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As a carer you may suffer from stress, but there are many ways to limit and cope with it.

What is stress? 

It is important that you recognise the signs and symptoms of stress.

Stress is basically your body’s way of dealing with a perceived threat to survival – this often called 'fight or flight'. These days you would not normally be dealing with an imminent threat to your life, but your brain has been programmed to deal with all stress in the same way. 

Most stress happens when the demands on you exceed what you can cope with. You may feel overwhelmed and out of control. 

What are the effects of stress? 

Stress will affect you physically.  It makes your heart rate increase and you may sweat more. Some people feel sick and panicky.

Stress can also affect you emotionally and mentally.  You may feel detached from day to day life. Or you may feel like breaking down.

Find out more about the effects of stress on the body on the Healthline website.

Causes of stress  

The cause of your stress may be something that you can change. However this may be difficult if the cause of your stress is part of you caring role.

Can you stand back from the situation, can you look at it in a different way? 

You should also find out about getting a break and respite. Talk to friends and family as they may be able to offer you more support – they may not realise how much caring you do and how this makes you feel.

Find out more about Struggling with stress? on NHS Choices.

Talk to your GP

If you are worried about stress or it is affecting your health go and talk to your GP.  Make sure they know you are a carer.

Your GP surgery may run sessions to help you cope with stress or they may be able to recommend local support groups.  They may also talk to you about counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy. 

Get more help if you need it

Mind has a lot of information about how to manage stress. This includes dealing with pressure, developing resilience, and getting treatment for stress.

You should also get in touch with your local carer service to see if they can offer you any help coping with stress. 

Ways to reduce stress 

Deep breathing 

Try breathing in for 8 seconds, holding it for 2 seconds, and then slowly breathing out for 12 seconds.  Do this 3 times.  

Mindfulness, meditation and music

Mindfulness sounds very grand but is all about being in the moment and not thinking about anything else but what you are doing at that time.  You could be having a cup of tea, walking in the sun or filling in your colouring book (the best ones are for adults and you can even download them from free online). See mindfulness on NHS Choices.

You may also find meditation helpful. You could use an app on your mobile phone to help you with this. The Headspace app is a good starting point and you can try it for free. 

Listening to music can also be very relaxing. Try putting your favourite music on your mobile phone and having a quiet sit (or a dance round the kitchen). 

Exercise, eat well and sleep more

You don’t need to join a gym just take 15 minutes a day to exercise.

Make sure you eat well.  See healthy eating.

Most people need 8 sleep hours a night but this can be difficult if you are caring for someone who gets up at night. Find out about getting more sleep.

Prioritise what you need to do and manage your time

You won’t be able to do everything. It is ok to say no sometimes. Think about the big things you have to do and start with them.   

Manage your time so that one thing doesn’t end up taking all day. Set yourself a maximum time you are going to spend on something and try to stick to it.

When everything seems out of control, take control of just one thing. This could be anything from cleaning the kitchen to making the phone call to your local carer service.

Be kind to yourself 

When was the last time you had a really good laugh?  Talk to your friends and make sure you are not isolated.  If you find it hard to get out ask people over to your house.  A cup of tea with a friend can really help. 

Thanks to Sue Judge (Nutritional Therapist Dip CNM BANT, www.suejudge.co.uk) from Bath and North East Somerset Carer’s Centre for helping us write this page.