Owning up to Your Caregiver Emotions
Your feelings paint the tapestry of who you are. The joyful moments are the ones that put a spring in our step, the ear-to-ear grin on our face and the hope in our hearts for a bright and prosperous future. The moments of sorrow distract us like a dark cloud that gets in the way of the very sunny and bright things.
Acknowledging Caregiver Emotions
Caregivers have unique emotions that non-caregivers may not understand or acknowledge. In many cases, in fact, a caregiver themselves may not focus their attention to their feelings. Instead, their own feelings fall to the wayside and their primary energy gets placed into the emotional happiness of their older loved one.
Feelings are volatile when taking care of a sick or elderly relative or friend. The issue isn’t having these up’s and down’s but instead thinking that these feelings aren’t normal. In reality, caregivers not only have the right towards owning their emotions but the obligation to recognize these feelings.
Ignoring your feelings and emotional needs can lead to health problems, relationship issues and a reduction in the quality of life. Neglecting feelings can also lead to neglecting your own health, happiness, and social relationships.
The following are some emotions that may arise inside a caregiver, how to spot them, and what to do about them:
Caregiver burnout is the result of the heavy weight of anxiety that builds on your shoulders. After long enough, it could cause you to emotionally collapse under the heaviest of burdens.
You could be suffering from anxiety if you:
- Always seem to be worried
- Are overwhelmed
- Feel tense/short of breath
- Feel a sense of impending doom
Coping mechanisms for anxiety include:
- Preparing for caregiving before agreeing
- Making to-do lists weekly or daily
- Take a mental break with exercise, a funny movie, bubble bath, etc.
- Join a support group with people going through similar things
- Seek professional help if need be
Everyone always has a lot of stuff going on in his or her live at any given moment. But, for those of us that have a terminally ill older relative or a parent with such progressed Alzheimer’s that they don’t even remember you, it can make your world feel like it’s crashing down. Feeling hopeless under the immense tearing at your heartstrings can make just living each day a battle in its own right.
You may be suffering from depression if:
- You have seen an increase or decrease in appetite and weight
- You are sleeping more or less than normal
- You are frequently crying
- You have lost enjoyment in activities
- You have an inability to concentrate
- You feel a lack of motivation
- You feel useless
Coping mechanisms for depression include:
- Distracting yourself with other things
- Unleash natural endorphins with exercise
- Discussing it with others through support groups, online chats, etc.
- Consider professional help
Is your father refusing help, but unable to care for himself? Is it making you angry and on the verge of losing your cool? Feeling that way under such circumstances is normal. Acknowledging and owning these feelings are the quickest ways toward starting your recovery.
You could potentially be feeling anger or frustration if:
- You are always irritable
- You feel powerless
- You feel hopeless
- You are acting out irrationally
- You feel mad at others
- You are easily annoyed
Frustration coping mechanisms:
- Use “I feel” instead of “You” to direct attention to feelings and not blaming others
- Practice meditational breathing
- Consider talking to an impartial person about your concerns
- Kill it with laughter
- Reevaluate your priorities
- Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
As a caregiver, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t doing the best job for your loved one or patient. But, you can’t sit around with a devil and an angel hovering around your shoulders all day or you’d never be able to get anything done. No one is perfect and things aren’t always in your control.
Symptoms of guilt include:
- Not being able to enjoy things because of worry your loved one isn’t able to
- Regretting past relationships with your loved one
- Feeling responsible for illness
- Feeling bad for neglecting other relatives and friends
- Feeling bad for your feelings
Coping mechanisms for guilt:
- Express feelings to friends, family, or support groups
- Pinpoint the irrational thoughts and try to let go
- Provide positive mantras to yourself in your head each morning
The Importance of Recognizing Feelings
The first step towards leveling out your emotions is to know yourself and admit your feelings. No one should be ashamed nor ignorant to the natural emotions that accompany caregiver roles.
Once you have admitted which feelings are present in your life, you can speak with others, know what to try to push out of your life and slowly but surely return to that happy-go-lucky caregiver that shines even on a cloudy day.