Am I stressed?

What is stress? According to the medical news today website, stress is a feeling that people have when they are overloaded and struggling to cope with demands. Stress can be a motivator; and stress can be essential to survival. The fight or flight mechanism can tell us when and how to respond to danger. However, if this mechanism is triggered too easily it can undermine a person’s mental and physical health and become harmful.

Are my stress levels too high? This is a personal thing – we all have different tolerance levels of stress. What can seem exhilarating to one person can seem terrifying to another.

What are common causes of stress in unpaid carers?

  • Having to put someone else’s needs first day in day out can take a toll on your wellbeing.
  • A mind crowded with the mental load of caring, e.g. medication, physiotherapy, appointments, financial issues, not to mention the scary ‘what if’ scenarios can result in people feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring.

Self care is so important; if you feel burdened by responsibilities and exhausted by the demands of caring, and you neglect your own needs, then you will react differently to how you would if you were coming at problems from a rested and relaxed place. So perhaps lack of self care is a contributing cause of stress for carers! Although at Carers Outreach we emphasise the importance of time out and self care, we do realise, that for many caring situations, this is easier said than done. The fact is that some caring situations are just plain stressful.

What can I do about it?

Self help:

  • Arrange to have regular time out to do things that you enjoy, e.g. catch up with friends or enjoy a walk in nature.
  • Communicate, talk to your cared for person or your family about how you feel and explore solutions together.
  • Talk to someone at your local carers’ hub or carers’ social group. Often just talking things through can help to get them into perspective and bring stress levels down. After all, you’re not super human and you’re doing the best you can.

If your caring situation is extremely stressful you may want to seek external support.

External help:

  • Speak to your GP who may suggest counselling or cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
  • Carers Outreach can refer you to various helpful organisations, including some that offer the above therapies.
  • Enrol on a suitable course or exercise class; mindfulness, tai chi, yoga, dancing and singing have all been shown to help reduce stress. Your local carers’ hub can help you to find the right one for you.
  • The BCU Health Board runs free courses for carers and people who suffer from chronic illnesses.

    Your local Carers Outreach hub can provide information about all of the above.

    Essential points for stress awareness
  • Stress helps the body prepare for danger.
  • Symptoms can be both physical and psychological.
  • Short term stress can be helpful, but long term stress is linked to various health conditions.
  • We can prepare for stress by learning self management techniques.
  • Sometimes we need to ask for help.

Caring can be stressful and Carers Outreach is here to help prevent carers reaching crisis point.