As carers, we’re so focused on looking after others, that we leave little time to look after ourselves. This can result in us feeling overwhelmed and stressed, which in turn, can have a huge impact on our health and ability to deliver care. This week, I look how you can identify the symptoms of stress, it’s causes and the steps you can take to manage this.
Symptoms of stress
A 2018 study by the Mental Health Foundation indicated that 74% of people surveyed reported they "felt overwhelmed or unable to cope" as a result of stress.
Stress can present itself in physical, mental or behavioural ways, including:
- Muscle tension and aches
- Stomach pain
- Chest pain
- Being irritable
- Constantly worrying
- Forgetting things
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Sleeping too much or too little, which could lead to fatigue and changes in your libido and sexual wellness
- Changes in eating habits, possibly resulting in weight loss or weight gain
- Drinking or smoking more
- Avoiding places or people.
There are also many other signs and symptoms of stress that present themselves.
Causes of stress
There are many causes of stress, including work, financial concerns, family/relationships and health issues, such as injuries and illnesses. It may be that you have two or three stress factors that are building on one another. For example, you may have a health concern which is preventing you from working, leading you to be stressed about your health, work and finances.
Establishing what’s causing you to be stressed is key to being able to put steps into place to manage it.
Steps to manage stress
1. Talk to someone
Often we’re told to speak to a doctor or a healthcare professional and this can be daunting, so you might find it helpful to speak to a friend, colleague or family member first. However, it’s important to speak to a doctor if you’re struggling to cope with stress or things you’re trying aren’t working.
2. Make plans for days when you know you know you may be more stressed
Knowing the cause of your stress at this point will allow you to put an appropriate plan into action, like making sure your to-do list is in place, using breathing exercises, setting aside time for a walk etc. One thing I find helpful is taking regular breaks in-between virtual meetings so I don’t become overloaded with information and have time to process what I’ve heard.
3. Take time for yourself and do things that you enjoy
This could be everything from doing a hobby and going for a walk to watching a film and using social media.
4. Focus on the positives and achievements
Try not to dwell on things you can’t change or things that haven’t worked out as expected (I know this is easier said than done!). Remember, take small steps and don’t try to do everything at once.
5. Speak to your manager if work is increasing your stress levels
Before your conversation, try writing a list of things that are causing you to be stressed and what you would find helpful to reduce the impact of these.
Try your best
Take each day as it comes and don’t compare yourself to others – we’re all different and the ways we manage stress will vary between each of us.
If you want to find out more information about stress, check out Mind’s website.