Being a carer is likely to affect your emotional health and feelings of frustration, loneliness or sadness are not uncommon. Tiredness and stress are very common problems too, particularly if you are still working, have financial worries, have children at home, or a lack of me time.
Many feel their role leaves them physically, mentally and emotionally drained, and at risk of being too exhausted to be an effective carer. Prolonged stress and tiredness can affect your ability to be a carer so it is vital that you are proactive in managing your stress levels.
It is not unnatural to feel stressed and down from time to time, but if feelings of sadness or lack of interest in life become more prolonged, you may be depressed. This can be caused by stress overload or by a feeling of isolation and a sense of powerlessness over your situation. Often someone else notices something is wrong first.
Many of the symptoms of depression are similar to those of stress and it is important to recognise symptoms and talk to your doctor to find ways of reducing stress and avoiding depression. Warning signs that you may be suffering from stress and/or depression include:
- chronic tiredness and a feeling of being run down
- negativity and irritability, often at the simplest things that would not usually bother you
- frequent headaches or stomach trouble
- loss of appetite or serious fluctuations in weight, up or down
- difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- signs of depression, such as apathy, sadness, lethargy, being on edge, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- a sense of being overwhelmed or helpless, often leading to tearfulness
- anger directed at those making demands on you when you would normally remain calm or in control
- lack of energy and/or shortness of breath
- consuming more alcohol than usual to help you relax.
Try to work out the causes and identify if there are any specific factors relating to stress or depression that you can adjust or eliminate. For example, it might help to have a short rest after lunch, take up offers of help from friends or family, or use a separate bed if your sleep is disrupted. Taking time out to prioritise daily tasks often puts things into perspective too.
Discussing worries and pressures with family and friends and/or your healthcare team can also help. Other carers and support groups may be able to offer useful tips. Seeking help is not a sign of failure: it is a positive step in helping you cope and maintain emotional wellbeing so that you can do the best for the person you care for.