Look after yourself: managing stress
Stress management looks at what is causing stree in your life and how stress is affecting you. You can then plan ways to defuse tension or respond better to difficult situations.
Identify situations that stress youThere are common signs that may indicate your stress levels are too high. Look at the list of symptoms below and learn to recognise when you are becoming stressed and need to slow down and look after yourself:
- Disturbed sleep or insomnia, tiredness and apathy;
- Racing heart or sweating with no obvious cause, digestive problems, headaches and muscle tension;
- Overeating or loss of appetite, weight loss or gain;
- Feelings of tension, impatience or irritability, anger and resentment;
- Lack of self esteem, depression and helplessness, anxiety or guilt;
- Forgetfulness and indecision;
- Misuse of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or gambling;
- Feeling negative about things, withdrawing other people or from activities you normally enjoy.
Change what you can
You may not be able to significantly change the demands of your caring role, but you can look creatively at small changes which might help.
Ask friends and family to help out.
Accept what you can’t change
Focus on what you can do to make a difference and identify and accept the things you can’t change.
Stress can sometimes be reduced by changing how you react to it.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
You may be very good at mediating arguments or at switching off worries and thinking about something else. Someone else in your family may be good at finding practical solutions to problems. Build coping strategies around the strengths in your family.
Learn skills to help you manage
Learn as much as you can about the condition of the person you are caring for and about techniques that can help you to manage your caring role better. Good planning can help you to balance you caring responsibilities better with the rest of your life.
Try to nurture traits that are common in people who respond well to change and adversity:
- look at the funny side of things;
- build self esteem and believe in your ability to cope;
- focus on good outcomes and experiences;
- accept unpleasantness, learn from it and move on.
Practical strategies for reducing stress
- Keep healthy. Eat well and exercise regularly;
- Get a good night’s sleep. Don’t drink coffee or tea in the evening and explore ways to wind down before bed. Meditation, listening to music or reading can help if you have difficulty falling asleep;
- Find out what relaxes you and take regular time out to recharge. Try to do something that you enjoy every day and spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself;
- Talk with family and friends about how you feel. Let off steam and encourage them to do the same. It may also help to talk with a professional counsellor;
- Ask for and accept help.