Care for the carers - and yes, of course it includes exercise!

I moved back to my childhood home last year to live with my 96 year old mother as her carer, and although I love her dearly, and she always expresses her gratitude for what I do, it can be challenging at times. Obviously, at such a great age, she has lots of health issues, and although her brain is sharp and she can still hold forth on politics and many other subjects, her short term memory isn't too good, so we have some interesting conversations - especially as her hearing isn't great either! The pandemic has created more problems for many carers, as some of the normal avenues of help have been cut off. Family and friends who you could normally call on for a bit of respite are sensibly keeping away, and you can feel quite isolated. It's important for carers to take some time for themselves, but that can be difficult, especially now. We all need to have time to unwind, to have different conversations, to see the outside world.

A couple of times a week I try to have a walk with a friend, and it really is a lifeline. Looking at the scenery, discovering new places to walk, rediscovering old, familiar routes from my childhood, and the sheer pleasure of being outdoors walking - several fast miles with one friend, shorter and slower with another! - immediately makes me feel better. Added to that is the conversation. Talking to somebody else about all manner of subjects - what's on my mind, what's on theirs, what's happening in the world, what our hopes, fears and plans are - it's such a great mood booster, and I always return home feeling rejuvenated. I'm also lucky that part of my job involves having Walk and Talk sessions with clients - it not only helps them, but it's a welcome opportunity for me to get out for some exercise and interesting company as well.

If I don't get out, I know my mood dips, so if I'm not walking and talking, I try to go for a run, or at least do some exercise at home. Today, by the time I was free to go out, it had started to snow, so a run didn't seem the best idea. I did a good workout instead, and that certainly helped. Exercise really does improve your feelings of mental wellbeing, as well as your physical fitness. During yet another lockdown, it can be tempting to comfort eat, which can lead to a very negative image of yourself, and many people, not just carers, are finding that right now. In addition to the satisfaction of burning off some calories through physical activity, it's probably taking your mind off eating, and making you feel better so you aren't so tempted to reach for the biscuits! It's a win-win situation!

So, for everyone, but especially if you're a carer, try to make sure that you get out for a while each day, even if only for a short walk. If you can walk with a friend even better. It's why I offer Walk and Talk sessions, because I know how good walking and talking with somebody can be. It certainly helps to keep me sane in this crazy mixed up world!

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