Burning the candle at both ends: 6 tips to reduce caregiver stress

For many, November marks the beginning of the season of giving. For those caring for family and loved ones, however, that season can last all year long.

As our nation’s population ages, the need for compassionate and affordable caregiving increases. Many times, that role is unpaid and falls to a family member. According to recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22.3% of adults in the United States report providing care to a family member or loved one in the past 30 days.*

Caregiving is one of the most important and rewarding things you can do for a loved one. It is also one of the more challenging because it places additional emotional and physical strain on the caregiver.

Caregiver stress is real and can take many forms including feelings of exhaustion, loneliness, and resentment – all of which often lead to feelings of guilt. Caregiver stress may also appear as headaches, body pain, or other physical illness. This makes it more difficult to properly provide care for your loved one and almost impossible to care for yourself.

It is important to recognize the signs of caregiver stress. Here are some helpful tips to mitigate both frustration and burnout while caregiving:

Take your feelings seriously and listen to what your body is telling you. Caregiver stress can lead to serious health problems and mental health challenges. Talk to your doctor or therapist about what you’re experiencing. Consider virtual telehealth appointments if appropriate for your concerns.

Worrying or feeling helpless can exacerbate stress and its effects on the body. Creating a plan to reduce stress can feel empowering and reduce those harmful effects. Your plan might include built-in time for socializing with friends or spending a quiet evening at home, for example.

Create a support system and ask for help – this includes financial help. Be specific about what you need and don’t be afraid to ask family members to contribute. Create a list of ways others can help and consider joining a support group. Then give yourself permission to accept help.

Say "no" to requests that may be draining. Let someone else host the holiday meal, for example.

Consider respite care or look for community resources that can help your loved one on a short-term basis while you take time for yourself.

Recognize that the perfect caregiver does not exist. Feelings of guilt only make caregiver stress more difficult to handle. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.

If you are feeling burned out or experiencing emotional distress, our 24/7 hotline is here for you. Call us anytime at 1-800-580-6934 or contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Caregiving for Family and Friends — A Public Health Issue (accessed November 2022): cdc.gov.