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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Coping with conflicting emotions


August 22, 2016, by Pat Morden, Caregiver Exchange

Caregiving is supposed to be rewarding, right? A source of satisfaction that comes from doing the most important job there is?

Okay, so why do you sometimes feel angry, frustrated, sad, helpless, guilty or just plain tired? Because caregiving is fraught with conflicting emotions. All caregivers experience emotions that are perfectly natural under the circumstances, but hard to accept. Here are some tips for dealing with these feelings.

Resentment and guilt

No matter how hard you try, there are moments when you may resent the burden of caregiving and wish you could have your life back. And then, of course, comes the guilt. How could you be so uncaring?

Possible coping skills

·        Acknowledge your feelings. Trying to ignore them will only make them worse.
·        Forgive yourself.  Let go of unrealistic expectations. Stop telling yourself you’re a bad person: remind yourself
         that you’re doing a very important and challenging job to the best of your ability.
·        Pay attention to what triggers bad feelings. Try to avoid those situations, and learn how to de-stress and defuse
         when they happen. (see the next point).
·        Use deep breathing exercises and meditation to calm anger and frustration.
·        Remember that every day is a new beginning. Don’t dwell on the past.
Sadness and depression

Inevitably caregiving involves loss – loss of freedom, your imagined future, the familiar dynamics of a close relationship. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed by negative feelings, to the point where you can hardly get out of bed.

Possible coping skills

·        Identify your losses and allow yourself to feel grief.
·        Remember that caregiving is a two-way relationship and the person you are caring for is also experiencing loss.(To learn more about how to navigate                        this situation:
·        Keep a journal in which you can record your darkest (and brightest) feelings.
·        Remember the good times. (It’s tough, but sometimes it helps.)

Feeling anxious and overwhelmed

Caregivers have to keep many balls in the air. Sometimes fatigue and frustration creep up on you, leaving you feeling that you simply can’t cope.

Possible coping skills

·        Seek out all the help that is available. You don’t have to do everything. Ensure you know what’s available        
          through publicly-funded and volunteer agencies. (Use our Find Caregiver Support Services feature near the top of the screen to help.)
·        Take a break from caregiving – it can make you stronger and more patient in the long run. Check out respite    
·        Be physically active. Get outside and let nature heal.
·        Eat well.
·        Pray or meditate – whatever works for you.
·        If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor.
·        Have back-up plans so you don’t lie awake wondering “what if?”
Isolation and helplessness

Caregiving can often separate you from the people and activities you used to enjoy. You may have to give up work, at least temporarily. It’s harder to get out to socialize. It may seem that friends don’t understand what you’re going through. Suddenly you feel alone.

Possible coping skills

·        Talk to other caregivers, online or in person.
·        Reach out to trusted friends and let them know how you’re feeling.
·        Be open to suggestions from others. Don’t take every idea as a criticism of what you’re doing.
·        Learn as much as you can about the condition of the person you’re caring for. You’ll feel more in control.

If you can’t shake your negative feelings and are feeling hopeless, talk to your doctor or another professional. Caregivers are at higher risk of depression, a condition that can be treated effectively.

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