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Family caregivers are the informal and unpaid loved ones who provide necessary care and support to someone in need. This role is linked to an increased risk of anxiety or depression, stemming from prolonged exposure to tense or high-pressure decision-making situations. It’s important to be aware of the signs of caregiver stress so that, should they start to manifest in your life, you’re able to recognize them and make adjustments before they escalate. In this article, we’re going to explore the signs and frequent causes of caregiver stress and provide ideas to relieve or avoid it where possible.

Causes of Caregiver Stress

Many caregivers see caregiving as a way to be there for a loved one in need. It’s both a rewarding and fulfilling way to show that you care. Despite the positives, it also comes with its challenges. 

For many new caregivers, for example, taking on this role requires a change in the relationship dynamic between you and your loved one. From child to guardian, from spouse to care recipient, etc. These role shifts come with a learning curve and emotional struggles. 

When the emotions and experiences of caregiving are compiled with both the weight of the responsibilities you face during care and the pressure to maintain your life outside of care, this position is rife with opportunities for stress.

Signs of Caregiver Stress

As the caregiver journey continues, you may find yourself so caught up or overwhelmed that it may become easy to forget about your own health. But prolonged stress increases your risk for both mental and physical health problems, so it’s worth considering the signs of stress so you know what to look for:

  • A feeling of overwhelm, dread, or constant worry
  • Exhaustion that sleep can’t seem to cure
  • Getting too much or not enough sleep
  • Gaining or losing weight unintentionally
  • Becoming easily irritated or angry
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical problems
  • Alcohol or drug abuse, (including prescription medications)


Tips to Reduce Stress

The most important thing for your stress levels as a family caregiver is to maintain a sense of balance in your life. This, however, is easier said than done.

5 Tips to Reduce Stress:

  1. Accept Help.
    When friends or family offer help, don’t be afraid to take it. Even something simple like having an hour to yourself, a pre-cooked meal you don’t have to stress about, or one less grocery trip can help to take some of the pressure off.
  2. Join a Support Group.
    A support group is a place to find a non-judgmental community of people who understand what you’re going through. It’s a great place to get information about the ailment or treatment options, talk through any emotions, or find friends that understand you and your situation.
  3. Maintain a Balanced Diet.
    This includes both the food you eat, ensuring it provides you with the nourishment you need, as well as the content you consume. If you’re stressed or struggling, sometimes turning off the news, social media, etc. can take an incredible amount of weight off.
  4. Talk to a Professional. As we’ve touched on, being a caregiver comes with a complicated emotional package. A therapist can help you work through some of the more difficult emotions and experiences you may encounter.
  5. Don’t Try to Do it All.
    Focus on what you can handle. If you are a caregiver that lives far away from your care recipient, or also manages a household with small children, or works full time (or any other combination of outside tasks), you aren’t alone. Focus on where you can help, and plan to delegate where you can’t.

Closing Thoughts

It’s often easy to feel alone when you’re going through something stressful, traumatic, or emotional like caregiving often is. It’s important to always remember that no matter what your caregiving journey looks like, you aren’t alone in it. 

If you provide regular care to your loved one, we at CRC are here for you. As a caregiver, you’re faced with new challenges every day. The California Caregiver Resource Centers were created with you both in mind and at heart to be a free resource as you navigate the challenging role you’re in. We would love to connect you with your local Center, who can talk more about local programs for caregivers, answer your questions, and explain how they can best support you.

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