Caring through the stress – #NSAD2014

Welcome to another of my blog posts. Did you know that caring for someone can come with some difficulties? There are many difficulties in providing care, but one of those difficulties is stress. Did you also know that the date of this blog post is written on National Stress Awareness day 2014?

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National Stress Awareness day 2014 is promoted by many organisations, but the one that initially pushes the awareness campaign is The International Stress Management Association which is a registered charity dedicated to Promoting Wellbeing and Performance.

Well hopefully you have managed to attend some events about stress awareness or perhaps you have read up on what stress can do to people, especially workers or carers. However what exactly is stress?

Basically our thought processes control our body and this can be done at such speed, that our body quickly reacts to our thoughts. The thing is Stress happens when we feel that we can’t cope with pressure and this pressure comes in many shapes and forms, and triggers physiological responses. What are these things called pressure? How can pressure affect how much stress a person can take?

Pressures come in many form, basically the idea that we should set out to achieve a specific task or number of tasks, but what happens if those tasks become increasingly difficult to do?

Let me go back to the world of carers, many carers find out they have to set themselves a task to provide care with almost next to no support. Of course this is depending on what care is expected from a carer, but unfortunately the tougher the aliment of the caree (person receiving care) then the tougher the caring role.

If the task of caring seems never ending or other tasks get in the way, then the pressure increases, if a specific carer cannot cope with the pressure, then stress increases, if the carer cannot find a way to cope with the stress or no support is available to cope with the stress then the carer can suffer many difficult symptoms.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Stress can affect people differently and this can also boil down to the level of stress. Below is a small list of how stress can affect some people.

Inability to concentrate – If a person worries all the time due to stress, they can find it hard to concentrate.
Seeing only the negative – Stress can cause people to lack confidence, especially if they fail at a task. Many carers often blame themselves when faced with the difficult task of providing care.
Anxious thoughts – One of the most common symptoms of stress, we become so anxious that we cannot decide what task to achieve.
Constant worrying – Some stress can become a roundabout, we want to rid of stress, but worry about stress and eventually it can lead to worrying about worrying about stress.
Moodiness – Some people can become short tempered of moody if feeling stress.
Agitation, inability to relax – Since the body may be in ‘fight or flight’ mode, it can be very difficult to sit still.
Feeling overwhelmed – Another common symptom of stress, especially if a carer is multi-tasking, a carer would feel overwhelmed
Depression or general unhappiness – One of the most common psychological traits that can unhappiness
Aches and pains – constant stress can lead to physical problems
Chest pain, rapid heartbeat – Stress can also affect people physically.
Loss of sex drive – Things that people enjoy can also be affected, too much stress can stop us relaxing or having an interest in many things.
Frequent colds – One of the most common symptoms of stress, which affects workforce heavily, constant stress can affect our immune system, where it becomes harder to fight off infections.
Trouble Sleeping – Stress can keep the body in flight or fight mode that it can be difficult to sleep due to constant worrying.

So can you imagine some of the situations a carer may find themselves in if they take on too much within their role. It might not be so bad for carers coming from larger families, since a another member of the family might take over, but if a carer is on their own then the stress can affect a carer till they feel they can no longer carer any more. Plus coming back to larger families, I have heard some families leave a single member caring for someone because the family refuses to get involved.

Well what can be done about this? What should a carer seek to do?

The first thing would be to understand when stress can become a problem for themselves. Here is a video I have made to explain more about National Stress Awareness day.

Other things a carer can try to get done is get a carers assessment, especially in the UK a carer can get assessed to see if their caring duties are are risk of overwhelming the carer.

The next task is for carers to try get themselves respite or a break away from the stress of caring, usually the assessment can indicate when respites are needed, a break might not solve the problems of caring but it at least it is a start.

The video I listed above can also be an educating factor for carers experiencing stress, there are steps where carers can look out for the signs of stress. The best steps are the following

– Take time out to do the things you enjoy
– Watch carefully for how you breathe, try slow down breathing during stressful situations
– Exercise whenever you can get the time
– Connect with friends, family or even other carers
– Try to stay positive.

Stress is such a huge problem for society, no wonder there are awareness days dedicated to stress problems. Stress also is a major problem for the workplace especially the NHS and organisations need to take notice to protect their staff. Even if the stress awareness opportunity was missed, let it not be a one time event, but a nudge to implement stress awareness into policies and protect staff.

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