How to Find Respite for Caregivers

emotional self-care mental self-care physical self-care self-care tips
A woman relaxes on her couch wrapped in a blanket and holding a coffee mug in her hands. Her dog relaxes at her feet. How to find respite for caregivers.

Respite is defined as a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.

As caregivers we often believe that true respite can only be achieved by physically leaving a space and/or situation, and arranging for someone else to take over our caregiving responsibilities for a time. As a result, the thought of respite feels like more effort than it is worth and we are tempted to give up on the idea before we even start. However, the truth is that opportunities for respite are far more frequent and accessible than we might realize.

Below, I will define three kinds of respite and give some simple examples of how you can embrace opportunities for respite, in your circumstances, and find the relief and restoration you need to return to your caregiving role with renewed energy and confidence.

Before I do, I want to preface this post by saying that everyone is different. Some of these examples might sound like far more work than relief to you depending on your personal preferences. If so, those opportunities are not for you and that’s ok. The idea is to inspire you to expand your definition of what qualifies as respite and to look for opportunities, in your everyday circumstances, where you may not have recognized them before.


There are 3 kinds of respite:

Physical – Mental – Emotional


Physical Respite:

Transporting kids, and all of the equipment they need, requires a lot of heavy lifting. Being “on call” 24 hours a day, means that restful and restorative sleep is hard to come by. Caregiving means we often work through illness or injury, putting our own healing aside. All of these things can be extremely taxing and wear heavily on our body.

Physical health is foundational to all areas of our well-being.  The better we feel the easier it is to meet the demands of our circumstances and the more effective we are in our roles of parent and caregiver. For this reason, it is important to look for opportunities to set aside our physical burdens and allow our body to rest.


  • Choose a chore or responsibility that you find physically exhausting. Give yourself permission to just not do it for a period of time. Maybe you find someone to do it for you, maybe you don’t, but the break will allow you to come back to it later with renewed energy.
  • Arrange with your partner to give each other regular breaks. Maybe you each take a weekend morning so that the other can sleep in and catch up on physical rest. Maybe you cover a full day, or a full weekend, so your partner can have time to themselves knowing you will get equal time to yourself in return.
  • Create a space, inside your home, where you can go when you feel tired and overwhelmed. Include things that help you to relax such as: music, candles, a book, devotion or meditation. Even short breaks, in the middle of our busy days, can help to alleviate the weight of the responsibilities we carry and allow us to rest and rally our resources.

READ MORE: How To Create a Bedroom Sanctuary


Mental Respite:

The mental load is especially heavy for parent caregivers. In addition to the everyday ins and outs of family life, we carry the additional tasks of managing appointments, medications and critical, even life threatening, decisions, etc. These burdens can wear us down just as easily as the hardest of physical work. For this reason, relief from these mental tasks can be very important in preserving our mental health.

Mental respite can be the hardest to come by because our worries and concerns tend to follow us wherever we go. It is not as easy as removing ourselves from a space or an interaction. This is why distraction and reducing our mental burdens, in the first place, can be such an important part of mental respite. 


  • Automate mental tasks by setting up systems that streamline those mundane and recurring chores. For example, if you stress over bill paying, set up automatic payments to reduce the time it takes to manage your finances every month. Eliminating chores altogether also eliminates the mental energy you spend on them.
  • Accept invitations to celebrations, holidays and events etc. While it may take effort to make the arrangements necessary to accept invitations, these are valuable opportunities to find distraction, break up routines, nurture relationships and enjoy yourself for a time.
  • A lot of mental energy is spent on trying to remember important details and tasks you fear forgetting. Making lists, especially before bedtime, helps to organize these thoughts in a safe place you can reference later. Journaling can also help you to process your fears and worries relieving obtrusive thoughts and allowing your mind to rest.


Emotional Respite:

Emotional pressures are just part of the deal for parent caregivers. Our circumstances are often unpredictable and uncertain. It can feel as though we are constantly riding the highs and lows of our circumstances without any real control over the impact they have on our lives. The lack of normalcy and security hangs over us like a dark cloud.

The longer we go without emotional rest, the harder it is to cope and the more likely it is that we will react to our circumstances in a way that lacks rationality and reason. Because emotions are such a big part of our everyday experience, and because the consequences of emotion driven action can be so damaging, learning how to find respite from our emotional vulnerability has profound impact on all areas of our well-being,


  • Spend time with a friend who allows you to share your fears and frustrations. Conversation is a powerful way to process your circumstances and to work through the emotions you keep bottled up inside.
  • Step back from relationships and commitments that drain your emotional energy. Sometimes, your circumstances can make once positive and enriching interactions painful. The separation does not have to last forever but, for now, giving yourself distance from emotional triggers is an important step in protecting your emotional well-being.
  • Allow yourself to be “impolite” sometimes. There are likely certain expectations you may feel compelled to live up to but are a burden in your circumstances. For example, while it is unlikely that your loved one offered their support only to receive a thank-you card in return, you may still feel obligated to send one. Rather than purchasing, writing, and mailing a handwritten note, offer a simple but sincere, verbal “thank you” to acknowledge their kindness. This is adequate and does not require draining physical and mental energy you may not have to spare.


Respite does not have to feel overwhelming or out of reach. Even small, intermittent opportunities for respite can have a significant and positive impact on your level of energy and focus. This, in turn, allows you to better manage the weight of your circumstances and show up as the parent, caregiver, advocate, partner, etc. you want to be.



Self-Care Action Discussed in this Post:

Consider the three kinds of respite discussed above. Use the examples given for each to inspire you. Write down three of your own examples of how you can find physical, mental and emotional respite in your circumstances. This exercise will help you to more easily recognize these opportunities when they arise.



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