The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you’re in over your head or have little control over the situation. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind—eventually leading to burnout.
When you’re burned out, it’s tough to do anything, let alone look after someone else. That’s why taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. There are plenty of things you can do to rein in the stress of caregiving and regain a sense of balance, joy, and hope in your life.
Why is caregiving so stressful?
Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves many stressors. And since caregiving is often a long-term challenge, the stress it generates can be particularly damaging. You may face years or even decades of caregiving responsibilities. It can be particularly disheartening when there’s no hope that your family member will get better or if, despite your best efforts, their condition is gradually deteriorating.
If you don’t get the physical and emotional support your need, the stress of caregiving can leave you vulnerable to a wide range of problems, including depression, anxiety, and burnout. And when you get to that point, both you and the person you’re caring for suffer. That’s why managing the stress levels in your life is just as important as making sure your family member gets to their doctor’s appointment or takes their medication on time. No matter how stressful your caregiving responsibilities or how bleak your situation seems, there are plenty of things you can do to ease your stress levels, regain your balance, and start to feel positive and hopeful again.
Signs and symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout
By learning to recognize the signs of caregiver stress, you can take steps to deal with the problem and prevent burnout. Or if you recognize that you’ve already hit breaking point, you can take action right away. Once you burn out, caregiving is no longer a healthy option for either you or the person you’re caring for, so it’s important to watch for the warning signs.
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Feeling tired and run down
- Difficulty sleeping
- Overreacting to minor nuisances
- New or worsening health problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling increasingly resentful
- Drinking, smoking, or eating more
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Cutting back on leisure activities
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout
- You have much less energy than you once had
- It seems like you catch every cold or flu that’s going around
- You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break
- You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore
- Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
- You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available
- You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for
- You feel helpless and hopeless