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We know that as the carer of a relative or friend you're very busy, so we've created a guide with practical advice on how to look after yourself with tips on how make life easier.

On this page we give you information about:

1. Leisure activities
 Healthy eating
3. Taking a break from caring

Leisure activities

If you’re a carer, you might find it difficult to make time for yourself. But remember that your health is important too. If you are happy and well, you’re better able to provide help and support to others.

"I go up to London about four times a year for a few days, and see friends, go to exhibitions, and have some time for me." Dahpne's story

As a carer it’s important to have your own interests and make time for them whenever you can. When you spend lots of time thinking about, or caring for, someone else a bit of ‘me time’ can do you the world of good.

Finding spare time is easier said than done. You might find it helpful to have a plan of action to make sure you have time for your leisure activities. Setting aside a set time every week when you do a class or activity can be a way of achieving that. 

If the person you're caring for needs continuous care, talk to another relative or friend to see if they can take over caring duties for an hour or two a week. Our guide to Respite care can also give you useful advice on how to arrange short- or long-term respite care.

  • Keeping fit: exercise isn’t just good for your physical health. It can be a way to relieve stress, boost your self-esteem and make you happier too. Try to make time for something you enjoy whether that’s running, swimming, yoga or simply a gentle stroll through the park. If you prefer to work out with someone else, have a look at local classes, gyms, walking groups or speak to friends to see if anyone fancies joining you.
  • Hobbies: joining a class can be a really good way of meeting other people, learning new skills or doing an activity that you love. Perhaps you like painting or photography? Or maybe you’d like to learn more about computers, first aid or study a new language? If classes aren’t your thing, reading books by your favourite authors or doing gardening might be a good way for you to relax.
  • See your friends: try meeting friends or family members over an afternoon coffee or going out for dinner as a way of talking about other things than your caring responsibilities.

Your local library can provide information about social activities, events, education and courses. The University of the Third Age (U3A) can tell you about courses in your area.

Healthy eating

We all know that healthy eating is important, but if you're busy cooking and shopping for someone else it can be easy to let your own eating habits slip. A balanced diet is good for your all-round health, fitness and well-being.

Here are a few quick tips on how to make healthy eating a little bit more easy to fit into your daily life:

  • Plan meals: deciding what to cook every day can be a pain, particularly if you are busy. One solution is to plan your meals in advance. Sit down once a week and make a list of meals for the week and then shop for the ingredients all at once. You're less likely to forget things if you have a list. And you’re more likely to eat a proper meal if everything you need is already in the cupboards/fridge.
  • Online shopping: if you find it difficult to get out to the supermarket, online shopping can be quicker and easier. You can shop from the comfort of your own home at any time of day or night and food is delivered straight to your door. Read the Which? comparison of supermarkets to see which supermarkets rate the best, and worst, for online shopping.
  • Batch cooking: if you’re short on time you’re unlikely to have enough time to produce MasterChef quality meals every night of the week. Batch cooking is a great way to prepare meals in advance. Cook a huge casserole, shepherd's pie, bolognese, curry or chilli, and then freeze portions to take out and heat up when you want them.

Taking a break from caring

If you provide care for a relative, friend or neighbour, there will be times when you need to take a break: to attend appointments, go to a class or simply to take time out. You might want to arrange alternative care for the person you care for – either in their own home or somewhere else. Or you could arrange a respite holiday – either for yourself, the person you care for or both of you together.

  • Read more about the respite care options available, how to choose and finance this type of care, and what benefits it can offer you and the person you care for in our guide to Respite care.
  • If you're juggling work and caring responsibilities, you might be interested in arranging Flexible working or Taking a longer break from work.  

More information

Page first published: December 2015
Next review due: July 2017