Caregiver stress: What it’s doing to you, and what you can do to fix it

Most jobs can create stress for anyone; but, this is especially true for family caregivers. Considering that almost half of Canadians will provide some type of care to a family member in their lifetime, it is imperative that we understand the implications of caregiver stress.

Options are available, such as respite care, to alleviate stress for caregivers. As a caregiver of a family member or friend, remember: it can be a taxing and emotional duty. You should never feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

The numbers: You are not alone

In the past year, one in four Canadians reported caring for a family member or friend with a chronic illness, disability, or aging needs. Most often, these caregivers were providing care for parents dealing with age-related needs.

Although many reported coping well with responsibilities, caregivers still reported that:


felt worried or anxious due to their caregiving responsibilities


felt tired


felt irritable


felt overwhelmed


had disturbed sleep


felt depressed/resentful


felt lonely and isolated


Moreover, the more hours a caregiver provides, the more they are impacted:


had feelings of stress related to caregiving duties


felt their own health suffered due to caregiving duties


had feelings of stress related to caregiving duties


felt their own health suffered due to caregiving duties


had feelings of stress related to caregiving duties


felt their own health suffered due to caregiving duties


reported not coping well


Caregiver stress not only impacts the caregiver, but their loved ones as well

Spending time with your family, friends, and even just oneself is important for everyone, but often gets put to the side. Almost half of the caregivers with children under 18 said their caregiving responsibilities reduced the amount of time they spent with their children. The same percentage also reported less time spent with their married or common-law partners.

46% reported a reduction of time spent with friends, 51% on social activities, and 54% relaxing or on self-care.

These numbers are significant because they represent the level of caregiver stress that family caregivers experience.

Warning signs of stress

Stress impacts the entire body and even the energy around us. It’s important to be aware of the following symptoms:


• Memory problems
• Inability to concentrate
• Constant anxiety and worry
• Incessant negativity and poor judgement


  • Depression, anxiety, and unhappiness
  • Excessive moodiness and irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loneliness and isolation


  • Bodily aches and chest pain or rapid heart rate
  • Diarrhea, constipation, nausea or dizziness
  • Frequently getting sick
  • Loss of sex drive


  • Eating and sleeping more or less
  • Procrastinating and avoiding others
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits such as nail-biting

If you notice some of these signs or symptoms, treating stress sooner than later is recommended to avoid long-term effects.

Long-term effects of stress

Prolonged stress can have huge implications on your health. Although, there isn’t one main thing that caregiver stress can impact, as it is shown to be a great risk factor in:

Severe stress also causes all types of responses in your body, leaving it vulnerable to diseases and illnesses.

What can caregivers do to relieve stress?

A healthy lifestyle is crucial to combating the daily feelings of caregiver stress.

Get a good amount of sleep

We know when we haven’t slept enough; so does our body. It needs time to heal and repair the damage we sustain throughout our day. The Government of Canada recommends Canadians age 18-64 get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

Get active

Regular exercise is not only the best thing you can do for your health, but it helps curb stress. When you exercise, you’re releasing feel-good brain chemicals and reducing hormones related to high stress. Find a local sports club or gym to spend some time with your body.

Eat Healthy

We all like to indulge sometimes, but remember your body is a powerful engine that needs good fuel. Providing it with all the tools it needs to keep itself running is vital to your overall wellbeing. Make sure to have a balanced, sustainable diet!

Find your support system

Having people we can count on is crucial. Whether it’s a friend or family member, or even a professional, it’s vital to have someone we can talk to when we’re feeling lost. Peer support for caregivers is thriving online; social-networking platforms like Huddol lets carers and professionals exchange social support and advice.

With a busy schedule, how can caregivers find time to manage their stress?

Respite care is a great option for caregivers who need time for themselves. Respite care is a temporary service provided when a primary caregiver cannot provide care due to personal reasons; including caregiver stress.

The important thing to remember is that giving time for yourself is not selfish, it is crucial. To be a happy and healthy caregiver, taking care of yourself is the first step. And, if you don’t like doing it for yourself, do it for your loved ones; they also want to see you thrive.

Providing care for a loved one can be rewarding. Roughly nine in ten caregivers agree, with 70% indicating their relationship with their care receiver had strengthened. But, keeping a balance in your own life is still important.

To learn more about respite care, visit Ohana Care.


Government Of Canada, 2008
Mental Health – Coping With Stress

Statistics Canada, 2017
Duration and quality of sleep among Canadians aged 18 to 79

Help Guide, 2019
StressSymptoms, Signs, and Causes

Statistics Canada, 2012
Portrait of caregivers, 2012

The Globe and Mail, 2019
With a looming aging crisis, who is helping the caregivers?

Stress Strategies
A Stress-friendly Lifestyle

Ohana Care

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