Caregiving: How to protect your mood

Posted on: 12 June 2019 by Rob Hobson

Low mood can be short-term but over a longer period can manifest as depression, anxiety and insomnia all of which reduce your ability to deliver care for your loved one. Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan, offers tips on how proactively manage your mood.

Caregiver mood boost

The role of caring for someone is often defined by the challenges commonly encountered but for many people this experience is very positive and rewarding. Being able to look after a loved one and share experiences that may otherwise be missed is what makes caring for someone worthwhile. However, the relentlessness of responsibility and multiple roles required of some carers can take its toll on mental health. This can get even more stressful for those with additional work responsibilities or young families to look after.

Access to outside support is essential to offer respite and an opportunity for carers to take time out for themselves and recharge their batteries. Aside from this there are many other ways that involve both diet and lifestyle to help maintain mood and energy levels.

What do we mean by mood?

The word ‘mood’ is defined as a temporary state of mind or feeling. Whilst this short-term definition covers the day-to-day fluctuations that we all experience, wider and more long-term conditions include depression, anxiety and Insomnia which impact on wellness and ability to function and carry out daily tasks and overall mental health.

Diet can help with mood

Diet can play a role in how you feel and as such your mood. Diet works in several ways when it comes to mental health. Some foods and food groups have been shown to help alleviate symptoms of certain mental health conditions, but these conditions can have an impact on food choice and even the rate at which the body demands certain key nutrients associated with the central nervous system.

Get the basics right first

It’s important to try and eat three nourishing meals daily to support your health. Meals should include plenty of veggies, protein, fibre-rich grains and healthy fats, all of which will supply sufficient vitamins and minerals as well as promoting satiety and balancing blood sugar between meals. This is easier said than done if your mood is affecting motivation, which likely may put food somewhere at the bottom of the list of things to focus on.

pre-prepare meals

Save time by prepping simple meals

Healthy eating doesn’t mean spending hours preparing meals. Stocking up on quick meal options can take the pressure off. Hummus and other dips with wholegrain breads and prepared salads makes for a healthy meal.  Other simple meal options include scrambled egg or other protein options like tuna mayo with sweetcorn spread on whole meal toast. Batch cooking meals also provides a quick meal fix from the freezer.

Eat regularly and little and often if needs be

At a basic biological level, the effects of blood sugar can impact on mood and other wider mental health conditions.  Skipping meals can leave you lacking energy, whilst also feeling ‘fuzzy’ or unable to centre yourself when hunger sets in. Skipping meals also means missed opportunities to nourish the body with essential nutrients that in some cases may zap you of energy such as iron (required for red blood cell production) and those required to maintain a healthy nervous system and convert food into energy such as the B vitamins and magnesium.

Try eating more smaller meals across the day if that’s easier to fit into your schedule. This could include dips with vegetables, yoghurt with fruit or cheese and cold meats with wholegrain crackers.

Don’t rely on quick fixes

When you’re lacking in energy then it’s tempting to perk yourself up with quick-fixes. The most popular choices when people are busy tend to be snacks and drinks loaded with sugar. If you’re eating three healthy meals daily, then a healthy snack can be just the ticket to keep you fuelled between meals but on an empty stomach a sudden influx of sugar can play havoc with blood glucose levels. Whilst the ‘up’ may be great, the ‘down’ is often quick to occur and leaves you in a slump craving more of the same type of food. If you chuck in a hefty dose of caffeine, then this will also leave you feeling jittery and anxious on top of everything else.

multi vitamins

Vitamins and minerals in the diet are important

Genuine clinical vitamin and mineral deficiencies are not that common in our well-nourished population but if you’re skipping meals, relying mostly on processed foods and sustaining your energy throughout the day with tea, coffee and sugar then you are less likely to be getting everything your body requires from your diet.

One of the most common signs of a nutrient-poor diet is tiredness and fatigue. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient insufficiency and is more common in women than in men. This mineral is required to make healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. Stress and the impact of running around all day can also lead to a more rapid depletion of magnesium and B vitamins, which are required to convert food into energy. If your struggling to eat well then consider a basic multivitamin and mineral supplement such as Healthspan Multivitality Gold, (90 tablets, £5.95) which contains the full spectrum of multivitamins & minerals necessary for all-round good health.

Don’t forget to drink

A lack of fluids can leave you feeling lethargic and irritable whilst unable to concentrate or focus properly and this can contribute to poor mood. Keep hydrated with hot beverages, water and foods with high water content like fruits and soups.

About the author

Rob Hobson is a registered nutritionist he also trained and worked as a public health nutritionist (MSc public health nutrition) and is Head of Nutrition at Healthspan, the UK’s number one online vitamin and supplement supplier. Rob has a genuine and a special interest in the area of caring for carers and has worked with various bodies and care homes providing nutrition advice and guidelines.

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