Managing anxiety and stress

Emotional impact of SCI

Managing anxiety and stress

Image from The Big Draw 2009
Image from The Big Draw 2009

People cope with heightened levels of stress and anxiety in different ways. Some people are able to cope for a prolonged period of time, whereas others find that they are not able to manage everything and become increasingly anxious or lose their confidence.


Identifying or working out the source of your stress is the first step in being able to manage your anxiety. Avoiding thinking about the cause of your worries will probably keep the anxiety going. Some of your concerns could be about the future; managing your home; family relationships; finance; schooling or any other issues. It might also be due to exhaustion and having little time and space for your own needs.


Once you have identified some of the causes of your stress or anxiety, you need to find a realistic strategy to help you cope…

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It may be useful to break your concerns down into more manageable portions; perhaps write a list and prioritise what is most important or write your thoughts in a diary. Try not to allow yourself to go to sleep thinking about a problem, but find a useful distraction to help you relax. Allow yourself a break from the hospital routine, make time for yourself by going for a walk, meet up with friends, listen to music or take some exercise that you find enjoyable. This will help to clear your mind from stressful thoughts.


Another source of help may be to ask your family to take on different tasks at home. They may be glad to be of some use. Your close friends might also want to offer some form of practical help. Don’t blame yourself when you can’t fulfil everything. Give yourself permission to slow down a little.

Sometimes talking to a professional member of the hospital staff, a counsellor, or even a close friend whom you trust, will help you to find ways of dealing with a specific problem.

You might find it difficult to recognise the signs of stress (in yourself or another member of the family) if you are normally someone who doesn’t become anxious.


Signs of stress might include any number of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling anxious 
  • Mind racing 
  • Chest Palpitations 
  • Problems concentrating 
  • Easily irritated 
  • Avoiding people 
  • Negative thoughts 
  • Anger 
  • Headaches 
  • Digestive Problems 
  • Muscle tension and pain 
  • Sleep issues 
  • Fatigue 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Weight loss or gain 
  • Skin problems 
  • Hair loss 
  • Decreased sex drive 
  • Nervous behaviour such as nail biting or teeth grinding 
  • Crying