Coping With Stress

We have all experienced stress at some point in our lives. As a carer, you may be particularly susceptible to stress. Triggers may include pressures or increased responsibility of your caring role. Feeling stressed can gradually build up and can leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

What is stress?

Stress is caused by the many demands made on our time and energy. This can be heightened by the expectations we have of ourselves or of others around us. We know that some forms of stress are not always negative, for example, stress can be useful to alert you to potential dangers or spurring you on to achieve a goal or complete a task. However, sometimes the balance tips too far and the pressure becomes intense or persistent, resulting in you feeling as though you’re unable to cope.

Stress can make it hard to cope with the demands of caring. It can lead to you becoming mentally and physically exhausted, feeling tense, irritable, or frustrated. This can put a strain on relationships, especially with the one you are caring for.

How can I cope better with stress?

Dealing with stress can be really tough, but the first step is recognising that you’re feeling stressed. When you’re juggling a lot of responsibilities, it can be easy to overlook the signs of stress until they become too overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to your mental and physical well-being and seek support when you need it.

Identifying what’s causing your stress is the first step to feeling better. Sometimes, it can help to talk about how you feel, this can make a huge difference. And remember, the symptoms of stress can be different for everyone.

Mental symptoms can include anxiety, racing thoughts, anger, depression, lack of appetite, sleeplessness, crying often, tiredness, and difficulty concentrating.

Physical symptoms can include cramps, muscle spasms, chest pains, dizziness, restlessness, stomach problems, and breathlessness.

Over time, stress can take a toll on your physical health, and lead to problems, such as: risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and other health conditions. It’s essential to reach out for support when you recognise that you’re struggling. There are people who care and want to help you.

Top Tips for Coping with Stress

Feeling stressed can be overwhelming, but there are steps you can take to reduce your levels of stress.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Take a break. Step out of the room, or even outside if you can, for at least five minutes. Take a deep breath and hold it for a count of three, then breathe out. Repeat as often as you need to until you feel more relaxed, but not so often that you feel dizzy.
  • Relax your muscles. Tense muscles are a physical sign that you’re stressed. Look into relaxation techniques, which are often available locally. Your local healthy living centre or library might have information or resources to help you learn to relax.
  • Watch what you drink and smoke. Alcohol and cigarettes can be harmful to your body and make you more at risk of the physical effects of stress. And caffeine can have similar effects on your body, so try to be mindful of how much coffee or tea you’re drinking.
  • Be active. Physical exercise is a great way to relieve tension. Even a short walk can help reduce your stress levels, or try a 10-minute yoga session if you’re not able to leave home.
  • Pace yourself. Try to tackle one thing at a time, and be realistic about what you expect of yourself. Learn to say “no” to other people when you need to, even if it’s just some of the time.

More information and tips for reducing stress can be found on the Carers Trust website.

Remember, when dealing with stress what works for one person might not work for another. So be patient with yourself and keep trying until you find what works best for you.

Need more help?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, it might be time to talk to your GP. They’ve seen many patients with stress-related problems and can recommend lifestyle changes, counselling, or other talking treatments. A counsellor can listen to you and help you find ways to deal with your stress. And if your stress is making you feel depressed, there are medications that can help relieve some of the symptoms. Your GP can prescribe antidepressants if they think they’ll be helpful, but it’s important to remember that different medications work better for different people. If you’re not happy with the ones you’re prescribed, don’t hesitate to go back and ask for something else.