9.1 Identify common signs and indicators of stress in self and others

9.1 Identify common signs and indicators of stress in self and others

Health, Safety and Well-Being in Care Settings

Care Learning

4 mins READ

This guide will help you answer The RQF Level 2 Diploma in Care Unit 9.1 Identify common signs and indicators of stress in self and others.

Identifying common signs and indicators of stress in oneself and others is an essential skill for anyone working in health and social care, as unmanaged stress can significantly affect well-being and the quality of care provided.

What are the signs of stress?

Physiological Signs:

  1. Increased Heart Rate: A noticeable increase in heart rate, even when not engaging in physical activity, can be a sign of stress.
  2. Muscle Tension: Unexplained muscle tension, especially in the neck, shoulders, and back.
  3. Headaches: Frequent headaches or migraines that have no other apparent medical cause.
  4. Gastrointestinal Issues: Symptoms such as stomach aches, constipation, or diarrhoea.
  5. Fatigue: Persistent tiredness and exhaustion that doesn’t improve with rest.
  6. Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restless sleep.

Emotional Signs:

  1. Anxiety: Feeling consistently anxious, nervous, or on edge.
  2. Irritability: Increased irritability, frustration, or short temper.
  3. Mood Swings: Sudden and extreme changes in mood.
  4. Depression: Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or apathy.
  5. Overwhelm: Feeling overwhelmed by everyday tasks and responsibilities.

Cognitive Signs:

  1. Impaired Concentration: Difficulty focusing or maintaining attention on tasks.
  2. Memory Issues: Problems with short-term memory or forgetting important information.
  3. Negative Thinking: Persistent negative thoughts or a pessimistic outlook.
  4. Decision-Making Problems: Indecisiveness or trouble making even simple decisions.

Behavioural Signs:

  1. Reduced Performance: A noticeable decline in work performance or productivity.
  2. Withdrawal: Avoidance of social interaction, becoming reclusive or isolated.
  3. Changes in Appetite: Eating significantly more or less than usual.
  4. Substance Use: Increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or other substances as a coping mechanism.
  5. Procrastination: Putting off tasks or finding it difficult to start new projects.
  6. Restlessness: Inability to sit still or constant pacing.

Social Signs:

  1. Relationship Strain: Increased conflict in personal or professional relationships.
  2. Lack of Communication: Reduced communication or difficulty expressing oneself.
  3. Withdrawal: Reduced participation in social activities or engagements.

Identifying Stress in Others

When observing others, it’s important to notice any notable changes in their usual behaviour, appearance, or performance. For example:

  • Changes in Physical Appearance: Looking unusually tired, dishevelled, or showing signs of poor personal care.
  • Behavioural Changes: Becoming more withdrawn or exhibiting uncharacteristic irritability or anger.
  • Performance Fluctuations: A noticeable drop in professional work standards or missing deadlines.
  • Social Withdrawal: Avoiding team activities, meetings, or social interactions they previously enjoyed.

Monitoring Yourself

Self-awareness is key in managing your own stress:

  • Journaling: Keep a journal of your feelings and symptoms to identify patterns and triggers.
  • Regular Reflections: Spend time reflecting on your mood, energy levels, and overall well-being.
  • Feedback: Seek feedback from colleagues or trusted friends about any changes they notice in you.

Example answers for Unit 9.1 Identify common signs and indicators of stress in self and others

Here are some example answers from the perspective of a care worker addressing the question “Identify common signs and indicators of stress in self and others.”

Example 1 – Identifying Stress in Myself

Physiological Signs:
“I’ve noticed that when I am stressed, I often experience headaches and muscle tension, particularly in my shoulders and neck. Additionally, my sleep is affected; I either find it hard to fall asleep, or I wake up frequently during the night.”

Emotional Signs:
“When I’m under stress, I feel more irritable and anxious. I notice that I am more easily frustrated by things that wouldn’t normally bother me.”

Cognitive Signs:
“Stress impacts my ability to concentrate. For instance, while completing care plans, I find it difficult to stay focused, and I often have to reread information several times.”

Behavioural Signs:
“I tend to procrastinate more and avoid tasks that seem overwhelming. I also notice changes in my eating habits; sometimes I skip meals, or other times I tend to overeat.”

Social Signs:
“I withdraw from social interactions. For example, I might skip team meetings or avoid lunchtime conversations with colleagues, preferring to be alone.”

Example 2 – Identifying Stress in a Colleague

Physiological Signs:
“I’ve observed that my colleague, Jane, frequently complains about stomach issues and often looks fatigued, even after breaks or weekends off.”

Emotional Signs:
“Jane has become noticeably more irritable. She seems to get upset about small issues that she used to handle calmly.”

Cognitive Signs:
“Jane has been having trouble remembering the details of her tasks. For instance, she has forgotten to document certain aspects of patient care that she was usually very diligent about.”

Behavioural Signs:
“Lately, Jane has been arriving late to work more often and has missed a couple of deadlines for completing paperwork. She also seems to be taking more breaks than usual.”

Social Signs:
“Jane has started to skip our regular team lunches and has become less engaged in group discussions. She appears to prefer working alone, which is quite unlike her regular behaviour.”

Example 3 – Identifying Stress in a Service User

Physiological Signs:
“A service user, Mr Smith, has been experiencing an increased heart rate and has reported frequent headaches. He doesn’t have a history of these symptoms.”

Emotional Signs:
“Mr Smith has been more anxious and nervous recently. He often expresses worries about minor issues that didn’t bother him before.”

Cognitive Signs:
“Mr Smith has been forgetting the names of care workers and has had trouble keeping track of his daily routines, which he used to manage independently.”

Behavioural Signs:
“I noticed that Mr Smith has been pacing around his room more frequently and has become more restless. He also seems less interested in participating in activities he used to enjoy.”

Social Signs:
“Mr Smith has withdrawn from group activities and prefers to stay in his room, reducing his interactions with other residents and staff.”

Example 4 – Identifying Stress in Myself

Physiological Signs:
“I’ve noticed that I get stomach aches more frequently when I’m stressed out. I also tend to feel constantly tired, even after a full night’s rest.”

Emotional Signs:
“I become more emotional and find myself getting teary or frustrated over things that wouldn’t ordinarily affect me.”

Cognitive Signs:
“My thoughts seem scattered, and I find it difficult to make decisions. Even minor choices, like what to have for lunch, become challenging.”

Behavioural Signs:
“When I’m stressed, I tend to avoid difficult tasks and put them off until the last minute. I also find myself reaching for unhealthy snacks more often.”

Social Signs:
“I find it harder to engage in conversations with my colleagues and often isolate myself during breaks.”


Understanding and recognising these signs and indicators of stress can enable you to intervene early, seek support, and employ effective coping strategies to maintain your well-being and continue providing high-quality care in your professional role.

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