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Winter wellbeing for unpaid carers

With the longer dark nights with us, our community of carers have been sharing how we can nurture ourselves through winter, alongside our caring roles. Simple ways to look after our wellbeing, connect with others and make each day a little better. Sometimes just a tiny shift in how we’re feeling can create a beneficial momentum.

1. Get outside if we can

And especially if the sun is out! Soak up some much-needed vitamin D, feel the breeze, enjoy the crisp air, and marvel at the beauty of winter. Take a mindful walk around our area, noticing the small stuff, the few red berries on the bare tree, and the frosty cobwebs.

Illustration of woman walking in the park.

Why not try Forest Bathing, an ancient Japanese method of being calm in nature. Believed to invoke feelings of calm and to be a natural wellbeing boost.

Top tips

  1. Put it in the diary. Making sure our daily walk is in our diary, is a helpful way to ensure it actually happens, and the time doesn't get eaten up with other responsibilities.

  2. Get accountability. We might want to consider signing up for a little challenge, to support a new walking habit. A quick Google will bring up lots of 'virtual' walking challenges, where we can commit to a specified number of miles over a certain timeframe. We get to be part of a supportive community and can track how far we've gone.

For those of us unable to get outside, why not do some virtual forest bathing. While we might not benefit from the vitamin D and full sensory experience, there is certainly something very calming about these images.

2. Practise Gratitude

Find three things each day, that we're grateful for. The roof over our head, our health, that perfect cuppa, a phone call with a friend, our comfy bed, our hot shower. Practising this every day is a wonderful way to shift the balance. And as the saying goes,

"You get more of what you focus on"

And that really is the beauty of gratitude practise. Once we've really got going, we notice more and more to be grateful for and it can really lift our spirits. If we capture our gratitudes in a little notebook, then they make the perfect read on a tough day.

"I always read my gratitude journal when I'm feeling low. It really lifts me. It reminds me that good things can and do happen."

Top tip

Treat ourselves to a new and beautiful notepad - who doesn't love new stationary? Find a time each day that works for us. For me, I love to do this at bedtime, it sets me up for happy dreams. It can take weeks or even months to embed a new habit. By making sure we choose a 'good' time of day for us, we can associate the new habit with good vibes, rather than just 'another thing to do'.

3. Stay connected

Have a daily action to reach out to people every day. Carers can experience great levels of isolation, and this may be heightened during lockdown. Make sure that you're reaching out to people and places that enhance your wellbeing.

Here's a snapshot of how many of the carers in our community are staying connected via technology.

Simple WhatsApp chats

Using WhatsApp to stay connected with friends and family. It can feel like less pressure than an actual phone call, and can be as simple as sharing fun stuff, like pictures and memes.

"My sister and I watched all of the Friday night 'the show must go on musicals' - we sent each other messages the whole way through - chatting about the costumes, songs and childhood memories - we were brought up on musicals! It was really up-lifting."

Chat in a safe and uplifting online community

Many carers find the Mobilise Community a helpful place to hang out and reach out to other carers.

Illustration of a woman on a zoom call with her friend.

Join a Virtual Cuppa

Many local carers' centres and support groups started running virtual cuppas to support us through the pandemic. Mobilise has held daily virtual cuppas since the start of the first lockdown. We discuss all sorts and always end with some uplift! If you haven't joined one yet, we would love to meet you!

We also have an easy 'Digital Skills for Carers' tool to show carers that connecting can be really simple!

Top Tip

Grab our diaries again! Pop in a daily connection, whether that's a virtual cuppa, a WhatsApp message, a walk with a friend (when allowed) or a simple "hi" in a safe online community.

4. Being creative

Carers in our community have been sharing that winter is their time to pull out the arts and crafts box. Tips on making art easy for carers can help get us started. We don’t need to be arty or creative to benefit.

5. Getting sensory

Other carers said they get their big warm blankets and essential oils out. Creating a warm and soul soothing room. (Whilst watching guilty pleasure TV, like Christmas movies).

6. Winter gardening

Some carers in our community turn to their garden or window boxes. Planting up colourful winter plants and bulbs. Along with topping up the bird feeders to watch the robins.

Embedding good habits

It can take a while for new habits to embed. Don't give up. When we do notice we've forgotten, congratulate ourselves for noticing!

We've prepared a daily checklist to help us! We can print this off, save it to our own device to use online, or simply copy it into our diaries. We can also add other daily habits we would like to take up!

A screenshot of a daily habit tracker in Google docs

If you are feeling really low during the winter

Please reach out. We offer free calls with our carer support team. A friendly ear, the opportunity to get clarity around muddled thoughts, or simply just to connect.

If you're in immediate crisis you can also access:

  • Samaritans: Available 24 hours a day by phone

  • Shout: available 24 hours a day via text; text SHOUT to 85258

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