Caregiver Burnout: Symptoms and Strategies to Calm Stress

Taking care of someone with a disability, chronic illness, or other health condition that requires full-time support is an honorable role to undertake. And whether it is done out of love or a sense of obligation, being a caregiver can be both rewarding and overwhelming. It can also lead to emotional and physical burnout.

For example, in addition to raising a child with special needs, parents are faced with challenges specific to the unique cognitive or physical functioning differences their child has. Research has found that stress is a significant concern for those raising a child with a developmental disability, such as autism. Taking care of a spouse or family member with Alzheimer’s disease—or another type of dementia—can be distressing and difficult. A study in Current Psychiatry Reports has shown that it can lead to an increased risk for depression and cardiovascular disease in caregivers. Having an older parent who is chronically ill can be emotionally taxing and shift the normal parent/child dynamic when the parent becomes the dependent one.

Being a caregiver for a spouse or family member with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia can be very stressful and difficult, and lead to an increased risk for depression and cardiovascular disease. Click To Tweet


Although there are many benefits that come from a person’s commitment to being a caregiver for a loved one—a sense of fulfillment, devotion, kindness, and responsibility—the work can be very draining at times. Stressors can accumulate and burnout can set in, making symptoms like these become apparent:

  • Physical and emotional fatigue
  • Increased impatience with your loved one
  • Lowered resistance to colds and other bugs
  • Moodiness and being more irritable
  • Loss of satisfaction from the caregiving role or feeling resentful about it
  • Insomnia, sleeping too much, or not getting restful sleep
  • Ignoring your own needs
  • Lack of interest in activities and other things you would normally enjoy
  • Feeling hopeless, powerless, or being worried about the future


When burnout symptoms take over, it’s much harder to function in an already demanding role, in addition to other important responsibilities you have. Fortunately, there are some straightforward and accessible strategies you can use to recover your mental, emotional, and physical vitality so that your life is in better balance again.

1. Recruit others to help you.

Carrying the weight of all the responsibilities can wear you down pretty quickly. Some people might not ask for help because they are overly protective of their loved one or they might think it implies they are somehow shirking their responsibilities. The reality is, though, that if you are burned out, you are less effective in taking care of those who need you. Asking trusted friends, family members, or trained volunteers to cover for you—even if it’s only for an hour or two a day—can give you some much-needed time to yourself.

2. Focus on the things within your power.

Having a loved one with a permanent disability, chronic illness, or neurodegenerative disease can naturally make you worry about the future because there is often a lot of unpredictability ahead. Rather than fretting about what you cannot control, focus on the day-to-day things you do have control over.

3. Spend time with friends.

It’s so important not to isolate yourself from friends, even if you’re feeling down. Getting out of your caregiving orbit and spending time with people you enjoy can re-energize your emotional outlook and lift your spirits.

4. Schedule a visit with your doctor.

It’s easy to find reasons to put off your own health concerns when you are taking care of someone whose mental or physical problems are very serious. However, if you don’t prioritize your health, it can make it much harder to carry out your responsibilities. Therefore, it’s crucial for your own well-being to stay on top of medical and dental appointments—and commit to keeping them.

5. Reach out for professional support.

If you suspect you may have depression, or you’re really struggling with caregiver stress, get help. Having a compassionate counselor to talk with about your struggles, the complex feelings you may have, and other challenges in your life can help you process and make sense of them. Psychotherapy can also make you more aware of your triggers and develop healthier coping strategies for getting through difficult moments. In addition, online or in-person caregiver support groups provide the opportunity to connect with others who are dealing with some of the same issues you are—and let you know that you are not alone.

6. Write down your thoughts.

A journal can be an effective and quick way to discharge your frustrations, fears, grief, worries, and other emotions swirling around your head. When you write down exactly how you feel, it can diffuse the intensity of those feelings and give you some relief. A personal journal helps you be honest with yourself, which can feel liberating. If you have concerns about anyone reading it, keep it in a locked drawer to protect your privacy.

7. Make time for exercise.

Even if you can only squeeze in 10 minutes at a time, physical activity is one of the best ways to help manage your stress. Walking, swimming, gardening, doing yoga—or whatever type of exercise you enjoy—can reduce tension and promote the release of feel-good brain chemicals that elevate your mood and help you feel calmer. Regular exercise can also improve the quality of your sleep.

8. Eat a healthier diet.

When you’re emotionally and physically overwhelmed, it can be easy to reach for comfort foods, especially ones that are high in sugar and processed oils. While they might taste good in the moment, they can cause your blood sugar to crash, increase inflammation, and make you feel more stressed and irritable. Have fresh fruit on hand for when you need a sweet treat. And to help keep fatigue, depression, and anxiety at bay, eat a balanced diet that includes:

  • Plenty of fresh produce in a rainbow of colors
  • Clean protein, such as grass-fed beef or bison, and organic, free-range poultry
  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like trout, salmon and other cold-water fish, walnuts, and chia and flax seeds
  • Mood-boosting spices, such as saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, and rosemary


The everyday effort and challenges you face as a caregiver are a sign of your strength, tenacity, and spiritual generosity. Even if your loved one cannot show you their appreciation, remind yourself about all the good you are doing, the reasons you care, and why you took on this demanding role. Making your mental and physical health a priority will help you get through the inherent difficulties of the purposeful work you are doing to help someone who means a lot to you.

Stress, depression, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. Found helpful your advices

    Comment by Mabel Salas — July 27, 2022 @ 4:28 AM

  2. Have you read "My Two Elaine's" by Martin Schreiber? It's a great book dealing with this very issue. I'd recommend it to anyone facing a situation similar!

    Comment by Kristine — July 27, 2022 @ 5:03 AM

  3. Such timely advice. I'm recovering from caregiver burnout which deeply affected me on so many levels. I immediately forwarded the article to a friend and fellow caregiver, as well.

    Comment by Debbi S — July 27, 2022 @ 6:51 AM

  4. Thank you very much! This is a great article and has some very useful tips. It is something very needed for caregivers. I published a book on this very topic. Self-Care for Caregivers – A 60-Day Accountability Journal.

    Comment by Jennifer Sermabeikian — July 27, 2022 @ 10:58 AM

  5. THANK YOU. <3

    Comment by Cindy Garrett Winkles — July 28, 2022 @ 7:08 AM

  6. Thank you for this article. This is my second round in caregiving for a family member. Funny thing is, I’m just realizing that’s it’s crucial to take of myself, first. I’m practicing habits that allow me to be more peaceful, which allows me to go through this journey in peace.

    Comment by Lois — July 28, 2022 @ 9:11 AM

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