Managing Caregiver Stress

Just being a parent brings its own level of stress and anxiety.

But, if you have a special need child, then it goes without saying that your entire family deals with additional pressure in your daily life, and caregiver stress is a whole different problem to deal with.

Everything is just a little bit more difficult. And what often goes unnoticed is that difficulties aren’t just experienced by the child with the disability, but by everyone in the household.

Yes, obviously the person with the disability has the most to deal with. And they deserve all of the support they can get.

But caregivers need support too. We know that just getting through the day is usually exhausting. After a few years of constant extra effort, you’re likely to find yourself totally exhausted, not just physically, but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

You’re not alone!

One of the hardest things to come to terms with is the realization that it isn’t a temporary situation that you’re dealing with. Most of us are able to draw on extra reserves of strength to deal with calamities in our lives. And somehow, we manage to get through it.

But, when the situation is ongoing, we need to consider an ongoing support process to be able to replenish our reserves, so that we’re able to deal with all of the additional tasks and stresses placed upon us.

Caregiver stress management is something that the whole family needs to be aware of. Parents are especially in need, since they set the tone for the whole family. 


Your first line of defence is regular respite. Everyone in your household needs a routine way of getting away from it all, and to enjoy life without worry for a while. 


Look for the term “respite” or “support for caregivers” in your community. You may find organizations in your local area that are set up specifically to help families with disabilities. In our city, there is an independent organization set up that will provide a trained person to stay with our special need son so that we can have some time away with each other or with our other child. Remember to look for funding for respite or caregiver relief that may be provided by government or local non-profit agencies.

Taking time away on a regular basis can do a lot to support your mental health as well as to support relationships with other family members and friends. For many of us, it may be the only way to maintain our social network. Remember that a strong social network is one of the best supports you can provide your special needs child. 

Other Stress Management Techniques

There are a number of things that you can do at home too. One of the easiest methods is to learn stress reducing breathing exercises. This simple process can have an immediate effect on your stress level in as little as 7 breaths! In its simplest form, simply take the time to close your eyes and take long, deep breaths, where you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try it. It works.

Another extremely simple exercise to reduce anxiety is to stretch. Yup, just stretching out your limbs can make a big difference. Like a lot of people, I find that I hold a lot of tension in my neck. So, simply bending my head forward and rolling my head from side to side is a great way to stretch out all of those muscles. Oddly, while I rarely notice the tension beforehand, as soon as I do my roll and stretch routine I discover that most of the muscles in my neck and head are very tight. The stretch really helps.

Another effective strategy is to talk to other families with special need kids. You'll likely find that even being able to speak openly with someone who "gets it" will be a big help. Look for parent groups in your area, most likely linked to a treatment centre or special needs school.

You can also find resources on the web that deal with a particular disability and has great resources that may also help you. 

Do you have a favourite method for reducing caregiver stress that you’d like to share with other families in the same situation?

Do you have a quick tip to share?

Getting through the day usually means coming up with all sorts of little changes or special tools to make the day go more smoothly. Any little thing that will save time and energy, or just make the little things possible, are all worth doing.

Do you have quick tips you'd like to share with other families, teachers or other professionals that support people with disabilities?

Here is your chance to pass it on....

Quick Tips summary and links

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

spousal caregivers get paid in few states Not rated yet
Spousal caregivers get paid in Colorado and Minnesota I have confirmed. also possibly Oregon and Illinois and NJ. Usually up to 24k year. I Live in Ohio …

Zumba to reduce stress Not rated yet
I swear it has saved my sanity!!!

A favourite song when I'm stressed Not rated yet
These days, When my twelve-year old special cherub is creating chaos (read embarrassing moments) around him, I do not get stressed. Instead I start massaging …

Even Little Breaks Help Caregivers Not rated yet
Even a little time to yourself helps. And, try not to spend that time cleaning house! I like to get a good hot shower when my little one is napping - although …

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