a lot of stress and needed something to clear my mind. It worked wonders. I also have the free Calm mindfulness app on my phone and use it whenever I’m stressed out. If those options don’t appeal to you, pick up a new hobby, pick up an adult coloring book or find simple self-care to do at home.
Making healthy changes doesn’t have to be that hard. You just need to start with baby steps and work your way up to the bigger changes, depending on your current lifestyle.
I’ve always had a relatively healthy lifestyle so I don’t need to make big changes, but I understand the challenge when you are starting from ground zero. My husband didn’t have good health habits when we got married and falls back on his old habits when he is under stress. We try to make little changes at a time so it doesn’t feel so difficult.
Do you have any simple health shortcuts?