While being a carer can be rewarding it can also be stressful. Balancing your caring role with caring for yourself and the other responsibilities in your life can be challenging.
Some stress is good for you. It can help motivate you; help you achieve your goals; or help you overcome an obstacle. Too much stress is not good. Stress is a normal part of caring for someone. Some of the things that cause stress for carers include:
lack of time to do the things you want or need to do
feeling lonely and isolated
managing relationships around the person you care for
getting supports and services
work, education or study concerns
feeling threatened or at risk, physically, mentally or financially
Symptoms of stress
Prolonged or frequent stress may be harmful to your health and well-being, and may affect your ability to provide care. Stress may result in physical, emotional or behavioural changes. Everyone reacts differently in stressful situations and have different coping skills. Personal experience, life skills and how much support you have around you will make a difference to how you deal with stress and stressful situations. The first step is to learn how to recognise stress in yourself and how you react to it. Think about the symptoms in the table below and identify any symptoms you are experiencing.
Now you know how you react to stress, you can monitor your symptoms so you can deal with stress before it starts to affect your health and well-being.
Strengths are the things we are good at – they include characteristics of our personality, our skills, our talents and our knowledge. Research shows that knowing and drawing on your personal strengths can help you manage stress. Use the checklist below to identify 10 of your top strengths which you can use to help manage your stress.
Helpful thinking can help you deal with stressful situations that you can’t change, solve or ignore. It can change your focus from how the situation ‘should be’ to accepting the situation ‘as it is’. Helpful thinking can help you stop fighting against the situation and focus on what’s possible. When doing this exercise remind yourself of the strengths you identified earlier.
Keep things in perspective. Think about:
What you and the person that you care for have achieved together.
What is possible today.
How you can break down a big problem into smaller steps to make it more manageable.
Take a step back and ask yourself:
What does the person I care for need today?
What do I need today?
What can I realistically do?
What would I tell another carer in this situation?
Can someone else help share the load?
Use helpful self-talk:
I did the best I could at the time.
I am learning important life skills.
Focus on what I can do.
Keep a positive attitude:
I can manage this.
I will get through this.
Life is better when I have a positive attitude.
I can do this.
Caring for yourself is an important daily activity:
Set realistic goals and expectations.
Maintain a healthy diet, exercise daily and get enough sleep.
Keep up social activities.
Build a strong support network which includes family, friends and support services.
Take regular time for yourself to do things you enjoy.
Look for opportunities to be creative.
Talk to someone you trust – there is no shame in asking for help:
Family, friends, a colleague or even a stranger can sometimes lend an ear and make helpful suggestions.
Support groups often have a helpline or online support.
Professional counselling may help if you are feeling alone, overwhelmed or hopeless.
Coping skills are what a person uses to help them deal with stressful situations. Some ways in which we cope are healthy and build resilience, while others help us avoid the real problems or encourage destructive behaviour.
Here are some coping strategies you can use to manage stress. These activities won’t deal with the trigger, but they will help improve your well-being. Think about who you were before you became a carer and try to reconnect with that person. The purpose of these activities is to recharge yourself. You might want to do some of these activities on your own, with your partner or with family and friends. Research shows that spending time doing activities you enjoy is the single most important thing you can do to maintain your health and well-being.
Exercise – get physically active
Go for a walk or run
Do a workout
Ride a bike
Play a sport
Hobbies – enjoyable activities
Do a crossword or jigsaw puzzle
Do a craft activity such as knitting or woodwork
Play a musical instrument or join a choir
Join a club (book, car, sports etc.)
Draw, paint or colour in
Time out – to spend as you wish
Go for a drive
Watch TV or a movie
Watch some funny animal clips
Call a friend
Write your thoughts in a journal
Spend time with friends and family
Relaxation – relax the mind and body
Meditate or use a relaxation app
Listen to music
Have a rest or nap
Stretching or yoga
Play with a pet
As a carer, you have many things you need to manage every day. You may also be working or studying at the same time as being a carer. The Carer Gateway site provides information and resources to help you in your caring role. Click to explore the Carer Gateway website here.