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The importance of stress management

Having constant high levels of stress can endanger not only your mental health but also your physical health, making you more susceptible to illness and leaving you battling to think clearly and function effectively.

Effective stress management helps to break the vicious circle of stress and allows you to be more productive and, in the long run, a happier person.

Knowing how to handle constant stress will afford you a balanced life, with the ability to hold up under pressure and face challenges you normally would have issues with.

There are some things we can all do to help us understand stress management:

1. Identify the cause of your stress

There are many things that can trigger stress and when you find out which one is triggering your stress then you will be able to remove or control it.

For live-in carers these triggers include:

  • Changing clients 
  • Going through a divorce or death 
  • Travel to unfamiliar areas
  • Dealing with unpleasant family and friends
  • An unacceptable workload
  • Excessive night calls and demands

What to do

Starting a stress journal may help you. Keep a daily log and you will see a pattern emerging about what and when you triggers take place.

Make a note of:

  • What caused your stress
  • Your feelings, both emotionally and physically
  • What your reaction was
  • How you made yourself feel better 

2. Practice the four ‘A’s

Avoid

Learn how to say no if you need to. If you are being taken advantage of you need to be able to decline to do something which perhaps my not be in your job description. Families are notorious for saying things like ‘when you are out on your break, could you please…’ They are also very good at implying that because you are with your client every day, you will have loads of free time to give the car a wash or pull up a few weeds in the garden. ‘How about washing the windows in your spare time?’ Learn to say no – politely.

Alter the situation

Perhaps rather than say an outright no, you can offer an alternative. ‘Every thought of hiring a gardener/window washer/kid from over the road to wash the car?’ 

If you give a reason and an alternative you may find that you are less stressful waiting for that request which you do not think you should be doing.

Adapt

If you simply cannot change the issue, then you may be able to adapt it to suit you a little better. Rather than becoming angry at being asked to wash the car, you could suggest that you would do it for a fee. 

If it was taken to a car wash, you would be expected to pay, so add an amount to your invoice at the end of the week. Remember that you are a carer not a window cleaner/car washer/gardener.

Accept what you can’t change

Some sources of stress just cannot be helped. There will be things that happen with your client that rile you and make you stressed out but may not be changed. 

If, for example you are paid a food allowance and you know full well that it is far too little, you may find it easier to cope with feeling stressed by adding another tenner to your allowance rather than continually complaining about it. Family may simply turn a deaf ear because ‘all the other carers found it enough.’

3. Move around

The last thing you may want is exercise when you are stressed but in fact it is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Even a small amount will help you.

  • Put on your fave music and dance to it
  • Walk to the shops
  • Park as far from the store as you can and walk there and back
  • Use stairs whenever you can
  • Take the neighbor’s dog for a walk if they can’t do it anymore
  • Join a local gym if possible

4. Keep up your connections

Going out for coffee with another carer will give you a chance to hear someone else’s viewpoint. You will find someone who understands what you are going through and misses their family just as much as you do.

What to do

  • Ask another carer to join you for coffee
  • Call your loved ones
  • Email that old friend – you know, the one that you keep meaning to email
  • If you are lucky to have a full day off, join a class or volunteer for something
  • Confide in someone. This may be a local minister or even a sports coach at the gym

5. Manage your time more efficiently

Sometimes it is hard to stay focused when you feel under stress all the time.

What to do

  • Never over commit yourself. If the family of ten all decide to visit on Saturday and ask you to cater – decline politely.
  • Prioritize things. Make a daily list of what you have to do and then do them in order of importance. The ironing can wait another day if you have to collect your client’s medication from the chemist before it closes. Have a tin of soup for lunch instead of feeling you have to make one if it means you have that extra hour free.
  • Delegate. If you have too much to do, then ask someone to help you. Maybe a neighbor can visit your client while you catch up on other things – or even have ten minutes to yourself.

6. Stay healthy yourself

Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves because we are so busy keeping our clients well that our own health suffers.

  • Eat healthy. Be mindful of what you eat. Have that breakfast instead of just a cup of tea. Balanced, nutritious meals will go a long way to help you.
  • Reduce caffeine. Caffeine and sugar give you temporary highs which will soon crash and may leave you feeling worse than before. Additionally, less of these things will mean better sleep.

Final thoughts

One of the fastest ways to relieve stress in the moment is to take a deep breath and engage all your senses.

  • Smell something nice
  • View a favorite picture
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Feel your favorite wooly jumper or scarf
  • Taste a piece of gum – yes, this will work. Pick your favorite flavor and chew for a few minutes

Now, while these things may work for many people, there are some people who will not respond to sensory experiences. Some things work better for one person than another.

What is important is that you recognize when you are continually stressed out and that you do something about it.

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