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Managing Caregiver Stress

By Lisa Weitzman | 06/12/2019

A caregiver smiling and enjoying some downtime

Though caregiving may bring us many positive opportunities to spend time with and provide support for a loved one, we may also regularly encounter stressful situations and struggle to find that elusive work-life balance. In fact, research shows that being a caregiver is “among the most stressful, emotionally burdensome and physically demanding roles a person can take on.” At times, the uplifting feelings of helping someone may ease the energy-draining emotions of caregiving. But caring for someone with a chronic illness can impact all aspects of life, from medical and physical health to financial and relational well-being. Studies reveal that caregivers experience the lingering effects of caregiving for up to three years after the death of their loved one (Gary LeBlanc, Aftereffects of Caregiving, Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, February 15, 2011).

In the midst of caregiving demands, it can be hard to think about taking care of our own needs as a way to manage – and maybe even reduce – our stress. Many people equate self-care with being selfish, and refuse to look at their own needs when their loved ones’ concerns feel more pressing and critical. And yet, just as flight attendants remind us to put on our own oxygen mask first before helping the person sitting next to us, we should be encouraged to take care of ourselves so that we can remain in a healthy mindset to continue to care for a loved in the way that we choose for as long as we are able.

There are many techniques for managing stress, and each individual will find relief in different ways. It is important to make time in our schedule to regularly engage in whichever methods of stress relief work best for us. To help minimize feelings of stress, we might consider:

  • Carving out 30 minutes a day to take part in something that refreshes or reenergizes us, such as:
    • Exercising
    • Taking a walk
    • Reading a book
    • Listening to music
    • Watching a favorite show
    • Practicing meditation or yoga
    • Taking a bath
    • Spending time with friends and family
    • Dancing
    • Snuggling with a pet
    • Sitting back and watching the clouds or looking at the stars
  • Allowing family and friends to help. Recognize that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but instead a healthy recognition that caregiving responsibilities can last a long time.
  • Connecting with resources in the community both for us and our loved one. Whether we turn to support groups, adult day programs, home-delivered meal services, home care or peer companions, we should allow ourselves to use the services designed to support us at this exact point in our caregiving journey.
  • Communicating with our boss. Is there a way to work remotely? Is flex time a possibility? Does the company offer services to help us care for older loved ones, such as the care coaching service WeCare...Because You Do?
  • Becoming our own best cheerleader. We should remind ourselves each day that we are doing our very best, and to keep our mindset positive.


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