Care for the Caregiver Series: Contributors to Stress

The Teapot Effect

We’ve all done it, you put the teapot on the stove, turn up the heat and forget about it only to come rushing into the kitchen to the sound of whistling steam overflowing from the spout. The stress of caregiving can have a similar routine. You take on the responsibilities of caring and assisting an aging parent. You’re taking on more and more, but are just focused on the task at hand and you forget about yourself. Then one day you yell at your aging mother or child. The smallest thing at work sends you over the edge. You lose it in line at the grocery store. In these moments, we tend to think, “What is wrong with me?”

The truth is caregiving has a multitude of small and big contributors to stress that really turn up the heat for family caregivers. They can include things like:  

  • Emotional Drain
  • Relational Changes
  • Social Isolation
  • Physical Demands
  • Mental Strain of Meeting Demands
  • Less Personal Time for Enjoying Life & Family
  • Irregular Sleep Patterns and Sleep Deprivation
  • Increased Health Issues and Strained Immune System  
  • Logistical Overload
  • Family Dynamics
  • Grief
  • Financial Strain
  • Anxiety about the Future and Safety of Loved One

Stress has a way of accumulating over time, but we tend to only notice at the point that steam is coming out of our ears. The key is compassionate attention. When we take moments to recognize how much pressure and stress we are under, we are better able to respond kindly to ourselves. If you were having coffee with a friend and they told you all the responsibilities you were carrying they would probably say, “You need a vacation, a massage, another latte! How can I help?” If only we listened to ourselves with the attention and empathy of a good friend. While it may feel like wallowing, it can be helpful to make a list of all the things on your plate and recognize their impact. When we see it all together on paper, we can respond like our good friend and ask ourselves, “Wow, what do you need?”

It might be a day off, a meal with a friend, a sibling to take mom to the doctor, a yoga class, or professional respite care. At Sound Options, we believe family caregivers have, well…options. One of the worst circumstances is to feel that you don’t have control over a difficult situation. By moving out of a “crisis-mode” and looking at the situation as an outsider, you are more aware of your options and choices in the matter. Our Certified Nursing Assistants and Geriatric Care Managers provide coordination, consulting, and care for aging adults and their family. Whether you need us to take a shift, or take something off your plate, we’re here to reduce your stress. Find out more at or give us a call at 800.628.7649. 

Published on April 4, 2014.