Whether you’re the one being cared for or it’s your loved ones requiring assistance in managing ill health and daily care, there can often be a lot of associated stress and anxiety.
This is a very common and natural response and one that we often see here at Newcastle and Hunter Community Health (NHCH).
We know that with stress and anxiety comes unwanted side-effects, which is why we believe it’s important to take a moment to break down what stress looks like and help you find ways of coping and managing your stress better.
So, what is stress and who does it affect?
According to Better Health Victoria; “stress is a process, not a diagnosis. We experience stress when there is an imbalance between the demands being made on us and our resources to cope with those demands.”
So, in other words, stress is often a feeling we experience when we are put under pressure to achieve something and believe that we will fail or be unable to meet certain goals, expectations and/or demands.
That being said, stress is not always a bad thing. In fact, stress can be a feeling that allows people to become more motivated and achieve tasks, but if it is poorly managed it can have severe short-term and long-term effects.
There are many factors that contribute to stress, including our environment (work, school, home), lifestyle and emotional/personal problems. A lot of the stress that we typically see at the NHCH is centred around a mixture of these three factors for both the patients receiving care and those who are trying to cope with the illness of a loved one.
What are the signs?
The typical signs of stress that we often notice can be broken down into four categories:
- Changes in your body – you’ll start to feel your heart beating faster, your breathing getting quicker and blood pressure rising. The more stress we feel, the greater the bodily response. This also includes symptoms such as muscle tension, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, headaches and nausea, just to name a few.
- Changes in your feelings – your neurological responses to situations become heightened. Feelings of worry, confusion, anger, helplessness and feeling like you are struggling to cope are typically feelings and symptoms of stress.
- Changes in your behaviours – you’ll notice a shift in mood and behaviour, which can mean you find yourself withdrawing from others, experiencing feelings of restlessness, trying to avoid certain situations and having a greater reliance on drugs/alcohol. This can often be an unpleasant experience for you and also those around you.
- Changes in your thoughts – similar to your feelings, your thought patterns fundamentally change when you are stressed. Your thoughts often become more confused, a lack of self-confidence resides over you and negativity seeps into the way you think about things.
When you start to experience symptoms such as these it is essential you seek help and look at ways to minimise your stress and cope with it.
The ways you can cope with stress
There are many different ways of managing and coping with stress. There is no ‘one fix solution’ when it comes to stress management, but the following information could be helpful in getting you to a place where stress no longer consumes your life or the lives of those you care about.
- Identify what triggers your stress – if you are able to identify the things that make you stressed, you can be better prepared to manage them. When you notice yourself getting stressed make a note of the situation and think of ways you can change/avoid/remove them from your life. We understand that you cannot always avoid stressful situations, which is why we are here to prepare you with techniques to get you through your toughest moments.
- Look out for the warning signs – as discussed earlier, there are many signs to signal you are stressed. Try looking out for those signs. The aim of this step ensures that you don’t spend too long in a state of stress without realising it or doing anything to help reduce it. Stress can be managed, and it starts by identifying when you are feeling stressed.
- Understand what situations you can and can’t control – we cannot always control the situations we find ourselves in. At NHCH, we see this a lot with our patients and their families, and we understand the difficulty of this. It can provide some clarity and reassurance to know that some things are out of our control and that life still goes on.
- Establish a routine that is tailored to your needs – when it comes to taking the time to put yourself first, a lot of us suffer greatly. When it comes to stress, it is fundamental to develop routines that build healthier and happier habits that will ultimately reduce your overall stress and anxiety. This could include making sure you get at least eight hours of sleep each night, taking at least half an hour for yourself to do something you enjoy or finding balance between work and your personal life. Tailor the routine to your needs and try to stick to it.
- Make your health and wellbeing a priority – it comes as no surprise that healthier habits reduce overall stress and get you on track to feeling happier and healthier within yourself. Regular exercise and a balanced diet help to keep hormone levels in check and allow for your body to keep up with the demands of everyday life easier.
- Seek support – this is probably one of the most important aspects of this entire blog. With support, like the services we offer at NHCH, you can talk through your stresses and your concerns and we can work at helping you manage them. We don’t want you to ever feel alone in this, which is why seeking support from your doctor, a psychologist/counsellor, a family member/friend or community mental health service, can be so beneficial.
Ultimately, we are here to help you manage your stress and cope with everyday life as well as the stresses that often come with illness, death and other health support.
If you are struggling to manage your stress or would like to learn more about stress management, please give us a call today on (02) 4920 1637.
Helpful additional resources