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How to manage your stress following a loved one’s acquired brain injury

It’s no secret that life can be challenging. Your job, family demands and finances can all contribute to more stress in your life. So it’s understandable if your stress levels go up after a loved one acquires a brain injury but there are ways for you to manage it.

The demands made on our time and energy, as well as expectations we have of ourselves are key factors that contribute to stress.

Not all stress is negative though; stress can alert you to potential dangers or can spur you on to achieve a goal or complete a task.

Like everything, it’s all about having a good balance. Caring for a loved one with a brain injury can put even more pressure on your life and upset that balance, so here’s how you can keep stress as low as possible.

Recognising the symptoms of stress

The effects of stress can have 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, chest pains, dizziness, restlessness, nervous twitches and breathlessness.
  • You may experience feelings of loss of control over the direction of your life.
  • You may become more and more exhausted, tense and irritable, putting a strain on relationships

Where you can find support

  • 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.
  • Your local carers’ group or local council may also be able to help you get a break from caring so you can allow yourself some breathing space. Even if just for a couple of hours each week to treat yourself to something you enjoy.
  • If you are not the sort of person who wants to join a group why not try talking online on a carers forum where you can meet other carers anonymously, share experiences and find support.

Helping yourself keep stress down

There are a number of steps you can take to help bring down your stress levels. These include:

  • Relax your muscles. Tense muscles are a physical sign that you are stressed. Training on relaxation techniques is often available locally. Your local healthy living centre or local library may have information about this as well as books or tapes about relaxation.
  • If you can try to avoid alcohol and cigarettes; they 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.
  • If you feel yourself getting more and more stressed at a particular situation, find a quiet place – outside if you can – for five minutes. Control your breathing and take deep breaths until you feel more relaxed.
  • 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, some of the time at least.

Finding more treatment

Talk to your GP who will be able to help with stress related problems and will recommend different treatments depending on what you need.

Counselling, or another talking treatment, may help you to find ways of dealing with your stress. There may also be medicines your GP could prescribe to relieve some of the symptoms of stress.

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