Older man sitting on a yoga mat

For many, stress may be a familiar feeling. Stress is sometimes inevitable, but it’s often our body’s reaction when we feel under pressure or unable to cope with a given situation. There are situations, where in short bursts, stress can be positive, such as avoiding danger or meeting a deadline. However, the long-term effects of stress can do more harm than good.

Long-term exposure to stress can have a snowball effect. A snowball gets bigger, faster and harder to stop if we don’t interrupt it. The same can happen to our mental and physical health if we don’t take the time or adopt techniques to reduce stress. Just like a rolling snowball, if you don’t take control of stress, it will only get worse. Too much stress in your daily life can cause loss of focus, increased tiredness, headaches, sleep issues (sleeping too much or not enough), weight gain or loss, irritability and even an increased dependence on alcohol or other drugs. Does any of this sound familiar?

While it would be impossible to completely eliminate stress, there are methods you might like to try to help with reducing stress.

Here are five ways that might work for you –

1. Connect with others – Good relationships and connections are essential for wellbeing. Connection with others can help you build a sense of belonging, find emotional support, an opportunity to share your experiences or fulfilment in supporting others. You might be thinking ‘I have no connections or “I don’t have time to meet people’. There are many ways of connecting with others, here are some –

  • You could explore connecting with family or friends via online platforms.
  • Volunteering or finding a common circle in your area are other ways to meet new people.
  • As carers, you can find connections with others through Carer Gateway/Care2Serve carer connection groups, workshops, and retreats. Connecting with others who also wear a carer’s hat can help find common ground.

2. Be active – Well, this might be easier said than done for many but even just taking a couple of minutes daily to engage in physical activity can do wonders for your body and mind. Taking time to be active can help you set goals and achieve them too. Besides improving self-esteem, being active also helps your body release chemicals called endorphins. These chemical changes are said to change your mood positively.

3. Learn new skillsResearch has shown that learning a new skill can help raise self-confidence and self-esteem. It can help you feel a sense of purpose and involve connecting with others. While it is not always easy to make time for learning new skills, it can be made possible if you keep it simple. Have you thought about –

  • Cooking a new recipe
  • Learning a new language. There are free apps available like Duolingo, which lets you set the pace.
  • Writing a blog or
  • Finding a skill that you may enjoy on a website like Yousician (for music), Coursera or Skillshare or Calm and Headspace (for mindfulness).

4. Being present – Paying attention to the present moment has been found to improve wellbeing and positively impact how you feel about yourself and your circumstances. Many of us operate on autopilot throughout the day. We wake up, go to work, or look after someone, and sometimes if these tasks are repetitive, we can lose focus on what is actually happening around us. By adopting ways to shift your attention to what is happening around you – sight, sound, and sensations, you can stop your mind from wandering. Being present or mindful can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves and others better. When was the last time you went outside and felt the ground beneath your feet? Give it a try and think about if the ground is cold. Is it grass, dirt or pavers? Is it soft or rocky?

5. Sleep – Lack of sleep is said to cause a number of mental health conditions including, brain fog, mood and behaviour changes and other issues such as anxiety and depression. Sleep helps us to recover and get some downtime from all the information we process throughout the day. For carers, a night of good sleep is not easy to come by. However, you can change your sleeping environment by making decluttering your room which encourages better quality sleep and limiting noise and electronics before bed. Preparing for the next day can also help you avoid late night anxiety. Other tips to improve sleep can include drinking a relaxing tea before bed or exercising when you have time to tire down your body.

These are just a few tips that may improve mental wellbeing, but there are many other options out there that may help improve and maintain your mental resilience and wellbeing. While stress cannot be avoided completely, there are ways to help reduce it. Talking to a counsellor or coach at Carer Gateway can help you identify ways that you can maintain your wellbeing, manage stress, and achieve your goals.

 You are not alone in your caring role. Help is available at Carer Gateway, call us on 1800 422 737 (press 1 at the menu) or visit carergateway.gov.au.

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