Looking after yourself physically and mentally
Dear Parents and Carers
It is never too late to start to benefit from being healthier -this is good news! Looking after yourself doesn’t have to mean working up a sweat or joining a gym – just a few small changes can make a big difference to your physical and mental health. If you want to be a little healthier but don’t know where to start, this guide is for you. It suggests some changes you might want to make to your daily routine and diet to benefit your whole family.
A healthy lifestyle is all about balance. But finding that balance and what works and is achievable is different for everyone. Whether you’re already fairly active or you want to make those first steps to a healthier lifestyle, hopefully this guide can help everyone.
Moving more is always a good thing. Any activity – however small – will help you stay mobile, and able to do everyday tasks, for longer. It will also help you continue enjoying the things you love for as long as possible. Keeping active helps you:
• sleep well
• have a good appetite
• stay at a healthy weight
• stay social
• strengthen muscles and bones
• keep your bowel healthy
• manage high blood pressure and angina (severe chest pain)
• reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and some cancers
• prevent some long-term conditions, like arthritis, from getting worse.
So keep moving - when and where possible -walk with your children to and from school, go for a family walk during weekends or even join your child in a bike ride or kicking football. Even a small amount of exercise is better than nothing. What’s good for the body is good for the mind too. Staying active can improve your mood and mental wellbeing as well as help you deal with stress.
Diet and lifestyle
Healthy eating and drinking. A healthy lifestyle is all about balance – and it starts with your diet. As part of your balanced diet, try to:
- eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables makes you less likely to develop heart disease and certain cancers, like bowel cancer. Frozen, canned or dried fruits and fruit juices all count.
- base meals around starchy food. Starchy foods, like rice or pasta, are a good source of energy. Wholegrain and high-fibre versions help prevent constipation
- try, where possible, to eat fish. Having one portion of white fish, like cod or pollock, and another of oily fish, like salmon or mackerel, every week is ideal. Oily fish is rich in vitamin D and a type of fat that helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Grilling, poaching or baking fish is healthier than frying it.
- find different sources of protein. You could try alternatives to meat, such as soya-based meat substitutes, beans or lentils. Dairy products, such as milk and cheese, contain protein too. They’re also a good source of calcium, which helps to keep bones strong. Try to go for lower fat versions. If you eat meat, limit portion sizes of red meat or poultry and choose lean cuts of meat or mince if you can.
- cut down on foods high in salt, fat and sugar Eating too much salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Look for lower-salt versions of foods where you can. Foods that are high in saturated fat such as cakes, sausages and cheese increase cholesterol levels in the blood and raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Try to see these as a treat rather than an everyday snack.
- drink about six to eight glasses of fluids each day This doesn’t have to be just water. Tea, coffee and low-sugar or sugar-free squash are fine too. When it’s hot, drink a little more to stay hydrated.
Eating well doesn’t have to mean giving up the less healthy things you enjoy – it just means eating them in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. Eating regularly is also important, and anything is better than not eating at all – even if it’s a little of your favourite sweet treat!
Like eating well, healthy drinking doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a glass of wine – just try to do it in moderation. Drinking too much can damage your liver, brain, blood vessels and increase the risk of some cancers, and doesn’t help if you’re trying to watch your weight, too. You shouldn’t regularly drink more than 14 units a week, which is roughly either: • 6 pints of beer or cider (4% strength) • 6 medium (175ml) glasses of wine (13% strength) • 12 small (25ml) glasses of spirits such as gin, whisky or vodka (40% strength)
If you feel you need a drink to help you cope with a difficult situation, have a chat with your doctor or someone you trust.
Even if you’ve smoked for years, it’s never too late to stop. Whatever your age, and however long you’ve smoked for, you’ll notice a lot of positive changes to your health if you stop smoking. You’re likely to:
• be able to breathe easier
• reduce your risk of developing heart and lung problems, (or making them worse)
• reduce your risk of smoking-related cancers
• reduce your risk of having a stroke
• reduce your risk of problems with your eyesight
• recover more quickly after an operation
• feel better overall, and live longer.
Most people know how unhealthy smoking is, but find it difficult to give up. You could start by asking your doctor about local one-to-one or group support or medication that can help you stop.
Feeling well is not just about looking after your body – your and your child's mental wellbeing is just as important. And though physical health plays a part in this, there are other simple things you can do to help look after yourself and your family.
Talk about your feelings
Keep in touch
Ask for help
Take a break
Do something you’re good at
Accept who you are
Care for others