Stress Awareness Month April is Stress Awareness Month. Whilst caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, it also involves many stressors. And since caregiving is often a long-term challenge, the emotional impact can snowball over time. Sometimes, carers may be so busy looking after the person they care for that they may not even notice when their own health is suffering. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your health, relationships and state of mind—eventually leading to an emotional and physical exhaustion known as caregiver stress. Common signs of caregiver stress: Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried Feeling tired and run-down Difficulty sleeping Becoming easily irritated or angry New or worsening health problems Feeling sad Drinking, smoking, or eating more Neglecting responsibilities Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy Remember - taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Cultivating your own emotional and physical well-being is just as important as making sure your family member gets to their doctor’s appointment or takes their medication on time. Here are some tips for dealing with caregiver stress: Be honest with family and friends Don’t be afraid to share the load with others. Relatives and close friends often want to help, but don’t know how. A simple phone call, explaining how you feel, might be all it takes to get them onboard and make you feel less alone. Focus on the things you can control It can be easy to get worried and anxious about things that you aren’t in control of. However, time spent on what might happen, or what others are doing or saying will only negatively affect your well-being and make you feel worse and less able to cope. Rather than stressing out over things you can’t control, focus on how you choose to react to problems. Stay organised Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritise, make lists and establish a daily routine. Stay connected Looking after someone can change your relationship with them. Sometimes you may feel close and connected but at other times you may feel angry and irritated. It can help to talk openly and honestly to find way of coping together. Look after your own health and well-being Although you are spending much of your time looking after somebody else’s health, you must not overlook your own. Set goals to establish a good sleep routine, find time to be physically active on most days of the week, eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water. We have created a programme of online webinars to help you consider your own well-being – why not book on to one or two of them to give you some tips and strategies to look after yourself. Celebrate yourself Remind yourself that all your efforts matter. Don’t underestimate the importance of what you are doing to make your loved one feel more safe, comfortable, and loved! Talk to your doctor If you are worried about stress talk to your GP to find out what support is available. It is a good idea to tell them you are a carer. Contact people who understand Remember that we are here for you if you are struggling with your caring role (0300 012 4272). We can also signpost you to other organisations that may be able to offer specific support, depending on your needs.