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Managing stress

About stress

Experts say that short periods of stress in our daily lives are actually good for us. Continual stress, however, can cause health problems, which may not always appear to be stress related and can not only affect you, but also those closest to you, not least the one you're caring for.

As a carer you are in a situation that can be a constant cause of stress – there are many additional responsibilities and frustrations for you to cope with, so feelings of anger and hopelessness are not uncommon.

You should try to be aware of and identify any symptoms of stress you may experience. It may be unusual behaviour such as overreacting to situations, a short temper, shouting at people or a constant feeling of being unable to cope. Lack of appetite, poor sleeping patterns and headaches are other typical reactions to stress.

For carers in particular, stress is usually mental or emotional rather than physical and the effect is that the body is constantly 'keyed up', sometimes without any physical activity as a release (see our exercise section for help relieving stress).

Stress is not only harmful to your health and wellbeing – it can also harm relationships – so it is vital to identify the causes of stress and address them as soon as possible.

The problem is often that the cause of stress may not always be the most obvious, and there is often more than one. You could be worried about money, the future, the health of the person you care for or the activities of other members of the family, or you may feel guilty – another common source of stress.

Stress can strain relations, and it's not just your relationship with the person you are caring for that can be affected. For example, caring for an elderly parent can place enormous strain on a marriage because of the continual stress experienced by the carer and the perceived lack of support from your partner.

For information on how you can resolve issues within your relationships click here.

Dealing with stress

No matter how well you deal with your caring role there will inevitably come a time when you experience higher than normal levels of stress.

To enable you to continue your caring role effectively – and to ensure your own health does not suffer – it is important to try and deal with your stress.

Possible ways of doing this are;

  • Using friends and family for discussion and support
  • Using the carers' boards on this site in the community section to talk to other carers, or attending local support groups of carers
  • Taking through situation with appropriate professionals face-to-face or by telephone
  • Seeking help and advice from GPs, pharmacists and other health professionals you may know

Taking time out to do what you want to do is very difficult when you are a carer, but it is extremely important. For some ideas to help you get some quality time for yourself click here.

For thorough and expert advice on dealing with stress, you can visit the stress section of the BUPA website.

For further advice and information on coping with stress, anger, depression, and other common feelings associated with being a carer, the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust have produced a number of Self-Help Leaflets. These may be useful to you and the person you care for.

Remember, you're not alone...

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