Counsellor Sarah Barr gives a guide to coping with the stress of looking after loved ones.

 “When you are a caregiver, you know that everyday you will touch a life or a life will touch yours”

Carers in Ireland play an invaluable role in helping people, this should be acknowledged, valued and supported.

Who is a carer?

The most recent Census of Population defines a ‘carer’ as someone who:

“Provides regular, unpaid personal help for a friend or family member with a long-term illness, health problem or disability (including problems which are due to old age)”.

It is such a natural act to care for our loved ones in their time of need. Yet when a carer is focused on meeting the needs of those in they care for, they can often neglect their own. Finding a balance can be difficult.

Whether it is caring for someone around the clock or balancing caring around your own family life and work, it can be overwhelming and exhausting. Sometimes this can result in feeling stressed and when stress is left untreated it can lead to further mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.

Stress can affect how we think, how we feel and how we behave. A small amount of stress can be healthy as it motivates us and prepares us for possible challenges we may meet.

However when we are experiencing high levels of stress it can make us feel unwell. Everyone has different stress levels as we all react differently to situations.

Symptoms of stress can include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Tense muscles
  • Headaches
  • Feeling irritated
  • Sleep problems
  • Breathlessness
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worrying thoughts.


We will all feel the effects of stress differently, so ask yourself ‘what do you feel like when you are stressed?’. 

This will help you become more aware of your symptoms of stress and allow you to find ways to help reduce it. By recognising and managing your stress earlier can help prevent it leading to anxiety or depression.

Stress management tips:

  • Identify the problem.

If you are feeling stressed, try to identify the causes. There may be a practical solution to decreasing stress levels, such keeping a record of appointments or asking for extra support during a certain time of the day. Maybe it is delegating tasks among other family members or seeking extra help with household chores or shopping.

  • Talk.

By letting someone you trust know how you’re feeling can help lessen your stress levels. By keeping those worrying thoughts to yourself can often lead to stress levels intensifying. If you feel you cannot talk to anyone try writing down your stressful thoughts. This can help you figure out what you can do and overall feel more in control.

  • Don’t forget to care for yourself.

When you’re a carer it can be easy to forget about your own needs, or they become secondary.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup”

Self-care is not selfish, it is vital that you meet your own needs. This can range from going for a walk, meeting a friend for a coffee, taking a break or booking a massage. Caring for yourself will benefit your overall well-being and reduce stress levels.

  • Reach out:

Make an appointment with your doctor or speak to a counsellor if you are finding it difficult to manage stress. I have listed below national services and organisations that offer advice and support for carers.

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland

Tel: 01 207 3800
National Helpline: 1 800 341 341

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland works across local communities providing dementia specific services and support.

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland

Tel: 01 280 4164

ABI Ireland is a dedicated provider of community-based neuro-rehabilitation services for people with an acquired brain injury (ABI) and their families.

Care Alliance Ireland

Tel: 01 874 7776

Care Alliance Ireland is the National Network of Voluntary Organisations supporting Family Carers.

Disability Federation of Ireland

Tel: 01 454 7978

The Disability Federation of Ireland works to ensure that Irish society is fully inclusive of people with disabilities and disabling conditions.

Family Carers Ireland


Careline: 1800 240724

Family Carers Ireland is Ireland’s national voluntary organisation for and of family carers in the home.


Inclusion Ireland


Tel: 01 8559891

Inclusion Ireland is the national association for persons with an intellectual disability.

Irish Cancer Society


Tel: 01 231 0500 (Dublin)

The Irish Cancer Society is Ireland’s national cancer charity providing information, support and care to those with, and affected by, cancer all over Ireland.

MS Ireland

Tel: 01 678 1600

MS Information Line : 1850 233 233

Multiple Sclerosis Ireland’s mission is ‘to enable and empower people affected by MS to live the life of their choice to their fullest potential.’ They operate services in every county in Ireland.

For any further information or to meet for a Coffee and Chat I can be contacted by calling 086447687 or through my Facebook page

Take Care ~ Sarah