My Journey Through Stress

A few years ago I was caring for my mum who had mixed dementia. She wanted to remain in her own home, and despite my concerns for her safety and that of her neighbours, this situation was allowed to continue until she died. I lived in fear that she would burn the house down and had to deal with many complaints from her neighbours about her aggression. All in all, as any dementia carer will tell you, it was a stressful time.

Shortly before Mum died another close relative became seriously ill and 3 other relatives/close friends died - some of them way too young!

I was working full time and started to feel really anxious. I was plagued by dark thoughts about terrible things happening to the rest of my family. I couldn’t voice some of these thoughts, they were too horrific. I was afraid to go anywhere without my mobile phone, thinking that if I left it some terrible fate would befall my loved ones and I would miss their call for help.

After several months I began to have physical symptoms; - facial tingling, palpitations, headaches, aching joints, high blood pressure and periods of extreme fatigue. My doctor ran blood tests which thankfully all came back clear. I was referred to physiotherapy for the joint pain and the physio’s verdict was that a lot of the pain was down to stress. The physical symptoms persisted and I returned to the doctor, who this time suggested I self referred to a counsellor.

Carers Outreach told me about 2 possible avenues of support, ‘Parabl talking therapies’ and ‘In work support’. I chose ‘In work support’ which provided one counselling session a week for 6 weeks. This was really helpful; my counsellor helped me to see that the anxiety I was feeling was a natural reaction to a period of such intense stress.

We looked at elements of my life that may have contributed to how vulnerable I’d been feeling when faced with the stressful events. I’ve always been reluctant to ask for help and over the years I’d developed a keen interest in self help techniques and I studied books and listened to relaxation and mindfulness CDs. I took a good look at my life and asked myself what was stressful in my daily life and what I could reasonably stop doing.

The counsellor praised my efforts so far and told me I was on the right track. This really boosted my self esteem; I realise that no one can have a completely stress free life but I believe that having an awareness of stress factors and the tools to cope, will prevent me from reaching such an anxious state again.

My tips to beat stress

  • When you’re worrying compulsively about a potential or real future event - stop! Take a few breaths and ask yourself how you feel right now. Are you
    safe? Is your family safe? Usually the answer is yes. Just try to stay feeling safe in the present moment for as long as you can. This gets easier to do the more you practise.
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good.
  • Work was my saviour, being immersed in a project helped me to forget my worries for a while.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help; we all have times in our lives where we need a helping hand. If you don’t have a good support network around you, Carers Outreach will provide emotional and practical support.
  • Find something that works for you. I play my relaxation CDs and go for walks. Music, uplifting TV shows, social groups, exercise classes and gardening are all recommended.

Good luck!