Adult Carers

I don’t feel I
can cope anymore!

We all experience stress at some point in our lives, but when you have caring commitments, stress can gradually build up and start to feel overwhelming.

Stress is caused by the many demands made on our time and energy. It can be made worse by the expectations we have of ourselves. Not all stress is bad – stress can alert you to potential dangers and can also energise you to achieve a goal or complete a task. However, sometimes the balance tips too far and the pressure becomes so intense or so persistent that you may begin to suffer from too much stress.

Symptoms of Stress?

Different people have different ways of responding to stress, so a situation that feels very stressful to one person might not feel so stressful to someone else.  However, stress (and especially long-term stress) can affect our physical and mental health. According to the charity, Mind, if you are stressed, you might feel (among other things):

  • Irritable, angry, impatient
  • Overwhelmed
  • Anxious, nervous, worried, or afraid
  • Depressed or uninterested in life
  • Tense and unable to ‘switch off’

Some of the physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Panic attacks
  • Blurred eyesight or sore eyes
  • Sleep problems and fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains and high blood pressure

It can also affect your digestion and appetite; make you feel sick, dizzy or faint; and make existing health problems worse. Stress itself is not an illness, but it can cause serious illnesses if it’s not addressed.

Stress can make it especially hard to cope with the demands of caring. You can become more and more exhausted, tense and irritable, putting a strain on relationships. This can make you feel you are losing control of your life. Sometimes the pressure of caring for someone else can build up until it feels like you can no longer cope. This is completely understandable, but it may be a sign that you need to look after yourself a bit more and ask for help. If you are feeling exhausted, desperate and in despair, you won’t be able to keep supporting someone else.

Try and take a small break. If that’s impossible, have a moment to yourself and take some long deep breaths or do some gentle stretching exercises where you are.

If you are feeling like you can’t cope any longer, if you’re in despair, or you’re feeling hopeless or suicidal, it’s important to talk to someone right away. If you have a trusted friend, neighbour or relative, tell them how you’re feeling. Getting their perspective on things could help.  You could also phone your GP or a free helpline like the Samaritans or Breathing Space.

Action you can take right now

The charity, Mind, offers a number of self-care tips for people who are carers.

  • Share how you feel: If you feel you’re struggling to cope, talk to someone you trust, like a relative, friend or neighbour. You could also speak to one of the Rights and Engagement Officers at the Angus Carers Centre.
  • Try to be realistic: If you take too much on, you may feel like you never achieve anything. Try to get a clear idea about what you are able to do yourself and what you need help with. Be honest with yourself about when you need a break.
  • Find ways to stay organised: Staying organised can help you feel more in control. You could keep a schedule or planner of your daily routine. Make sure that you keep all important information and medication in one place. But don’t be hard on yourself if you get muddled or things get lost. You’ve got a lot to think about.
  • Support their independence: It’s important to help the person you’re caring for to have some control over their care. This may mean you have to take a step back or support their decisions about things when you may prefer to do things differently. However, this might also give you a better balance in your relationship, and a little more time for yourself.
  • Find positives in your relationship with the person you care for: Looking after someone can change your relationship with them. Sometimes you may feel close and connected. But at other times you may feel angry and irritated. It can help to talk openly and honestly to find ways of coping together.
  • Take a break and make time for yourself: Try and take a break, especially if you’re worried about your own mental health. You may not be able to take a break exactly when you need one, but it’s important to have some time that’s yours.
  • Look after your physical health: Eat healthily, get enough sleep, and practice relaxation techniques.

Research has shown that practising mindfulness and meditation can help to reduce stress and anxiety and promote greater resilience.  Try downloading and using a free mindfulness app.  Gentle forms of exercise like yoga or qigong can be practised at home. These forms of exercise are also helpful for strengthening your heart, immune system and muscles, and promoting a greater sense of wellbeing.  There are lots of videos online for every level of practice.  Find one that you like and have a go.

More Information



  • Stress, Mind – explains what stress is, what might cause it, how it can affect you, and how you can help yourself or get support.
  • Supporting yourself while caring for someone, Mind – Provides helpful information on how to look after your own mental health and find support.
  • Struggling with stress? NHS Inform ­– Talks about what stress is, how to manage stress in daily life and when to seek help from your GP.
  • 10 Stress Busters, NHS Inform – explores ways of building emotional strength, taking control of your situation, having a good social network, and adopting a positive outlook.
  • Suicidal feelings, Mind – Explains what suicidal feelings are, and what you can do if you feel suicidal. Also covers the causes, treatments, and support options for suicidal feelings.



  • Steps for stress – A set of breathing and relaxation exercises developed by Public Health Scotland
    • 01 – Getting started, Public Health Scotland (2 minutes)
    • 02 – Understanding stress, Public Health Scotland (3 minutes)
    • 03 – Deep relaxation, Public Health Scotland (19.5 minutes)
    • 04 – Quick relaxation, Public Health Scotland (8 minutes)
    • 05 – Belly breathing, Public Health Scotland (3.5 minutes)
  • Green spaces, Just One Thing, Michael Mosley, BBC Sounds (15 minutes) – Explores the soothing power of nature, revealing how nature not only makes us feel good in the moment, but how it also has a more lasting effect on our stress levels and mental health.
  • Daily habits to reduce stress and anxiety, Episode 313, Feel Better, Live More, Dr Rangan Chatterjee (11 minutes) – Explores how building good micro-habits into your day can increase your resilience to stress and promote an attitude of self-care.



  • Coping skills for caregivers, Psych Hub (4 minutes) – A short animated video containing tips for caregivers to improve skills for coping with stress.
  • Two sides of the story: Share that you care, Carers UK and British Gas (3.5 minutes) – A short film aimed at raising awareness of the wellbeing needs of carers.
  • Coping as a carer: Talking about mental health, Episode 12, Mind (5 minutes) – Three carers talk about what it’s like to care for someone with a mental health problem and how they look after themselves.
  • Handling stress, NHS Mind to Mind – A series of short videos in which different people talk about their experiences of stress, what they did to reduce the stress in their lives, and where you can get help.
  • Tackle your worries, NHS Every Mind Matters (3 minutes) – helps you to look at your situation from a different angle and (possibly) feel more in control.
  • Depression, suicide and the power of hope, Gill Hayes, TEDxEXETER (16.5 minutes) – one woman shares her experience of recovering from severe depression. [Warning, this video discusses suicide and may trigger difficult feelings for some people.]

Where to get more help

If you’re struggling to cope, talk to a trusted friend, your GP or one of the Rights and Engagement Officers at the Angus Carers Centre.  They may be able to help arrange more support for you.  If you feel you’d like to speak to someone anonymously in the first instance, you could also phone a free helpline:

  • Samaritans– 116 123 (24 hours, 7 days a week)
  • Breathing Space– 0800 83 85 87 (Mon to Fri 6pm to 2am, 24 hours at the weekend)


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