Managing stress

The term 'stress management' means identifying what is causing stress in your life, then considering how stress is affecting you and what you can do about it. You can then plan ways to defuse tension or respond more effectively to difficult situations.

Identify situations that stress you

We can’t always put a stop to all of the stresses in our lives, but it’s important to learn to recognise the signs that you are feeling stressed. This way you can identify stresses you can address before it becomes overwhelming.

Read over the list of some of the symptoms of stress below and learn to recognise when you are becoming stressed:

Physical symptoms

  • Having trouble sleeping, tiredness and fatigue
  • Headaches and muscle tension
  • Racing heart or sweating with no obvious cause
  • Overeating or loss of appetite, weight loss or gain

Psychological symptoms

  • Feeling tense, impatient, resentful or irritable
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Forgetfulness and indecision
  • Feeling depressed, helpless, anxious or guilty
  • Feeling negative about things, withdrawing from other people or from activities you normally enjoy
  • Misuse of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or gambling

Ways of dealing with stress

Below are some suggestions for ways of managing stress. Managing your stress calls for work towards change – changing the source of the stress as well as your reaction to it.

Change what you can

You may not be able to significantly change the demands of your caring role, but you can look creatively at small changes which might help. For instance, you could ask friends and family to help out.

Accept what you can’t change

Focus on what you can do to make a difference and identify and accept the things you can’t change. Stress can sometimes be reduced by changing how you react to it.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses

You may be very good at mediating arguments or at switching off worries and thinking about something else. Someone else in your family may be good at finding practical solutions to problems. Build coping strategies around the strengths in your family.

Learn skills to help you manage

Learn as much as you can about the condition of the person you are caring for and about techniques that can help you to manage your caring role better.

Good planning can help you to balance your caring responsibilities better with the rest of your life.

Build resilience

Try to nurture traits that are common in people who respond well to change and adversity:

  • look at the funny side of things
  • build self-esteem and believe in your ability to cope
  • focus on good outcomes and experiences
  • accept unpleasantness, learn from it and move on

Practical strategies for reducing stress

  • Keep healthy. Eat well and exercise regularly
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Don’t drink coffee or tea in the evening and explore ways to wind down before bed. Meditation, listening to music or reading can help if you have difficulty falling asleep.
  • Find out what relaxes you and take regular time out to recharge. Try to do something that you enjoy every day and spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself.
  • Take a stroll when you start to feel stressed – it can help restore your perspective
  • Talk with family and friends about how you feel. Let off steam and encourage them to do the same. It may also help to talk with a professional counsellor
  • Practise relaxation techniques. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat ten times. This is a way of switching off, even if just for a few moments
  • Ask for and accept help!

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Carers NSW acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land, Elders past and present and all Aboriginal people.