Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Stress Management Health Center

Font Size

Tips for Coping With Caregiver Stress

Sometimes, the pressure of caring for someone who is elderly or who has a chronic illness can lead to stress and a condition called "caregiver burnout." To prevent this, it's essential to know how to manage your caregiver stress.

What Is Caregiver Stress?

Caregiver stress is a reaction to changes that overwhelm your emotional capacity and requires you to adjust or respond. Our bodies are designed to feel stress and react to it. Not always a bad thing, stress keeps us alert and ready to escape danger.

It's not always possible to avoid change or the situations that can cause stress; as a result, you can begin to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. When it persists, stress can affect the body's immune system, leading to illness. The key to coping with stress is to identify the causes of stress in your life, then learn healthy ways to deal with them. It's important to remember that stress comes from how you respond to stressful events. Therefore, you have some control over stress and how it affects you.

What Causes Caregiver Stress?

Caregiver stress can be caused by anything that requires you to adjust to a change in your environment. Your body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. We all have our own ways of coping with change, so the causes of stress can be different for each person. Becoming a caregiver is a common source of stress for many people.

When you are not sure of the exact cause of your stress, it may be helpful to know the warning signs. Once you can identify these signs, you can learn how your body responds. Then you can take appropriate steps to reduce the stress.

What Are the Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress?

Your body sends out physical, emotional, and behavioral warning signs of caregiver stress.

Emotional warning signs:

  • Anger
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Unproductive worry
  • Sadness and periodic crying
  • Frequent mood swings

Physical warning signs:

  • Stooped posture
  • Sweaty palms
  • Tension headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Chronic back pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Problems with sleep

Behavioral warning signs

  • Overreacting
  • Acting on impulse
  • Using alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from relationships
  • Changing jobs often

 

What Can I Do to Reduce Caregiver Stress in My Life?

Finding ways to reduce caregiver stress will help lessen the long-term emotional and physical toll. Tips for managing stress include:

  • Keep a positive attitude. Believe in yourself.
  • Accept that there are events you cannot control.
  • Be assertive instead of aggressive. "Assert" your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
  • Learn to relax.
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Limit yourself to moderate alcohol and caffeine intake.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations.
  • Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
  • Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.
  • Learn to use stress management techniques and coping mechanisms, such as deep breathing or guided imagery.

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

Hands breaking pencil in frustration
Quiz
stethoscope and dollars
Article
 
Woman with stressed, fatigue
Article
fatigued woman
Article
 
hand gripping green rubber ball
Article
family counseling
Video
 
stress at work
Article
frayed rope
Quiz
 

WebMD Special Sections