The first step in dealing with stress and depression is to recognise that it is happening. You may have so little time to yourself that you don’t realise at first. When you do start noticing symptoms, do not struggle on, hoping it will go away. The sooner you deal with the problem, the better, and just talking about how you feel can help you find a way to deal with it.
Stress is caused by the many demands made on our time and energy and the expectations we have of ourselves. Not all stress is bad – stress can alert you to potential dangers and can spur you on to achieve a goal or complete a task. Sometimes though the pressure becomes so intense or persistent that you may feel unable to cope.
You can become more and more exhausted, tense and irritable. This can make you feel you are losing control over your life and that there is no way of regaining this control.
Symptoms of stress
The symptoms of stress can be both mental and physical, and can vary from person to person:
- Mental symptoms can include anxiety, anger, depression, lack of appetite, sleeplessness, crying often, tiredness and difficulty concentrating.
- Physical symptoms can include chest pains, cramps, muscle spasms, dizziness, restlessness, nervous twitches and breathlessness.
In the long-term some of these stress symptoms can affect your physical health.
Depression is an illness, just as flu and chickenpox are. Depression is one of the most common medical conditions in Britain today. Depression is when we feel low or sad and can’t find any pleasure in life. All of us feel like this from time to time, but depression is when these feelings last longer and are more extreme.
Symptoms of depression
Symptoms of depression could include:
- Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, worried or tearful;
- Feeling unable to cope with everyday things that you would not have thought twice about in the past;
- Losing your appetite, losing weight or having trouble sleeping;
- In extreme cases you might even think about harming yourself or other people;
Depression can build up slowly, so you may not realise it is affecting you. Due to the stressful nature of their lives, carers can be more prone to depression.
Talking to other people who are in a similar situation can be a great help when you are feeling stressed. Not everyone finds this easy but it may be a surprise to find that others feel the same way as you. You could join a local carers’ group to share your experiences.
If you’re able, talk to family and friends. Just talking about how you feel can make you feel better. Your friends and family may not realise things are becoming overwhelming and when you share your feelings and problems, they may realise you need more help from them.
Take a Break
Talk to family and friends to see if they can take over caring for at least a couple of hours every week. Just having that break from caring will allow you some breathing space and hopefully time to treat yourself to something you enjoy.
If you are feeling tearful, angry or have other symptoms of stress, there are a number of steps you can take to help bring down your stress levels. These include:
- Go out of the room for at least five minutes. Take a deep breath and hold it for a count of three, then breathe out. Repeat again, until you feel more relaxed, but not so often that you feel dizzy.
- Relax your muscles. Tense muscles are a physical sign that you are stressed.
- Don’t drink or smoke too much. Alcohol and cigarettes have harmful effects on your body, and make you more at risk of the physical effects of stress.
- Caffeine can have similar effects on your body as stress, so watch your coffee intake.
- Get active. Physical exercise is a simple way to relieve tension. Even a walk to the shops can help reduce your stress levels.
- Try to pace yourself and tackle one thing at a time. Be realistic about what you expect of yourself. Learn to say “no” to other people on occasion.
Talk to your GP, who will have seen a lot of patients with depression and stress-related problems. Your GP may recommend counselling or another talking treatment. A counsellor will listen to you, and help you to find ways of dealing with your stress.
There are also medicines you might be able to take to relieve some of the symptoms of stress. If stress is making you feel depressed, your GP may prescribe antidepressants to help make life feel better. Different antidepressants suit different people, so if you aren’t happy with the one you are prescribed, go back to your doctor.