Stress is a normal part of life and affects people of all abilities, including the strongest of caregivers. Stress can occur when you worry about things such as your job, money, or relationships, as well as a friend or family member who is facing trials. In response to the stress, your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to you muscles. While this response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation, it causes you to constantly react to stressful situations without making adjustments to counter the effects. Therefore, you feel stress, which is a direct threat to your overall well-being. Studies indicate that nearly 70 percent of Americans experience physical and mental symptoms of stress; however, only 37 percent think they are doing very well at managing stress.
Signs of Stress
Focusing negative attention on worries and fears can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. Those who are not effectively coping with their stress are more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. Stress can result in lack of sleep or physical activity as well as poor eating choices — which increase the risk of medical problems, including heart disease and diabetes. Signs of stress include:
- An overwhelming feeling of constant worry
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Too much or too little sleep
- Weight loss or gain
- Increased irritability
- Feeling sad
- Frequent headaches, pain or other physical problems
- Alcohol or drug abuse, including prescription medications
Coping with Stress
It is imperative to take advantage any available resources or tools to help in your community. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else. In order to manage your stress it is important to:
- Identify the source of stress. Some sources of stress are easy to identify, like major life changes including new job, new house or a new family member. However, some other sources may be more difficult to see. To identify the true source of your stress, carefully examine your habits, attitude and excuses.
- Accept help. Prepare a list of ways that others can help, and let the friends and family choose what he or she would like to do. For example, one person might be willing to offer assistance with cooking or cleaning while another may be willing to offer financial assistance.
- Get more active. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Any form of physical activity can help relieve stress and burn away anger, tension, and frustration because exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good. Physical activity can also serve as a distraction to your daily worries.
- Take it outside. Mother Nature may be the quintessential stress reliever. Exposure to natural light is known to increase levels of the mood-lifting chemical serotonin. Take your exercise routine or lunch outside and absorb the extra space, breathe the fresh air and revel in the charismatic colors that surround you in your back yard or in the deep woods.
- Take a break. A brief get-away can sufficiently recharge your batteries. Experts examined how vacation length affects stress levels and discovered that taking several short breaks can be more beneficial than taking one long one. To get the most out of an extended weekend, seek out a change of scenery in order to mentally separate from your stresses.
- Rest your mind. Stress can put your brain on overload. Take time and allow your brain to escape from worry for a brief time, allowing you to properly process your surroundings. Experts recommend experiencing something that transports the mind, like a movies, concert, art exhibition, comedy show, or sporting event.
Stress can impact your relationships and ability to care for loved ones. For more tips on how to reduce and cope with stress read, Overcoming Stress: What a Caregiver Should Know, on our website.